When Darrin Rose chased his manhood all across Canada last year, he wasn’t quite the household fixture he is this year. These days you can’t flip the dial without seeing his handsome mug all over your screen.
He’s a regular on the successful (and funny) CBC sitcom Mr. D, playing Bill the bartender; spouts off on MuchMusic’s Video on Trial; is in a bunch of ads, including a Star Trek parody for an insurance company; and is the host of a Canadian version of the classic Match Game, which airs seemingly on a loop on the Comedy Network.
“I’m a relentless whore,” he says on the phone from Halifax, where, to drive his point home, he’s doing a corporate standup show. “I just say yes every time the phone rings.”
In a field where the business gene is sometimes missing, Rose’s work ethic stands out, although he chalks it up to survival more than anything else.
“I don’t know if I feel ambitious as much as I feel a desire to be employed,” he says.
Perhaps that’s fitting, given his background. The Oshawa native owned a software company in his early and mid 20s. The big dreams he had for it didn’t pan out. And neither did a two-year stint as a marketing guy with the ketchup kings at Heinz.
In blue-collar Oshawa, the idea of show business was out of the question. “I might as well say I wanted to grow up and be a unicorn. So the thought never struck me,” Rose says. But when his buddy Cabbie Richards started getting work on TSN, he started thinking television was a viable option.
So he dipped his toe into standup and never looked back, despite a steel-selling dad who advised him to apply for his real-estate licence as recently as two years ago. “But now I’ve had a little bit of success, so he’s much more open to the whole idea,” he says.
Rose’s current tour is called Still Chasing Manhood, and in it, he talks about growing up in an all-male household in a lunch-pail town. “I’m an adult man who reads comic books still,” he says. “It’s about me not fitting in with their very specific ideas of what it is to be a man.”
And when he’s done with the tour, he’ll shoot another 60 episodes of Match Game, where he and a half-dozen other funny people sit around and crack wise.
“No one thinks we’re making great art,” he says. “No one thinks we’re changing the world. It’s a show where we can just have fun and mess around.”
While filming the first 60 episodes, Rose and company developed sympathy for the sometimes hapless guests who have the apparently unchallenging task of filling in the blanks in silly sentences.
“It may be a little difficult to immediately, on two seconds’ notice, come up with a sexual euphemism involving plumbing,” he says. “That’s a bit of a tall order if you’ve never been in front of a crowd before.”
Playing Gene Rayburn 2.0 (without, sadly, the elongated microphone) on TV may not be standup or acting, but hey, it’s a job. And one he can do in a compressed schedule, as they shoot five episodes a day, leaving him time for all his other pursuits.
For that reason alone, he says, “It’s a pretty good gig. I can see why Alex Trebek hasn’t bothered to get another job.”
Of course, Trebek only has the one job. Then again, if Canadian show business paid as well, Rose might be able to stick to just one, too.
But not likely.