Back in Vancouver’s first golden age of comedy, when Brent Butt was running two shows a week at the Urban Well in Kits and another one downtown, Kyle Bottom thought he’d give the standup-comedy thing a try. He started out at the old Yuk Yuk’s in the Plaza of Nations around 2001 when he was 19. Things were going relatively well for the newbie comic.
“I liked it and it was fun,” he recalls at a Broadway coffee shop. “I didn’t really know what I was doing, but it was cool to do it for a year.”
Then he hit a bad show. It was at the Well. He was heckled by a woman and by his own admission didn’t handle it well. “I called her fat and she wasn’t fat at all. You stoop down to insult somebody and you can’t even land the insult. It wrecked my confidence,” he says.
It shook him so badly he went into a tailspin. Although he wanted to back out of a month’s worth of gigs, he did them anyway—and bombed.
And that was it. Bottom went back to living in Tsawwassen, delivering pizzas, and playing video games. “I wasn’t confident enough to be on-stage and that set at the Well exposed that,” he says. “I didn’t have any authority on-stage. I was just some kid.”
But three years later he got the itch again, so he returned with new jokes, save for one killer bit he used for his closer. Within six months he made the semifinals of the Yuk Yuk’s competition. Even though he was considered one of the top young comics in the city, it took him five or six years before he started feeling good on-stage.
Since then, the 33-year-old Bottom has been one of the bright lights on the Vancouver comedy scene. Now no longer a kid, he’s a commanding presence behind the microphone, his booming baritone belying any hint of insecurity. He loves to walk artfully right up to that line between good taste and shock without ever crossing over and losing the crowd.
Bottom has represented Vancouver at Just for Laughs’ Homegrown Comic Competition in Montreal, and has played the Hubcap Comedy Festival in Moncton, Bumbershoot in Seattle, and our own Northwest Comedy Fest. He’s done CBC’s The Debaters at a sold-out Vogue Theatre and opened for the likes of Moshe Kasher and Tom Segura.
With all that under his belt, he figured it was time for a move. So last fall he packed up and left us. “I’m gonna go be a big deal in Toronto,” he remembers thinking. “But it didn’t really wind up that way.” Four months later he moved back home, where he now books the pro-am and showcase nights (Tuesdays and Wednesdays) at his home club, the Comedy MIX, and runs the improv-standup show Kyle Bottom’s Comedy Bucket one Friday a month at Hot Art Wet City.
“It was hard getting the attention of the clubs out there,” he says of his experience in Hogtown.
Last year, Bottom did the monthlong Seattle International Comedy Competition, where he came within 0.27 of a point of winning it all, losing to Portland’s Nathan Brannon. Surely that was a shot in the arm, right?
“It was good and bad,” he says. “I had fun doing it and it was great to be a part of, but I was a bit bummed out, for sure. Even though it was great, I could have done that little bit much better.”
Spoken like a true perfectionist. But he’s not so bummed that he’s going to quit for another three years. He’s in it for the long haul now.