That Time I Bombed is where the Straight asks comedians about their life-changing shows, favourite comedy albums, and, a subject that any comedian will face at some point in their career, a time that they bombed on stage.
Who are you
My name is Cameron MacLeod. I write, produce, perform, and sometimes direct funny things in Vancouver, B.C.
I host and produce the monthly solo sketch comedy show, The Hero Show, at the China Cloud. We celebrated its nine-year anniversary this past October. It’s a weird show that I love like a small child. When it’s a teenager it will probably hate me and run away from home.
I’m one-half of House on Fire Comedy, a new monthly comedy show at Fortune Sound Club that features standup, sketch, and improv which I host with my handsome friend, Brian Cook. I look like a dead Christmas tree next to him.
I am a film curator and producer with JFL NorthWest, where I organize the Comedy Short Shorts film competition. I also do voiceover work for the festival, so you will be hearing my voice everywhere telling you to turn off your phones.
First standup experience
My first taste of performing comedy was as an improviser in high school. I remember doing a scene about a teeth-whitening competition. I said something about how my secret to bright teeth was using dirt as toothpaste and it got a huge laugh for some reason. That was one of my first big laughs. I was hooked.
The first time I did standup was at Graham Clark’s Laugh Gallery maybe 14 years ago when it was at its original location on Commercial Drive, El Cocal. I don’t remember any of the jokes I did because they were probably terrible, but I was lucky enough to have friends in the front row so their laughter dulled the silence that filled the rest of the room.
The blank unimpressed stares of other audience members, though... nothing could take those away. I cherish those.
Life-changing comedy show
I first saw In Living Colour on TV when I was nine years old and I remember being blown away by all the weird, over-the-top characters everyone was doing. Jim Carrey blew my mind. Plus, the fact that this comedy show I was seeing had a rap DJ and “fly girls” was some next-level shit. Some of the comedy doesn’t hold up today, but the fashion definitely does.
I was also already watching Saturday Night Live at this time. It was during the Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, and Chris Rock era and I would record the episodes to VHS tape so I could rewatch them dozens of times. I was fully obsessed with sketch comedy before I was 12 years old.
Top three comedy specials/albums
Saturday Night Live 25 I know it’s essentially a clip show that just shows moments from several sketches, but it gives you a sample of so many great comedic minds from those early glory days. Unique individuals like Steve Martin, Andy Kaufman, Bill Murray, and John Belushi. And it celebrates a sketch show being on the air for 25 years! That won’t happen ever again. I’ll bet you two tickets to a Seattle SuperSonics game.
Eddie Murphy — Delirious This was the first standup special I got addicted to as a kid. Eddie Murphy was so funny and confident in it and his voices and impressions were crazy. My friends and I would just do his bits over and over again to one another and we'd kill ourselves laughing. Keep in mind it was recorded in 1983, so the opening eight minutes are preeeetty homophobic. But to a 13-year-old boy, in 1994, Delirious was pure goddamn gold.
Neal Brennan — 3 Mics Something new I really liked, that I just watched on Netflix, was Neal Brennan's 3 Mics. It’s a great mix of classic standup and one-man-show monologues from the director and co-writer of Chappelle's Show. Dave Chappelle was always the face of the show, but listening to Neal’s standup you can really see his influence on the writing.
All-time favourite joke or bit
In the movie Anchorman, there is this scene where Will Ferrell’s character, Ron Burgandy, has hit rock bottom. He's grown a huge, dirty beard and is walking around San Diego in the hot sun drinking milk straight out of the carton. The whole scene leading up to him saying “Milk was a bad choice” and then immediately drinking more milk will always make me laugh.
Something you saw that made you laugh but probably shouldn’t have
Any day I am lucky enough to witness someone get hit by a drain-water tidal wave from a bus that is speeding by is a great day. I have literally fallen to the ground laughing when I have seen it. It’s rare, but it’s special.
That time I bombed
It was the first year of the Hero Show and back then, I would host the show in character for the entire time. One of the best ones I did was a lounge singer/comedian that, halfway through the show, turned into a werewolf and then did werewolf-based jokes for the remainder. But this is a story about bombing.
It took a lot of preparation and writing to come up with these character narratives that would play out over the course of the show and there came a day where I didn’t have time to really write anything. So I decided I would host as ’80s rock star David Lee Roth. I had a captain’s hat and white pants and absolutely no plan.
I started the show by playing lame air guitar to "Jump" by Van Halen and then tried to improvise a monologue introducing myself and justifying why I, David Lee Roth, would be hosting the Hero Show. The whole opening completely tanked, for good reason, and I was then forced to stay in this character the audience obviously hated for the remainder of the two-hour show. I ended up going to some gross places with some crude jokes out of desperation.
But the worst part? My mom and dad were in the audience and it was their first time seeing this new show of mine. Afterwards they said it was “interesting”. That’s like your parents saying, “We’re not mad, we’re just disappointed”. I don’t host entire Hero Shows as one character anymore, but I still think "Jump" by Van Halen is a hilarious song.
Follow Cameron on Twitter @ClamMacleod, like Hero Show and House on Fire on Facebook, and pick up tickets to Comedy Short Shorts, which takes place on February 18 at the Rio Theatre as part of JFL NorthWest.