Ian Boothby’s resume must be 15 pages long. The guy has done everything in and around comedy, on stage, screen, page, you name it.
Best-known now for his comic-book writing, particularly his recently ended 20-year tenure writing the Simpsons Comics, Boothby just got back from the Madrid Comic Con with his comic-book-artist wife, Pia Guerra. Together, they do about four major comic cons a year, and more when they have something to plug.
He’s got a book called Exorsisters coming out in October, has been busy writing Sparks! for the Scholastic series, and is a regular contributor to Mad magazine.
But he’s still got time to perform. He started out at the age of 13 on the CBC kids’ show Switchback. At 16 he was performing standup at Punchlines in Gastown, eventually making his living at it. But after about eight years working the road, he stopped. “It was just awful,” he says now. “You’d perform at all these venues that were absolutely terrible. It just wasn’t for me. It was rough. Not that good for the soul.”
Then he discovered improv with Vancouver TheatreSports League. “That was just such a more positive experience, so I started doing that more on the regular,” he says.
Along the way, he wrote for TV and film, and was a weekly cartoonist for a local paper. “If you’re Canadian,” he says, “you have to do, like, five things to make a living.”
Five. Ha! With all on his plate, he still hits the stage. He can be seen in The Critical Hit Show, a live, improvised epic fantasy, and he has plans to do more standup when things settle down a bit.
Oh, and did I mention he also does two podcasts?: Sneaky Dragon, at 350 episodes and counting, and the Marx Bros.–inspired Full Marx, both with cohost David Dedrick.
Here, then, are some of Boothby’s favourite things on the local laugh circuit:
Local standup who always gives me the giggles
“Katie-Ellen Humphries. She always delivers something fresh and new and surprising and is just a damn delight to watch. There’s always someone like an Ivan Decker who clearly is going to take off like a rocket, but Katie is very interesting to watch and one of my favourite performers to see. She always adds an extra level to what she’s doing.”
Local improviser who’s easiest to play with
“Allen Morrison is one of my favourites. I work with him on The Critical Hit Show and he does TheatreSports and he’s one of those guys that floats around and is in every show in town. He’s one of these guys the audience immediately falls in love with and that just makes your job performing with him so much easier. When I started watching improv, that was the case with Colin Mochrie. Nancy Robertson used to be like that too, so if you were in a scene with her, you could get away with murder.”
Local show that gives the best bang for your buck
The Lady Show
“It’s a mix of standup, sketch, topical news segments, and weird monologues. Diana Bang does these crazy monologues that just go off the rails. They’re wonderful. Then you get some traditional standup in there as well. It’s the kind of show that will make people go see more standup and improv and sketch, so it’s a great show for the community, as well.”
Best postshow snacks or eatery
371 East Broadway
“The nice thing about them is they’re open until midnight every day [except Sundays]. If you go late, which you will if you’re doing a show, they have to get rid of the fish at the end of the day so your portions are huge. And it’s a fairly healthy alternative at the end of the night. Plus, they have beer and sake, so you can drink your troubles away if it wasn’t a good show.”
Best local podcast to guest on
“It’s just a nice, casual yak with the best comedian in Canada, Brent Butt. He’s very generous as a host. He’ll let you go on, but he’s always got something to say as well that’ll keep things at a good pace. It’s everything a casual podcast should and could be.”
Best local podcast to listen to
The Big Loop
“You can compare it a bit to Black Mirror or Twilight Zone, but former standup Paul Bae layers it with atmosphere so well. It’s always a creepy treat to listen. Paul’s had really good success with that podcast, and well-deserved. It’s nice to see someone really put an effort into something and have it pay off.”
One thing that would make the Vancouver comedy scene even better
“A Second City UCB–style theatre that mixed sketch and improv, and possibly standup. We have crossover between the standup and improv scenes, but we don’t have one venue that caters to that. I wish we had something along those lines here.”
Best venue to uncover future comedy stars
The Rio Theatre
1660 East Broadway
“They have Improv Against Humanity, Paul Anthony’s Talent Time, Gentlemen Hecklers, The Critical Hit Show. There’s a lot of burlesque stuff as well. It’s this great space that feels like the theatre from The Muppet Show. Obviously, you’re going to see future comedy stars at the $5 venues, and you should see as many of those as you can, but if you want a more comfortable seat, the Rio Theatre is a good place to find people right before they take off.”
Best Vancouver reference to sneak into Simpsons or Futurama story lines
“My regular artist James Lloyd would always put local people into the backgrounds, especially in the Futurama comics. Weird, futuristic versions of local punk rockers or local artists. You’ll see them scattered through the background of New New York. If you see someone that was just this odd character and seemed to have very specific elements, that’s usually a caricature of someone in the local scene. But I’m not 100 percent sure Canada still exists. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. I feel it’s all just been incorporated into New New York, because clearly all these Vancouver people are there!”
Best reason to stay in Vancouver
“It’s a great city to make your mistakes in and get good in before you go somewhere else. And stay healthy in. You can drink nice clean water, have cheap sushi, go for a walk in Stanley Park and do some forest bathing. You can do your stuff here, get really, really good, screw up a lot, and then, when you feel ready, leave. Or at least keep in touch with the rest of the world, because that’s where the work is; there’s not a lot of work proper in Vancouver. This is just really a good practising, rehearsing city.”