It’ll take more than a threat at gunpoint to dissuade Jason Lamb from the standup comedy scene.
A few years back, one of the “bikers and scary people” in a Fairview, Alta. audience requested that the comedian’s set needed to get a whole lot funnier. The man then underlined the urgency of his request by revealing a revolver hidden inside his coat.
“He was showing it to me like if I wasn’t funny, he was going to shoot me for God’s sake,” Lamb said, earnestly recounting the perils of rural standup gigs over a plate of breakfast at the Ramada Inn. “That scared the crap out of me.”
The moment was one of a few that led Victoria-raised Lamb away from the standup comedy circuit in 2006.
“Ninety-nine per cent of the comedians that make a living in Canada are slogging it out on the road all of the time. They’re living out of their suitcases, driving rental cars in the snow, trying not to hit moose on their way to Lethbridge. It’s a really tough life.”
The 40-year-old married father of a three year-old has traded in life on the road for a job delivering the news on The Zone@91.3 morning show with co-host Dylan Willows – a career that also provides him with fodder for his topical standup act. As a regular emcee at Hecklers Bar and Grill on Gorge Road and for special events around town, Lamb can be found under the spotlight weekly, adding to his resumé of some 1,500 performances.
“He’s funny by intent,” said Aaron McGeough, Hecklers co-owner. “I bet he wasn’t the class clown. He chose standup as a direction and decided how to do it well and does it that way.”
What Lamb now considers a hobby has made him a veteran of Victoria’s standup scene. His cred behind the mic helped him launch Hecklers’ amateur night last year with McGeough – a move neither was sure would successfully attract new talent.
“Sometimes it’s terrible and sometimes it’s good,” Lamb said, adding that it’s not his place to critique the newbies.
“We’re about 20 shows in, but we’re already seeing growth in the scene,” McGeough said.
Lamb speaks highly of local comedy newcomers Kevin Banner, Adrian Lopez, Ryan Guenther, Wes Lord and Mark Robertson. While McGeough agrees that some amateurs stand out more than others, he says as a whole, the group has improved since it began.
Despite promise among new comics, Lamb and McGeough put the fresh scene into perspective. Standup comedians will only have an accurate gauge of their material once they’ve performed for about 100 audiences.
“People who go up once or twice and have a good set and think they’re comedians are delusional,” Lamb said.
Clad in an Eraserhead T-shirt and red high-tops, he tempers passion for his side projects with the same dose of realism.
Last month Lamb was asked to participate in a comedy showcase for a Comedy Now scout – but he’s not ready to celebrate over the possibility of air time.
Still battling nerves and dissatisfied with much of his material, Lamb calls most comedians pretty unhappy, and agrees with the concept of tears from a clown. Yet through a handful of new comedy venues open to performers, he’s happy welcoming the next generation into the hilarity.
“He’s one of about four guys that drive the comedy scene,” McGeough said.
Lamb sends the kudos back to McGeough and Hecklers.
“It’s exciting that maybe there is a bit of a comedy scene starting here,” he said.
Five questions (and one awkward moment) with Jason
• If you could have one superpower? Flying. I like flying.
• Who is your favourite local celeb? Gordie Tupper. Or Gordie Dodd.
• The one off-limits topic? There is no such thing as an off-limits topic. It’s all about context. Would I do cancer jokes at a cancer benefit? No.
• What’s the most important quality for a comedian to possess? You’ve gotta be original, because if you start stealing other people’s stuff you’ll get booted to the curb quickly. Other than that, it helps to have some sort of childhood trauma or depression.
• Can you make it as a comedian in Victoria? No. You’d have to move to Vancouver.
• Who is your favourite parent? Definitely Mom. I don’t really have a dad. Probably a big reason why I went into comedy.
On the Lamb
Fresh local comedy worthy of Jason Lamb’s laughs:
Hecklers Amateur Night- While Lamb warms up the crowd for professionals Fridays and Saturdays at Hecklers, he also helps welcome comedy newbies to the stage every other Sunday. Next show: March 27.
Ratfish Comedy- A bi-weekly night of Victoria’s newest comedy in the upstairs lounge of Ramada Victoria Hotel, 123 Gorge Rd. East. 8 to 9:30 p.m., no cover. Next show: March 23.
Phillips Comedy Night- Comedy vet Wes Borg hosts a night of amateur offerings – standup, sketch, video and musical comedy – every second Sunday of the month at the Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad St. $10 gets you into the next show, April 10.
Underground Comedy Fort- The Fort Street Café hosted its first showcase of young comedians March 15 at 742 Fort St. While no date has been set for the next showcase, organizers hope to make it a monthly event.