Comedian Derek Edwards: In Praise of the Ostrich
There’s something in Canadian water that infuses our native sons and daughters with their uniquely crafted humour. More than any other art form, the comedy world is rich with Canadian talent. And even though it may not always resonate with audiences outside the country, it’s still some of the most incisive and entertaining comedy being produced today.
Veteran comic DEREK EDWARDS is one of those names. From Vegas to Niagara Falls, from St. John’s to Victoria, this Just for Laughs veteran is universally considered to be among the comedy elite. As Rick Mercer says: “everyone knows Derek is the funniest man in Canada.”
Edwards is back on tour with a new comedy tour de force entitled “In Praise of the Ostrich,” which sees the easy-flowing funnyman offering commentary on everything from the influx of pot stores and self-driving cars to gambling tips and how to stay youthful. In anticipation of his upcoming show April 30th at FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, Edwards took the time to talk with GoBeWeekly.com about performing comedy in the time of wokeness, drunk crowds versus high crowds, the humanity of the coffee shop, and the best way to die.
GoBe: I’m going to start with a lengthy question, but don’t worry, they get shorter. In a world that’s literally rife with things that can only be considered laughable, it would appear to be a great time to be a comedian. But between wokeness, a plague of Karens, social justice warriors and cancel culture, it can be a challenging time for anyone including comics to be expressing themselves publicly. How are you managing to keep your sanity and continue to perform comedy given those two Dickensian polarities – that being, the best of times, the worst of times.
Derek: That’s beautiful. I’m glad I’m sitting down. Can we just rest with that question for five minutes? It does seem dystopian and apocalyptical. There are guys who’ve made good money off that. Sometime around 2015 when things took a sharp turn to the right to the south of us, in England, in Brazil, there was people taking over countries with their own agendas. They slid in there with fake news. It’s made for real challenging times. I’m not a philosopher. It’s not up to me to kind of save the world, or to make sense of it. But when things are particularly ridiculous, it’s fun to make fun of it. It’s also fun to provide some escapism for the people who are sick and tired of hearing about reality. That’s me carrying the ball there.
GoBe: What makes you decide whether to wade in and write jokes about a subject or not? What are the filters you use to create comedy you’re comfortable delivering?
Derek: If something throws a bad image into people’s head. That’s one. You don’t want to be talking about school shootings and making jokes about a gun misfiring or something, because that brings in school shootings. You can’t be making jokes about mass murder. That kind of thing doesn’t work. I don’t want to put a negative image into the minds of people. You’re on their turf. It’s their imagination. It’s their world. You’re in St. Catharines at the Partridge Hall, it’s their downtown. You don’t want to bring negativity into their world. For example, I don’t mention climate. I can’t do much about it except plant a tree and recycle, you know.
GoBe: In Praise of The Ostrich is an apt name for a comedy tour in a time when people are burying their heads in the sand to avoid the conversations being had. What was your thinking when pulling the material for this tour together.
Derek: It’s avoidance. How do you avoid all this negativity, to the point where you can be on your own two feet, in a good state of mind, ready to step out into the world and say hello, good morning, to open the door for someone. To me it’s always the little things that help things seem right. Sharing politeness, a kind word, a good gesture. These are the little things you can maintain all through your life to keep yourself buried right up to the neck. Go with whatever positive energy you can glean. I find 90% of the people I meet on the street or at the coffee shop seem to be decent people. You know the islands at a coffee shop where everyone puts their cup there and is putting cream and sugar in their coffee? The level of politeness at one of those coffee islands – if the world could function at that level. It takes so little to do it. It’s a matter of efficiency! I think my favourite way to die would be shoveling snow for an elderly neighbour next door, so it would eventually come out what a sweetheart of a man I was.
GoBe: There’s a place in heaven for shovelers.
Derek: I truly hope so.
GoBe: Amongst the subjects you deal with in this new show is the proliferation of pot stores in Canada. Would you rather perform to an audience consuming cannabis or consuming alcohol?
Derek: That’s a good question. Normally at any kind of club when I was coming up, there was always drinking. Not to the point of standing on the table kind of thing, just a few to loosen up. It makes people less likely to be shy, like if they had a goofy laugh, they could relax about it. A couple belts just loosened them up. The pot people? There was this room in Toronto, kind of hidden before pot was legal, where you could go perform. You could just step on stage and you’d get a contact high. Here’s the thing; it took them a while. There was this gap between delivering the line and when they’d get the line. I think the drunk crowd is probably better.
GoBe: Comedian Kathy Griffin just announced she developed PTSD in the aftermath of her public shaming for making fun of Donald Trump. Have you ever had to deal with a backlash over your material and do you think it’s ever really necessary to apologize for a joke told about a celebrity or highly public figure?
Derek: If it’s funny, you probably get away with it. If it’s legitimately funny. If you’re just criticizing or you’re saying something acerbic, then you’ve really got no legs to stand on. I don’t like that guy – that’s not really enough. If it’s truly funny, and somehow you found that one thread to pull the one thing apart, I don’t think you ever have to apologize because you’re an entertainer and that’s all you’re doing. Trump’s got those walking dead that follow him around. It’s really hard to tell what’s going to sell.
GoBe: Like many entertainers, comics are often in need of validation to drive their confidence. Are there other areas of your life where you wished you could get applause or instant praise. Cooking dinner for the family. After sex? Holding the door open at the grocery store?
Derek: (Laughing) In order to ask that question, you must have some part of your life that you feel deserves a round of applause.
GoBe: I do and I don’t get it often enough.
Derek: I’ve had the odd occasion where I’ve gone and fixed the commode from backing up. I’m not sure I would take that applause as anything other than sarcastic. There’s a funny bit from another comic who asks why there isn’t an express lane in a hardware store for anyone buying a plunger.
GoBe; Who’s making you laugh these days. Do you follow the careers of other comics?
Derek: There’s a guy named Todd Barry. He makes me laugh. Doug Stanhope who I saw working a soft seater here in Toronto. He had a local guy opening for him who was very funny. There are countless guys. I have a show coming up with a guy named Peter Zedlacher, he’s from Wawa. Mike Milmot, a buddy of mine. Absolutely hilarious but a little dirty, not aggressively but he might challenge some people.
GoBe: I’m a huge consumer of comedy and I cant believe the number of people who have never seen a live comedy show. What an empty life you must lead if you’re unwilling to go out and laugh.
Derek: It’s unbelievable. It’s so fun and such a change of pace from anything else you’re going to do.
GoBe: Our family are big consumers of comedy and one thing we always speculate on is the potentially lucrative nature of the career. Whether it’s you on stage or Kevin Hart or Bill Burr it’s one guy. No band. No back up. No posse at the club you’re fronting the bill for. Just one guy collecting a paycheck. Clearly, there’s people behind the scenes tapping into that revenue. What are the big expenses for a comic in terms of support team.
Derek: It’s pretty simple. Travel and lodging. That’s where they’re going to get you. It used to be long distance charges because I would get so damn lonely but now with the magic of long distance it’s not as expensive anymore. Coffee. In my younger days it used to be my bar tab as well.
GoBe: Everything comes with a warning label now so people can make an informed choice so they won’t be exposed to anything that might trigger their sensitivities. What would the wording be for your warning to anyone who has yet to see you live but is considering coming to the St. Catharines show.
Derek: I would say, ‘family friendly but don’t bring your fucking children.’ (laughs). Is that too harsh?
'In Praise of the Ostrich' - Derek Edwards' new 90-minute stand-up comedy April 30th at FOPAC. Reserved seating tickets are $60.00 (tax and facility fees incl., handling charges may apply), and are available from the box offices listed below. Showtime is 7:30pm. For more info, pics & comedy clips, visit www.shantero.com.
Clearly the critics agree: "5 STARS - the funniest man on earth" - Winnipeg Free Press; "4 STARS - the crowd howled" - Victoria Times Colonist; "still the funniest man in Canada" - Toronto Sun; "Edwards reigns as the King of Canadian comedy" - Charlottetown Guardian; "Derek Edwards is hysterical" - Calgary Sun; "Edwards takes stand-up to next stage" - Georgia Straight; "the epitome of timing & storytelling" - Halifax Chronicle Herald; "the comedian's comedian" - London Free Press.
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