Ron is making his way through BC this coming April! Head to the tour section for more information.
RING IN THE NEW YEAR WITH AWARD-WINNING COMEDIANRON JAMES IN HIS LATEST CBC SPECIAL,
RON JAMES: TRUE NORTH
Friday, December 30 at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) on CBC
(For immediate release – December 16, 2016 – Toronto, ON) – Look back and laugh at the year that was on Friday, December 30 at 9 p.m. (9:30 p.m. NT) with award-winning comedian Ron James in his ninth one-hour comedy special, RON JAMES: TRUE NORTH, filmed in one of James’ favourite towns, Kingston, Ontario. An encore broadcast of the much-anticipated special will air on Sunday, January 1 at 9 p.m. (9:30 p.m. NT) on CBC.
TRUE NORTH finds Ron James and his poetically charged brand of funny searching for slivers of sanity in a year so categorically ‘cuckoo’ that he watched dumbstruck as just about every nation on earth but Canada went “to hell in a hand cart.” James sends up Britain and their ‘Brexit’ decision and also shares his comedically-candid views on the results of the US presidential election.
As Canada approaches its ‘sesquicentennial,’ James examines why the country’s international reputation has never been more stellar with particular focus on Mr. Sunny Ways himself, Justin Trudeau.
Looking at the year in review, James weighs in on an eclectic tableau of subjects from the legalization of marijuana to Pokemon Go; ridiculous bathroom laws in North Carolina to indigenous water rights; the Rio Olympics as well as the role certain figures in Canadian history have played in forging Canada’s national identity.
James also addresses what he considers the ‘elephant in the room’ for 2016 – the ascension of Donald Trump to the most powerful office in the world – sparing no mercy as only Ron James can.
Ultimately, TRUE NORTH is a rollicking, impassioned and sometimes ribald celebration of Canada at its 150th year.
For further information, interviews or a screener:
Jill Spitz, Publicist (416) 482-1370 email@example.com
Simon Bassett, Publicist, CBC (416) 205-8533 firstname.lastname@example.org
A wicked hat-trick of shows in Fredericton, Saint John & Moncton kicked off my Maritime swing of 'Pedal to the Metal' Tour. The dominion of KC Irving & his capitalist clan might be draped in November grey but I'm digging the colours found in places & faces on a road called home. See you in Nova Scotia next week!
Thanks for filling the Fredericton Playhouse to capacity last night Fredericton! Had a stroll this morning by that ancient artery of a Saint John River, where First People's plied their trade since before the wheel was a rumour, where sits a memorial overlooking those waters, to that dark shadow of our colonial past. Smiling faces greet me in town. A cool coffee shop serves a great Americano. The flag of the Acadians flies over the legislature and Victory Meats serves to satiate the hungry carnivore. The Road keeps giving. Thnx Freddy. On to KC Irving's capital of commerce...Saint John.
Tickets go on sale today at the remarkably cool KINGSTON GRAND THEATRE for the November 12th and 13th filming of our 8th CBC comedy special, airing 9PM December 30th, 2016. It's an entirely new 90 minute show covering the koo-koo year of 2016, where every nation in the world except Canada seemed to be going clear off the rails. From that carnivore’s arena of American politics, where democracy was hijacked by a bullshitting, pumpkin faced demagogue, to Justin and Sophie’s selfie-struck-post-nation state on the Rideau, we cut a wide satiric swath from past to present, coast to coast and all points in between, looking to connect the dots in the chaos of a year that heralds 150 years of being us. Head to the TOUR SECTION to get your tickets. Pre-sale starts at 12PM September 20th and general tickets go on sale September 23rd at 12PM.
New Atlantic Canada tour dates have now been announced! Check out the Tour section to find out where Ron is heading next. Hope to see you there!
Head to the TOUR section for newly listed Ontario Tour Dates!
MAY 12th - Pembroke, ON
MAY 13th - Cornwall, ON
MAY 14th - Port Hope, ON
MAY 15th - Owen Sound, ON
JUNE 3rd - North Bay, ON
JUNE 4th - Sudbury, ON
JUNE 9th - Waterloo, ON
JUNE 10th - Picton, ON
I am psyched to announce two very prestigious dates in Ontario this April that went on sale / were announced yesterday: Casino Rama in Orillia & Caesars Palace at the Windsor Casino! Big rooms for a big gig! Thanks a million to these great venues for booking this Canadian comedian.
Tickets Now on Sale:
Join RON JAMES at CASINO RAMA on Saturday April 23rd at 8:00PM!
TICKETS SOON TO BE RELEASED:
RON JAMES takes the stage at THE COLOSSEUM AT CAESARS WINDSOR on APRIL 15, 2016!
PRE-SALE: JANUARY 27
PUBLIC SALE: JANUARY 30
RON JAMES AT GRAND THEATRE NOV. 5
By Joe Belanger, The London Free Press
Wednesday, October 21, 2015 7:25:49 EDT PM
Ron James knows a thing or two about getting laughs.
When it comes to politics, the award-winning comic is especially adept at getting the last laugh.
“I hope (outgoing Prime Minister) Stephen Harper has a lot of recipes for crow because he’s going to be eating it for a very long time,” said James in a telephone interview.
One of Canada’s best-known stand-up comedians, who’s bringing his new Pedal To The Metal tour to London Nov. 5 at the Grand Theatre, said it’s too early to say how the new Liberal government under Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau will perform.
But it’s not too early to celebrate the departure of the Conservatives, whose supporters didn’t appreciate James’ jokes and rants about Harper and his “right wing, neoconservative dogma.”
“I’ve been in this business a long time and the Liberals could always take a joke, but the Conservatives never could,” said James.
“All the meanness and Islamaphobia . . . I’d tell a joke about Harper and his trolls would be all over me on Twitter and Facebook. It’s going to be nice to get back to being a lighter Canada. It’s also going to be nice to see our scientists being able to do their work using empirical evidence and people not living in fear of losing their jobs because they disagree with neo-Con dogma.”
Of course, one could forgive James for his vitriol. It was also the Conservatives whose funding cuts to the CBC resulted in the cancellation of the Ron James Show in 2014 after five years on TV.
But don’t expect the Nov. 5 show at the Grand Theatre to be all about politics.
James said it’s the job of comics to take hard looks at politicians, but also the rich, the famous, the corporate elite and others.
“I think it’s our job to be looking up (for targets) not down at the working people,” said James. “It’s our job to connect the dots, to be the everyman trying to find his balance on a rapidly changing planet, to poke at the person in the ivory tower.”
James said his new show is all new material since he was last here about 18 months ago.
“It’s all new, but if you hear something old it’s because I’m 58 now and I forgot the new stuff,” said James.
His favourite topics include technology and the entertainment options inundating society.
“Netflix is like a digital crack house,” said James. “People go on a Netflix binge watching something like The Walking Dead and after 72 hours, forget about watching — you’ve joined the walking dead.”
James, a native of Glace Bay, has been a part of the Canadian comedy scene since the early 1980s when he joined Toronto’s Second City.
He then moved to Los Angeles in the early 90s for a few years trying to break into television comedy. He returned to Canada a few years later and used the experience to create the successful stage show, Up & Down in Shaky Town: One Man’s Journey through the California Dream.
It was in stand-up comedy James found his niche and he’s been touring for the last 20 years, with the occasional stop for television, such as The Ron James Show, not to mention a series of successful CBC specials, such as the one he’ll be taping in the coming days that will be aired on CBC on New Year’s Eve at 9 p.m.
James said he’s also working on a book.
“It’s not an autobiography,” said James. “It’s a series of short stories linked by a common theme of a love of people and place, the experiences I’ve had over the last 20 years.”
An interview with Canada's funniest man, who performs at Showplace in Peterborough on October 25 and 26
by Bruce Head
Published October 17, 2015
Comedian Ron James performs at Showplace Performance Centre on October 25 and 26, which will be recorded as part of a New Year’s Eve special on CBC Television
Ron James is one of a rare breed: a successful comedian who chose to stay in Canada to pursue his dream. On October 25th and 26th, Ron will be performing two shows at Showplace in Peterborough as part of his “Pedal to the Metal” tour, and both will be recorded for a New Year’s Eve special to air on CBC Television.
When: Sunday, October 25 and Monday, October 26, 2015 at 8 p.m.
Where: Showplace Performance Centre (290 George St. N., Peterborough)
How much: $52
These performances will be recorded for a New Year’s Eve Special to be broadcast on CBC Television on Thursday, December 31, 2015.
Tickets are available at the Showplace Performance Centre box office, by phone at 705-742-7469, or onlinewww.showplace.org.
Most of us know Ron from his work in television, whether from Blackfly, Made in Canada, The Ron James Show, or his seven one-hour comedy specials. Ron has won two Canadian Comedy Awards, a Gemini Award for writing onThis Hour Has 22 Minutes, and a Genie Award nomination for best supporting actor.
He’s also made guest appearances on TV shows and in movies, done voice work for animated shows, and he’s even writing a book to be published next year by Random House.
But all that belies his many years of hard work as a stand-up comedian. As he tells me in a telephone interview from his home in Toronto, he built his career in this country “one kilometre at a time”.
Born in 1958 in Glace Bay in Cape Breton, Ron’s family moved to Halifax while he was growing up. After graduating from Acadia University, he moved to Toronto in the early 1980s where he joined Second City. In the early 1990s, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. After three years in California, he returned to Toronto where he stayed to raise his two daughters while touring the country to earn his reputation as “the funniest man in Canada.”
I ask Ron whether growing up in the Maritimes gave him an edge in his career as a performer.
“I came from a very humorous tribe,” he says. “They were great storytellers, my relatives. On my father’s side were Newfoundlanders and on my mother’s side were Cape Bretoners. As kids, we were always encouraged to stand on a chair and sing a song or tell a story.”
“That’s where I was funny: in the kitchen or in the classroom or in the schoolyard. I came from that world of black-and-white TV with one channel, so TV wasn’t a predominant force then — which is ironic because I’ve made my living from it.”
Despite his innate talent for comedy, Ron’s family didn’t encourage him to become a comedian.
“Thirty five years ago, becoming a comedian wasn’t something that was encouraged, trust me,” he laughs. “I might as well have said that I was joining the circus to become a fire-eater.”
Perhaps that’s one reason why Ron chose to study political science and history at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
As it turns out, he was fortunate to have studied at Acadia during the tenure of the late Evelyn Garbary, a Welsh-born theatre artist and writer. Garbary, who was the university’s Director of Drama at the time, was known for instilling the love of theatre arts in her students and she inspired many of them to pursue professional careers in the field.
“She encouraged me,” Ron says. “I got into theatre and did a couple of plays. I had this ability to riff and to perform. I’d have these verbal jam sessions in the evening.”
The Ron James Show – Ron talks about pest control and zombies
When I suggest that history and political science are the polar opposite of comedy, Ron disagrees.
“The arts are all about expression, the arts are all about satire — they all come from that place”, he says. “My political science and history degree were very important for what I ended up doing. It’s all about tipping the apple cart. Satire is always about looking up. You never look down and satirize, you always look up. It’s about speaking the truth to power.”
During our conversation, Ron keeps coming back to the idea of the comedian tipping the apple cart. He characterizes this as the “rebel soul”, and his own soon emerges when the conversation turns to the federal election.
I love looking down at the front row and seeing three generations of one family laugh at the same joke. That's an achievement, and I'm proud of it. It's my job to bring them all together.
“We’ve never been under a stronger Orwellian jackboot than we have been for the last eight years,” he says. “Just look at how the election has polarized this country. But you can’t chastise Stephen Harper for not being honest. He said ‘You won’t recognize this country when I’m through with it.’ There’s a politician who told the truth. Because he did, and he changed it irrevocably.”
“You have to make a decision. What do you want? Five CUPE members arguing about changing a light bulb in Mulcair’s office or five Tory stormtroopers in short pants reading your email?”
While Ron clearly has strong opinions on the matter, he doesn’t see his function as a stand-up comedian to be primarily political.
He tells me that American comedians — like Dennis Miller as the voice of the right or Bill Maher as the voice of the left (“the condescending voice of the left, quite frankly”) — can afford to alienate half of the U.S. population and still appeal to 160 million people. Not so in Canada, with its population of 33 million.
“Something I’ve learned on the road is to get the room on the same page,” he says. “You try to find subjects that can make everybody feel that we’re in this game together.”
“It’s the comedian’s job to negotiate the minefield of opinion and polarities and connect the dots in the chaos we’re all walking through, in the language of funny. For the two hours somebody is in my audience, it’s my job to make them feel at home, not to make them feel alienated.”
Like many Canadian performers before him, Ron did leave the country at one point to pursue the elusive American dream. In the early 1990s, he moved to California to become a cast member inMy Talk Show, a daily parody talk show created by members of Second City.
But the dream didn’t last long: the show was cancelled after 59 episodes and Ron found himself living the cliché of a struggling actor trying to make it in L.A.
“To make a long story short, our picture was in Newsweek on Tuesday, we were cancelled on Thursday, and on Monday I was pulling a tree out of Robert Ulrich’s front yard with my buddy’s pool-digging company.”
While Ron did find other acting jobs while in L.A., it was a struggle both professionally and financially. After a year, he decided it was time to pack it in and return with his family to Canada.
“It took a long time to shake it,” he recalls. “Sometimes in the cold days of February or March when I’m travelling the flatlands of the Prairies and it’s minus forty with this windchill coming down from the Arctic, I remember California.”
“But there’s a price to pay for paradise. I didn’t want to raise my daughters there. My kids started calling George Bush’s wife their grandmother. I said no, you’re grandmother is a sweet little lady who lives in Halifax. We’re going home.”
Still, the historically aware comedian has respect for the United States when it comes to the rebel soul.
“America was sired from two revolutions, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, as well as a myriad number of contentious civil rights movements,” he says. “It’s a country of contention and it’s a country where the rebel soul has a place.”
“Canada had one rebel, Louis Riel, who the Conservatives hunted down 140 years ago. Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have ever pardoned the man. You know you’ve got to be doing something right when Ottawa hates your guts that long.”
I ask Ron whether he thinks a comedian’s job is easier or harder these days, given how blurry the line has become between satire and reality.
“It’s harder to a certain degree, because there’s just so much information out there,” he replies. “People have so many choices on how to spend their time and money. When it comes to the world, I’m just as confused as the next person. There’s so much information coming down the pipe, I expect to look out the front window and see one of the horses of the Apocalypse having a dump on my front lawn.”
“What I’m looking for, like anyone, is some semblance of sanity and quiet amidst the cacophony of voices coming down from that Tower of Babel called cyberspace.”
Ron relates what his friend, the late author Farley Mowat, once told him about satire.
“I used to visit him when I was down in Peterborough,” Ron recalls. “He was a cantankerous sage who did not suffer fools, so I felt honoured he would let me sit and have lunch with him and his lovely wife Claire. I talked to him one day and he said, ‘Ronnie, Canadians don’t trust satire. So you gotta sneak in the back door and be sitting at the kitchen table before they even know you’re in the house.'”
The Ron James Show: Wii Fit
I ask Ron why he chose to record his New Year’s Special at Showplace Performance Centre in Peterborough.
“It’s the theatre in the country that gave me a hat trick of sold-out shows,” he explains. “It’s a wonderful, intimate room where I’ve always heard the soul note singing.”
“Because of the content of this show, there’s going to be an intimacy. What Lynn Harvey and her company [Enter the Picture Productions Inc.] and the set designers and the production team are going to do at Showplace with visuals is going to knock your socks off.”
“Peterborough is a great town,” he adds. “It has the best demographic: it has rural close by, it’s got Trent University, and it’s got a downtown core. I’ve always had great shows there.”
Ron tells me that his performances at Showplace will cut a wide swatch through contemporary culture.
“We’ve got everything, from whatever’s going to happen in the election to the experience of Canadians during the election,” he says. “They call it the election of the century, and that’s appropriate because it’s taken that long. It’s about my experiences in the land and the country — I rafted through the Yukon in the summer, down the Firth River to the Beaufort Sea, surrounded by Americans who couldn’t say enough good things about the country.”
“We look at the American election, too. We dive into the Middle East. We take a look at the fraudulence of celebrity culture, and about the state of the country as a whole. It hits mid life. I tip my hat to the Me Generation as the future.”
On the last point, Ron refers to his own two grown daughters.
“My eldest runs a human rights film festival in Glasgow,” he says. “She got her masters in film and television. My youngest is at Guelph. They’re such wonderful young women. They’re inclusive, proactive, enlightened. This generation gets short shrift as being entitled from condescending Baby Boomers — the most entitled generation of all time. We spent the best years of our youth toked up and coked out while boogieing beneath a disco ball in a perm and super-wide flares and platform shoes.”
As well as the rebel soul, Ron says the show is about embracing change.
“It’s about moving forward, taking a look at the right things, and shirking fear,” he says. “You don’t want to be defiantly walking backwards to the wrong side of history, proud of your ignorance. But I want people leaving my show with a spring in their step and a smile on their face, rather than thinking the world has gone to hell in a handcart.”
Ron James: Road Between My Ears (computer rant)
My final question for Ron is what motivates him to keep touring, now that he’s in his late fifties.
“A mortgage, alimony, and the life force,” he laughs.
“I’m so fortunate to actualize my calling in a country where I chose to make my living. I built a career in the country one kilometre at a time. I didn’t do it chasing the American dream. I found it here in primal corners of the country. Whether it’s around the tip of Lake Superior when some freight train of a wind chill is rattling across the Canadian Shield, or in corners of Victoria B.C., or up in Newfoundland, face to face with 1200 kilos of nostril-drooling ungulate in Gros Morne National Park.”
“Or in Peterborough in winter, when I looked out the Holiday Inn window and saw a clown dancing on the sidewalk on a minus thirty day. I watched that clown for a half an hour and I thought ‘Ronnie, sure the road can get tedious, but you have no room to complain.'”
But his true motivation is the reaction of the audience as he embraces his rebel soul.
“I love looking down at the front row and seeing three generations of one family laugh at the same joke,” he says. “That’s an achievement, and I’m proud of it. It’s my job to bring them all together. At the same time, you’ve got to tip the apple cart. You can’t be all things to all people. It’s important to embrace the rebel soul without losing the room.”
Bruce Head is kawarthaNOW.com’s managing editor, lead developer, and a contributing writer.
When he isn’t editing or developing, Bruce enjoys making music, exercising Tess the border collie, and working on his elusive first novel.
NOW ON SALE!
brockville: october 17, 2015 @ 8:00PM
PETERBOROUGH: OCTOBER 25 & 26, 8:00pm live cbc taping for broadcast
MISSISSAUGA: OCTOBER 29, 2015 @ 8:00pm
LONDON: NOVEMBER 5, 2015 @ 8:00pm
BURLINGTON: NOVEMBER 7, 2015 @ 8:00pm
ottawa: november 12, 2015 @ 7:30PM
RICHMOND HILL: NOVEMBER 13, 2015 @ 8PM
milton: november 14, 2015 @ 8:00PM
GUELPH: NOVEMBER 15, 2015 @ 7:00pm
brantford: november 17, 2015 @ 8:00PM
KINGSTON: NOVEMBER 20, 2015 @ 7:30pm
BELLEVILLE: NOVEMBER 27, 2015 @ 8:00pm
banff, alberta: january 30, 2016 @ 7:30PM
LEDUC, ALBERTA: FEBRUARY 4, 2016 @ 7:30pm
FORT SASKATCHEWAN: FEBRUARY 5, 2016 @ 7:30pm
ST. ALBERT: FEBRUARY 6, 2016 @ 7:30PM
MORE SALE DATES TO BE RELEASED SOON...
Arctic char, caribou antlers, fossilized coral from a Devonian dawn, with a view of The Beaufort Sea atop 'Egigitsiak'. Missing the clear air and the primal hum of Ivvavik National Park, during the 'dog days of summer' in the Big Smoke.
Last post found me on Canada Day, waving my flag from Inuvik, NWT headed for a two week trip down the Firth River through Ivvavik Nat. Park. Its 10,662 square kilometres of primal country home to the 150,000 strong Porcupine Caribou herd, who cross that many kilometres of unforgiving terrain to drop their calves in Spring, through weather that would turn a Yeti back! Its where the haunting cries of peregrine falcons ride the wind and arctic wildflowers, defiant with colour in their shamelessly short shelf life, carpet a rolling tundra that's seen fellow travellers traverse its hills and valleys since a Beringia buffet had wooly mammoth on the menu! 'Ivvavik' means 'birthplace' in Inuvialuit, the tongue of the people from Canada's Western Arctic who won its preservation from oil and mining interests in a land clams settlement. There's some historic irony for ya: the people we stole the country from are the ones who are saving it! Rafting with Neil Hartling's class act of a company, Nahanni & Canadian River Expeditions, this 'bucket list scratch' had me sitting in 10,000 year old tent rings listening to the wind sing a holy soul note while gazing cross a vast and mighty plain where people once pulled a living from with nothing but bone, stone and sinew. That being said, I'm glad I had a couple of Mars bars to stem the 'growlies' cause if I had to depend on filling my stomach that way, I'd of eaten my own thumbs for supper. It was worth every penny and I'd do it again tomorrow.What odds by'?! Life is short. Get out there and marvel cause Canada is some cool!
I kinda look like a French foot soldier on the Plains of Abraham in this outfit but given such a day, wearing the 'funny hat' was a small price to pay for such a humbling and prestigious honour.
During all those years spent chasing a living cross the Big Wide Open, I never EVER figured a boon such as this was on its way. I always felt the greatest reward of 'the work', was having an opportunity to do ‘the work’ and take it seriously enough to get good at it. Actually making a living doing what I wanted to do, in the country I chose to live, was victory enough.
That being said, I guess its official: I'm a 'doctor' now. So, when someone yells out in a crowded restaurant, subway, or plane- 'Help! Is there a doctor here?! This man is having a heart attack!' I'll be able to say- 'As a matter of fact, I'm a doctor'…and then because I have the skills, I'll run like a monkey.
So here's to all those people I worked with in the 'trenches of funny' over the years: the agents, actors, comedians, writers & producers, particularly Terry McRae of Shantero Productions & Lynn Harvey of ETP. Here's to every audience member seated in the dark, who came to ‘lighten their load’ and coughed up the coin to fill those rooms that fed my own... here's to friends and family here and ‘back home’, who kept the faith and ‘had my back’ in times of need. But most importantly, thanks to my daughters Cayley & Gracie and their mother June, who weathered so many winter nights alone when I was ‘on the road’.
Link to Ron's speech to Acadia's Graduating Class of 2015: http://livestream.com/45north/events/4037216/videos/86772031
Published on February 19, 2015
Even Ron James isn’t sure how his mind processes his standup act when he’s on stage.
“It’s a mystery to me how it works but it works,” the Canadian comedian says. “Your brain, when you’re on the stage, is cutting and pasting on the fly. It’s moving things around, cells are sliding into the chamber left and right. You’re constantly gauging the shifting terrain, at least in my act. You’re making these nanosecond decisions ‘OK, I’m going to go over here at this point and that’s going to work.’”
James returns to the E.A. Rawlinson Centre on March 5 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $42.86.
The Glace Bay, N.S., product, who has lived in Toronto for most of the last 35 years, says he feels a heightened sense of awareness during his shows.
“It is an intoxicant. It’s the life force in full throttle.”
His work ethic suggests that he keeps his foot on the gas pedal a lot.
He wrote and starred in Blackfly from 2001-02, creating 26 episodes in two seasons. The Ron James Show had a five-year, 57-episode run between 2009-14.
He also wrote seven 90-minute standup specials.
His upcoming 12-show, three-week-long Pedal To The Metal tour brings him through Western Canada next month. He plays a major concert at Massey Hall in Toronto on April 23.
He is currently writing a book and also does charity work for the Global Poverty Project.
James says he comes by his work ethic honestly.
“I’m a working man. I work. Writing is work,” he says. “My father got out there every morning and worked for the telephone company. My uncles worked at the dockyards. My other uncles were in the merchant marines, some were fishermen, some were coal miners. They worked. You have to get behind the mule and plow.”
James says he is fortunate that he put the time in when the comedy industry was wide open in Canada, performing in what he calls a “trapline” of soft-seat theatres from coast to coast.
When the recession hit in the U.S., American comedians rediscovered Canada, regularly playing the major cities.
“The job of a comedian is to get on stage and work and make people laugh so it doesn’t matter where you’re doing it, as long as you’re doing it,” James says. “Luckily I was able to pour a solid foundation before the marketplace got as busy as it is today.”
Even if James was able to maintain his tours as the U.S. acts played here, he’s resigned to the fact that they remain the industry standard.
“The great American comedians will always be the litmus test for success and Canadians will always be compared to them,” James said. “I like to think that the ones who have sustained themselves over time in this country have worked just as hard. We didn’t make as much money but we worked just as hard.”
James did chase the dream south of the border, spending three years in L.A. in early ’90s. He returned in 1993 after deciding that he wanted to raise his children -- the first of his two kids had just been born -- at home in Canada.
“I’ve got no mojo to chase the American dream anymore,” he says.
Instead, James has concentrated on his TV shows and tours in Canada. He prefers extended runs, although he also does the occasional corporate gig and now plays some casinos too.
James says his show is tightly crafted, although he will riff within the context of his written material. It’s an interesting decision for the graduate of The Second City troupe in Toronto, which is known for its improvisational skills.
But he says he owes the preparation to his fans.
“If people have stepped out of their house in a snowstorm or inclement weather and got a babysitter and all those things you have to do in order to see somebody live, they can’t see me working on a bit when I’m up there,” James says. “It has to be solid.”
He is a big proponent of spending as much time performing as possible, saying his stage confidence came over time and allowed his act to slow down.
He also enjoys the moment more. James says that early in his career he approached his sets “like a Mexican welterweight going 13 rounds.”
After his first TV special he was told to lighten up and enjoy himself; he now chuckles along with the audience, delighting in the moment and occasionally taking quiet pride in material he comes up with on the fly.
He says a comedian doesn’t hit stride until they’ve been at it 10 or 15 years.
“It’s a trade,” James says. “You have to hit your thumb with the hammer a few times before you know what you’re doing.”
He says he’s matured as a person as well, losing the constant intensity he had as a younger man.
“Somebody who’s on all the time probably isn’t on all the time when they’re on stage,” James says. “Comedy is a very introspective calling. I was a far more frenetic personality in my younger years. I felt that I had to be on all the time.”
Twenty years ago he toured with Brent Butt and Jeremy Hotz for Just For Laughs. He remains a huge fan of Hotz, who still works as a full-time standup comedian.
“I’ve never seen a more bulletproof act in my life. He’s great.”
James also appreciates Prince Albert comedian Kelly Taylor, who he worked with at a benefit in Winnipeg.
“He’s a good cat,” James says.
James chuckles when he says that once you get the life you want, you’ll never have a life. Even the TV shows had a nonstop cycle of writing, acting and promoting.
“I was lucky but I worked for it too. Nobody handed it to me,” he says. “And they still don’t. You never really get a chance to sit back and watch the river run. It’s all about work.”
James says he hopes that when the audience leaves the theatre, that they’ll feel like he carried their load for a while by making them laugh.
It’s part of the motivation that keeps him writing new material. He suggests the road takes no prisoners and that comedy doesn’t suffer fools kindly.
“You always have to be feeding the machine,” he says. “You can’t keep coming on the road with the same act you’ve been dragging for the past 15 years. You have to change it up. All it takes is one bad set for the word to get around that you’re not putting your heart into it.”
James says that fame has become perverse in its validity in the age of reality TV stars and Internet sensations. While he jokes that fame in Canada means drinking for free north of the tree line, his take on celebrity isn’t of the 15-minute variety.
“Longevity is what matters. Seeing people in a theatre laughing, that’s what matters. That’s fame.”
Ron James will be joining the 2015 Victoria Films Festival's 'In Conversation With...' at The Vic Theatre on February 7th @ 11:30AM. Check out the article in the TIMES COLONIST:
VICTORIA FILM FESTIVAL OPENING GALA EVOKES 1940s CLUB
Michael D. Reid / Times Colonist
January 13, 2015 03:03 PM
The older the Victoria Film Festival gets, the further back in time its organizers seem to be going to celebrate its annual opening gala.
Last year, opening nighters celebrated at a 1960s-New York-themed bash that saw a building on Johnson Street transformed into a multi-levelled retro playground, with groovy costumed revellers moving past swing dancers and mini-skirted models through theme rooms.
For its 21st birthday celebration on Feb. 6, the festival is venturing back two decades earlier, to the era when stars such as Rita Hayworth, Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart were top draws at the cinema.
Festival director Kathy Kay admits the decision to transform the historic Promis Building at 1008 Government St. into a 1940s nightclub energized by a 35-piece big band was made on a whim.
“A while ago, I thought I’d try and theme these things to the opening movie, but it just became too hard to do that,” said Kay. “So this year, I just thought of what might be the most fun.”
Kay said she was thrilled the festival was able to book the Naden Band, which most recently packed the Royal Theatre with a series of three Christmas concerts benefiting the Salvation Army.
“[Businessman] Richard Holmes just renovated the space, with these amazing exposed brick walls and beams and high ceilings, and McLaren’s Lighting is putting chandeliers in, so it’s going to look pretty skookum,” she said.
Tuxedo-clad waiters, cigarette girls and other retro touches will complement the bash following the opening-gala film Boychoir, starring Dustin Hoffman as an East Coast choirmaster.
Kay confirmed guests so far include comedians Ron James and Mark McKinney, “who will both be smart and funny, I’m sure” when they take the stage for this year’s “In Conversation With” forums at the Vic; director Sturla Gunnarsson, here to present his new documentary Monsoon; Alberta filmmaker Kyle Thomas (The Valley Below); and Sydney Freeland, whose Sundance-featured film Drunktown’s Finest, about three young Navajo characters struggling to move beyond life on the reservation, makes its B.C. première.
Other guests include Nika Belianina, whose documentary Eccentric Eclectic makes its world première; and Tennis Pro, the Seattle indie band featured in John Jeffcoat’s documentary Big in Japan.
Organizers are also hoping Boychoir director Francois Girard, the Quebec director best known for The Red Violin, will be able to make the opening gala.
Significantly, the festival is expanding its horizons to Sidney this year — a move Kay says was driven by popular demand.
“We’ve been out there before but it’s been a while,” she said. “When we decided not to keep going there we got a lot of emails and people dropping by. They really did lobby us.”
Both Sidney’s Star Cinema and Mary Winspear Centre will be venues this year, for the screening of eight evening and four matinée films.
Family Day programs on Feb. 9, notably the Jammies and Cartoons event, will also take place at Mary Winspear Centre’s Charlie White Theatre.
The Victoria International Airport also got on board this year, said Kay, noting it is sponsoring the screening of Seventy-One Years, Nick Versteeg’s Avro Anson L 7056 aircraft documentary.
Other notable highlights, unveiled at the festival’s recent pre-fest launch at Parkside Hotel and Spa, include three new programs focusing on French Canadian, indigenous and South Asian films. Another is the new BravoFACT Pitch Contest hosted by industry pioneer Pat Ferns, with five filmmakers given an opportunity to pitch their short films and possibly receive $35,000.
The 2015 FilmCAN winners were also announced at the launch party. Olivia Wheeler collected the senior category grand prize for her documentary Expectations. In the junior category, Julie Robinson, Meaghan Power-Politt and Angelina Shandro accepted the grand prize for their group’s collaborative project 9 Lives.
Tickets to all festival films and programs are now available online, and at the festival’s box-office, 1215 Blanshard St. As always, a festival membership is required.
Many of the most popular attractions sell out quickly, especially the opening gala. For more information call 250-389-0444 or go to victoriafilmfestival.com
3000 foot 4 hour climb to top of Torres del Paine. I had to take the American Pledge of Allegiance to hold the flag. Might be a problem getting back into Canada but after I took it, I stopped saying 'sorry' as a greeting.
Prepare to laugh with Ron James as he gears up to ring in the New Year with "From Fallsview Casino - Ron James - The Big Picture,' airing December 31st @ 9PM ET, 9:30NL on CBC Television!