Stand-up comic welcomes ‘lighter Canada’ with Liberals


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.”