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!
General admission and Exclusive VIP packages for the 'Pedal to the Metal' tour now on sale! Give the gift of laughter this holiday season or treat yourself to a humor filled night out. Head to: http://ronjames.ca/events.html or for VIP head here: http://www.ticketbreak.com/event_details/8599?skin=ronjames
New dates announced! Ron James is performing at Gold Eagle Casino February 21st, 2015. Head to LIVE TOUR DATES for this and many more shows! Or click: http://tickets.siga.sk.ca/orderticketsarea.asp?p=1708&a=968&backurl=cityperformancelisting%2Easp%3Fcityname%3DNorth%2BBattleford%252C%2BSK%26pg%3D1
On Thursday, April 23, 2015, award-winning comedian RON JAMES performs live at Toronto Massey Hall as part of his Take No Prisoners tour. Tickets are available at http://www.masseyhall.com/eventdetail/RonJames
Unshackled by network constraints and corporate oversight, prepare for Ron to let loose, moving full throttle as he unleashes his trademark kinetically charged live show. 'After 20 years chasing my muse cross the big wide open, it is a buzz beyond reason to be planting my flag on the iconic boards of Massey Hall,' says Ron.
Hailed by critics from coast to coast, Ron James has consistently sold out theatres across the country with his legendary live performances. With a comedians eye for satire and a poets ear for language, Ron cuts a wide swath through contemporary culture with a razor sharp wit and machine-gun delivery, making him a stand-out among stand-up performers.