Red Deer apparently has a thing for Ron James. This is the only stop on the standup comic’s Western tour where sheer audience demand regularly prompts James to perform twice.
The 54-year-old admits that his special relationship with this city hasn’t gone unnoticed. A few years ago, one of his two daughters gave him a birthday card with a photo of two celebrities who share his Jan. 31 birth date, Justin Timberlake and Carol Channing.
Inside, she wrote: “Sure, they’re more famous, but do they get six shows out of Red Deer?” recalled James, who performs on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 13 and 14, at the Memorial Centre.
Despite his colloquial jokes about Sylvan Lake being “the redneck Riviera” and Alberta “the only place where the opposition to the Conservative party is another conservative party,” he figures he must be doing something right.
“Out West, people always give me a fair shake,” said James — “which is a pretty nice achievement.”
He believes this means that he’s hitting everyone equally with his rapid-fire, alliterative humour — from past Liberal Party leaders (“potted plants have more personality”), to universally frustrating service providers (“You have to go to Jedi Knight levels to get your Internet fixed.”)
“I love looking out at the audience and seeing people take their glasses off in the first row, so they can wipe their eyes,” said James. “I live by a simple rule: If the ushers haven’t been wiping down some seats down at the end of each show, I feel I haven’t done my job.”
The Nova Scotia-born, Toronto-based comedian is all fired up to try out his new material.
He promises that jokes on this tour are “100 per cent new.” Well, OK, some are borrowed from the yet-to-be-seen new season of this The Ron James Show CBC TV series. (It premieres with a one-hour special on Dec. 31 at 9 p.m., then moves to a half-hour on Monday evenings at 8:30 p.m.)
But James doesn’t want his fans to think they can just sit around at home and wait for his show to air. “You get more of a visceral hit when you see live comedy performed in a theatre. It’s like nothing else — a real carnal experience.”
As usual, James, who reads three daily newspapers and watches the TV news to get primed for his rants, will be riffing on “everything and anything” that gets under his skin — from polarized politics, to personal perils, such as being middle-aged and suddenly single after his 23-year marriage ended a few years ago.
James admitted he had to wait a while before he was ready to put the end of his marriage into the act. “As Woody Allen said, ‘comedy is tragedy plus time.’ . . .
“I’m 54 and at this age, you start to see your line in the sand a little clearer,” he said. In other words, there’s less time for stupidity — and everything else.
“My show will be real and fundamental and elemental. I’m always trying to figure out this world . . . to make sense of the chaos we’re all living in.”
Tickets to his 8 p.m. performances are $57.50 from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.