Shout-Outs to Nathan Macintosh
This week’s shout-out is about a Halifax-born, Toronto-based comic who is literally blowing up right now. Ladies and gentlemen, Nathan Macintosh.
A NOTE: So far the shout-out section of Premise PUNCH Tag has been primarily concerned with ultra-famous stand-up comics like Mitch Hedberg, Steve Martin, and Rodney Dangerfield. However, I also want to focus as well on lesser-known comics that are nevertheless awesome.
Since I live in Toronto, at first I’ll be drawing from our community, but over time I would like to add shout-outs to comics from other cities. If you have a suggestion for a future shout-out, please email me, or leave a comment (no registration needed). Okay, enough preamble.
Nathan Macintosh is, in my opinion, one of Toronto’s best comics. And judging from the numerous awards listed in his bio, it’s clear that I’m not alone. I have gotten used to this exchange when friends come to see me perform and he does a set:
Friend: That was a lot of fun, you’re pretty good!
Me: Thanks a lot for coming to the sh—
Friend: …But that red-haired guy is way better than you. Who is that lovable ginger?
Me: That’s Nathan. Yeah, he’s sick. But let’s get back to me and how great I am.
Friend: Naw, he’s great. You’re okay. Like sub-Nathan.
Friend: Just to be safe, let’s say sub-sub-Nathan.
My friends are not known for their tact.
Macintosh works like a dog at stand-up, and I run into him frequently at rooms. He’s an inspiring performer, pouring the same amount of energy into a slow open mike as he does into a paid headlining set. I have seen him kill a crowd of two, a crowd of two hundred, and every demographic in between, from hipster college kids to the elderly. His humour strikes this nice balance between honest insights and the ridiculous, while maintaining a relatable quality.
Off-stage, not too much changes. Nathan is always joking around, reminding the rest of us that comedy is fun. If you kill a set, he’s the first person to pat you on the back. If you bomb, just as likely he’ll be there to offer some words of encouragement. Many comics are markedly different from their comedic personas, but Nathan says,
“..I don’t like acts. When someone is different on stage than off, [I’m] not the biggest fan.”
And he walks his talk. What you see onstage is how he really is.
In an earlier shout-out dedicated to Demetri Martin, we examined a quote of about how people reveal their true personality when you have nothing to offer them. I can remember emailing Nathan out of the blue with some noob questions about the Canadian Comedy Awards. We’d never spoken before, and to be honest, I didn’t expect (or deserve) a response. He replied a couple of hours later with detailed information and advice about my problem.
I had a chance to ask Nathan some questions about stand-up comedy in a recent email interview.
What made you decide to start performing stand-up comedy?
I wanted to do it since I was 10. My mom used to watch stand up all the time and get me to as well. Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Cosby, George Carlin. I always just thought it was the coolest thing ever.
Can you name a couple of comics you look up to and why you admire them?
Chris Rock and Sam Kinison. There’s more but I’ll just name these two.
Sam was the first comedian I ever saw. He was my moms favorite, and I loved his early stuff.
The first time I saw Chris Rock’s “Bigger and Blacker”, it was on the comedy network, and I made sure to be home the next day to watch it again. It was the best thing I ever saw. A person talking about those issues in that way, amazing.
I’d say these guys because they took laughs. They don’t say jokes and go “Hope you like it”, they throw them at you, and make you like them. I try to do that, so that’s what I identify with.
One word answer: What do you consider the hardest part of performing stand-up comedy?
One word answer: What do you consider the best part of performing stand-up comedy?
Release. (Also, I know this says one word answer, but that is hard for both of these. Thus my bracket to explain that. But nothing further, I am done here.)
What is the worst/funniest experience you have had while performing?
At a comedy show? A man in a small town one time wanted to fight me about a joke I had. He was 47 in a Nascar hat, and wanted to fight me, a 21 year old. It was a joke about pick up lines. He hated it because his daughter was just dumped. And there were some older people there who I thought would be on my side,but not at all!
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Do every single show you can. Every where, and always. When you think you have done enough for the week, do two more. There is nothing more important than just working at this.
And stand up comes first, before anything.
What kind of humour bores you?
Honestly? Really clean humor. I find it boring and fake. That’s me though. And I don’t mean that I like the opposite, swearing every second word and always talking about your dick, but there are not too many people who don’t swear in real life.
People talking about cotton candy and such. Not really into it. And I don’t like acts. When someone is different on stage than off, not the biggest fan.
What 5 comics, dead or alive, would you book for your vision of a perfect stand-up show?
Man, that’s a tough question, because I wouldn’t want these people to do more or less time than the others. I’d love to see Woody Allen do stand up, Chris Rock, Sam Kinison, Richard Pryor, in a small room. I love seeing comedians in small rooms. Not a fan of giant stadium stand up. Oh, and a 5th? I’ll host it. I could hang. haha.
What is your favourite comedy album?
I guess the one that had the most effect, was Bigger and Blacker. Too real, too hard, too strong. It’s great.
Do you have any topics that you consider off-limits in your act?
There are things I haven’t talked about, but I don’t have anything specifically I won’t talk about. I can say though that abortion has much more weight to it than most comedians give to it. The way some people just say “I’ll just grab a hanger!”, I can’t see me doing that.
You’ve racked up quite a stack of awards, including a Canadian Comedy Award, a Tim Sims Award, and you won Q107’s “Funniest Comic with a Day Job” competition in 2007. Do you have any advice about how to succeed in a competitive situation?
I have also won the Laughs Resorts “Funniest Comic with a day job,” but whose counting.
The advice I would I give is kinda simple, but not. Stand up is not all about jokes. Sounds weird, but it’s true. Not all about jokes. That’s why some people have killer sets, and lose. Look past jokes.
You experienced a childhood of relative poverty in Halifax, and these experiences sometimes find their way into your act. How do you think your upbringing has affected your comedic voice?
Growing up the way I did influences everything I do and say. For one, I’m not scared of much, just not being successful, so I work hard. And it makes me see things for what they are. I don’t really make this up, my stuff is talking about what is.
You seem to have a lot of fun playing onstage. I remember a show you headlined where you convinced the Mayor of Brantford to say “titties.” Do you plan these kinds of tangents and make room for them in your performance, or is it more of a go with the flow thing?
I remember that! Hilarious. That was not planned at all, I was just having fun with them. If I’m giving a good amount of time, I try and leave some time open for such things. It’s fun for me.
I would characterize your stand-up act as “high energy.” Do you have a pre-show ritual to get pumped up, or change your mentality before going onstage?
I think about my entire life backwards. No, I kinda just think about the comedian I want to be, then go on and try to live up to that.
You recently collaborated with comic Arthur Simeon to produce a stand-up comedy show. Can you share your thoughts on the benefits or drawbacks of teaming up with another comic?
That show was great and really fun. Teaming up with someone makes it a bit easier to bring out people, and it helps with putting the whole thing together. A draw back? I can’t think of one, other than that you can’t always do it. At some point, you gotta be your own man.
Well, there you go. local Toronto comic Nathan Macintosh. Now when you see a red-haired guy tearing it up, you don’t have to ask his name, you can just skip to calling me sub-Nathan.
We’ll end off with one more clip: