Shout-Outs to Jon Kane
This week, Toronto comic Jon Kane was kind enough to offer his thoughts on fear in stand-up comedy. I’d like to take this Wednesday’s Shout-Out to introduce you properly to our guest writer. Ladies and gents, Jon Kane:
Jon is a Scottish-born stand-up comic who has performed at shows around Toronto including Todd Van Allen‘s Comedy Above the Pub room, and Jo-Anna Downey’s Spirits. He also keeps a blog, and does a lot of thinking about the art form of stand-up comedy.
An Interview with Jon Kane
What made you decide to start performing stand-up comedy?
It’s something I wanted to do for a while before I actually got round to getting up on stage. I see myself as more of a writer than a performer, so it was a whole new ballgame for me to actually get up there and try and make people laugh. I like the immediacy of the feedback you get at a stand-up show, and it’s great to meet a bunch of really funny people that I really respect and admire.
Can you name a couple of comics you look up to and why you admire them?
Billy Connolly is the biggest comic that Scotland has ever produced, so I think every comic that talks like I do looks up to him. He’s just so effortlessly hilarious. He also supports the same soccer team as I do, which is horribly important. In terms of comics here in Toronto, I’m a huge fan of Mike Wilmot. He just kills me every time. Jo-Anna Downey does fantastic work. I dig Ted Morris and Steve Schultz, too. That’s more than a couple. I always write too much.
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?
What is the worst/funniest experience you have had while performing at a comedy show?
When I’m on stage I always wander around with the microphone. The idea of standing still behind the mic stand terrifies me, for some reason. The problem that I have is that I’m never smart enough to get the mic on the stand before the end of my set, so there’s always a couple of seconds where I’m fumbling around at the end trying to get everything set up for the host to come back on. At the last open mic I did with Jo-Anna Downey, the music cut off as she hit the stage, I got the mic wire tangled around my leg and ended up nearly grabbing her boob to distract people from my plight. You had to be there. It wasn’t pretty. Oh, Jo-Anna Downey’s boob is very pretty, I mean the situation wasn’t pretty. I’m going to stop typing now, I’m not making this any better.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
You have to be respectful. You can’t take the audience for granted, and you have to look out for your fellow comic. Your job is to make the audience laugh, so you should be giving 100% every time you step on stage. I hate it when I see new comics being lazy. Everyone bombs, but you can tell when people are bombing due to a lack of work. If you respect the audience and respect your fellow comic, then everyone will be rooting for you to succeed. If you don’t, they’ll just hope you fail, and it doesn’t matter how good you are. Actually, that’s been one of the most interesting things that I’ve noticed since I’ve started in the Toronto comedy scene. Everyone is so nice, and genuinely seem to be keen to help people progress and get to where they’re going. I always thought that stand-up comedy is a lonely pursuit, since you’re kind of up there on your own, but there’s a real sense of everyone helping out everyone else. It’s really cool.
What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
I was a door to door salesman for a week. I had to wander around suburban Scotland trying to sell them… something. I can’t even remember what it was. I had more people yell obscenities at me in that one week than I’ve had in my whole time living in Canada.
What kind of humour bores you?
Being controversial or offensive for the sake of it. I’ll all for making jokes about controversial topics, but there’s a lot of guys (it’s inevitably guys) that think saying something offensive is funny in itself. It’s not, it’s just dull.
Do you have any topics that you consider off-limits in your act?
Not really. The only off-limit stuff is things that I don’t care about. I once wrote a bit about Lady Gaga and Snooki from Jersey Shore. I thought it was okay, but I don’t really care about Lady Gaga, and I’ve only watched one episode of Jersey Shore. I did the bit and it died. It was just horrible. Three minutes of people not laughing is never fun. So now I only talk about things that I genuinely have an interest in. I think the audience call tell when a comic isn’t being authentic. They see right through the bullshit, so I believe you’ve got to be as honest as possible when you’re on stage.
You hail from sunny Scotland, do you find that North Americans have a noticeably different sense of humour? If so, can you give an example of how they are different?
North Americans are a lot more concerned about their heritage than we are. We’re from a really, really old country, so we generally don’t give a shit about where our ancestors are from. Maybe it’s just because I’m Scottish, but I notice a lot of people talking about how they’re Scottish/Irish/Swedish/Russian when they’re clearly Canadian. It can still be pretty funny, but it’s just the type of jokes that I’ve never seen in Scotland. Before I moved here people always said that North Americans don’t really do irony very well, but that’s just bullshit. What’s funny is funny. It doesn’t really make a difference where you’re from. The only difference is the individual’s perspective.
Your Tumblr account has a nice mix of quick laughs, and longer, more story-like entries. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process, for example how do you decide what topics to explore from week to week?
I carry a moleskine notepad in my back pocket wherever I go. I write stuff down constantly, then whenever I have a spare moment I sit down and try and write out the ideas into something more substantial. My tumblr is really just a holding place for things I find funny. There’s lots of cartoons and pictures of cats. Eventually I’ll get back into the swing of writing longer stuff more regularly – I used to aim for 1000 words a day, but that’s dropped off with the crazy last 6 months I’ve had (getting married, immigration applications etc).
You recently tied the knot and are now a married man (congrats). Do you find your life in stand-up comedy has changed at all because of this new stage in your life?
Nah, it’s not really changed that much. My wife thinks I’m hilarious (which is why I married her, OF COURSE) and has always been so supportive of my work but I feel like now she’s even more invested in it. She comes to all the shows and gets horribly nervous before I go on stage. She hates it. But she knows how much I love doing it, so she’s stuck with me. She works nights, so it’s not like she works all day and then I go out and do comedy at night. We’ve got a pretty sweet deal worked out. She’s a really talented artist, so we spend the days writing and drawing and hanging out. It works really well. We’re really the most disgusting couple. All our friends hate us.