Big changes afoot for Nikki Payne

There comes a time in practically everyone’s life where a little growing up is inevitable.

In the case of Canadian comedian Nikki Payne, that time is now. Fear not though, Payne fans. She is as sharp and quick and as funny as ever. After all, there is a very good reason why her headlining spot at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre is on the verge of selling out this Saturday night. Her performance as part of the Hubcap Comedy Festival, marks Payne’s third appearance at the festival.

Big changes are afoot in the life of Nikki Payne. One of the biggest is that she is calling Southeastern New Brunswick home, inevitably drawn to the region she was raised in.

Even though she has spent much of the past 15 years in Toronto, Payne proves that you can take the person out of the Maritimes but you can’t take the Maritimes out of the person.

‘My first dream was to do stand-up comedy and all through my 20s, that was my narrow focus: To build my career,’ Payne says. ‘And really, that had to happen but I always dreamt that I would like to come back to the Maritimes and buy a little cabin in the country. In the past, I had always put that dream aside, figuring it was never the right time. And then one day, I realized that it might not ever be the right time if I continue coming up with reasons not to try making the Maritimes my home.

‘So I figured now was just as good of a time to jump in, test the waters and see if it works. I don’t want to lose work because of this decision nor am I giving up on my comedy career, however I do believe that it is time to start putting some roots down and really, the best place to put them is where I already have a bit of rooting.’ In speaking with Payne, it is obvious that she has little in the way of regrets of the past 15 years that she has spent living in Toronto.

There is little question of the importance that the city has played in helping her develop into the performer that she is today.

‘I love Toronto; that city has been very good to me. There are a lot of people I love there and I fully expect I will be travelling back there a lot. But for me personally, I don’t know if I was built to live in a city like Toronto, at least not forever. There is something about having a little cabin on my own piece of land where neighbours aren’t right on top of me that really appeals to me.

‘I’ve been here in New Brunswick since November and I find that I am a much calmer person. When I am speaking with my friends in Toronto, they have remarked that I sound content and I truly think that I am. I really like it here,’ Payne says.

A celebrated comedian above the 49th Parallel, Payne has earned four Canadian Comedy Awards to date. Her most recent win was earned this past September in the category of Best Taped Live Performance. Unfortunately for Payne, the buzz from having won the award was a short-lived one. Before the official photos with her newest award could be taken, Payne’s award was accidentally broken into two pieces.

‘The awards are made out of glass and I had put it down to fix my dress for the official photo and suddenly, I heard a ‘clink’. I looked down and saw my award in two pieces,’ she laughs. ‘I broke the award within five minutes of having received it.’ Asked about the possibility of getting a replacement award, Payne laughs and instead suggests that she is going to see about having her mother help her glue the broken award back together again.

‘It is almost $200s to replace and I am very cheap so I’m going to try fixing this one first,’ she says.

Payne’s performance at the Capitol Theatre on Saturday is a monumental one for her, as it will mark the first time she has been in a headlining position at the Hubcap Comedy Festival. The fact that the festival believes that Payne is capable of holding her own and can help put bums in the seats of the theatre is not lost on her.

‘Typically, you perform at a comedy festival and you do a 15 to 20 minute slot and people only end up getting a small taste of what you do. I am so grateful for the opportunity I am being given at this year’s festival.’ As Payne’s star continues to rise on the Canadian comedy circuit, she admits that she is encountering some difficulty in evolving her stage act. As she tries to find the balance between seeing the world in new ways while not alienating her audience, Payne knows that staying true to herself is the most important thing for her to hold onto.

‘I have been very fortunate in that my success has been that I have taken my real self and built a heightened version of it,’ she says. ‘You can try to fool people for so long but frankly, audiences aren’t dumb. Who I am on stage is me saying all of the same things that I would say in real life.

‘It is a little more challenging now though because I am changing. I’m getting older and seeing the world in a different way. I find it difficult to stay true to that and not turn my audience off. The challenge is going to be to keep people laughing and enjoying what I do while staying true to the fact that I am a little older now and seeing the world a little differently.’

Article published in February 9, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript