Comedian James Mullinger has a message for those who believe that it isn’t possible to sustain a career in comedy in New Brunswick: Don’t listen to the naysayers.
A native of the U.K., Mullinger and his family moved from overseas to settle in the Saint John region in search of a better quality of life approximately two years ago. Although he was an established comedian in England, having undertaken a number of tours, in addition to some high-profile television appearances, Mullinger was well aware that moving to New Brunswick would mean effectively starting his career from square one.
“My wife and I spent 15 years living in London, but had reached a point where we wanted to improve our quality of life. My wife’s family lives in the Saint John region and so it made perfect sense that we would settle here of anywhere in the province. For a long time, I encountered many people that weren’t too optimistic that I could make a career out of comedy while living in New Brunswick. If anything though, I feel I’ve proven nothing is impossible, contrary to what you might read in Maclean’s,” Mullinger says.
“In London, I benefited from some high profile appearances and some nice reviews, but in all honesty, the average person on the street had no idea who I was. There is just too much stuff happening all the time in London. It is much harder to make your mark there, whereas in New Brunswick, I’ve really benefited from word of mouth in much the same way you hear about a good mechanic or plumber.”
A self-professed late bloomer when it came to comedy, Mullinger shares that, somewhat prophetically, it was on a trip to New Brunswick that he decided that he wanted to give comedy a try.
“Everybody starts at a different age. For me, I was 26 or 27 years old when I decided that I wanted to pursue comedy. Growing up, I wasn’t especially outgoing or academic. I spent my childhood watching comedy videos of Monty Python and Steve Martin. I just couldn’t get my head around how these guys had the courage to get up in front of thousands of people and seemingly act normal. I became quite fascinated by it.”
Five months after having made his decision, Mullinger performed his first stand-up routine, kicking off what he deems “five perpetually miserable years” during which time he was kicked off a number of stages.
“It was five years of doing open mic nights and just dying every night,” he says with a laugh. “Gradually though, things started to click and it started to get decent for me as a comedian.
“For what it’s worth, however, I always walked away from those negative experiences having learned far more than on nights where everything went well. I don’t think anyone can better at what they do without some kind of trouble. For me, the brutal nature of those first five years on the circuit helps me appreciate how lucky I am to do what I am doing today.”
In advance of what will be his biggest show to date, a headlining performance at Saint John’s Harbour Station on April 28, Mullinger is celebrating the release of his newest release, Londoner To Maritimer.
Coinciding with the album’s release, Mullinger is undertaking an ambitious six gigs and record signings throughout the province over the course of the day, wrapping up at Spin It Records in Moncton on Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m.
The material featured on the Londoner To Maritimer was recorded during a sold-out performance at Saint John’s Imperial Theatre last year. The release is a limited edition run of 300 copies and will be exclusively available on vinyl.
“A lot of the material I perform throughout New Brunswick is about my life here and how it differs from life in London. It’s very specific to the province, so much so that people not from here might not be able to identify with what I am speaking about.”
A lifelong vinyl collector, Mullinger admits to rather selfish motivations with regards to his decision to not make Londoner To Maritimer available on CD or as a digital download.
“With vinyl, it’s about so much more than just the words I am saying. You hear the ambience of the room and the little nuances that go along with that. Listening to comedy on vinyl brings me back to being in my bedroom and listening to those guys that would go on to influence my work as a comedian. I decided to go with vinyl as a format for this release for 14 year-old me.”
What: James Mullinger
When: Saturday April 16, 4:30 p.m.
Where: Spin It Records, 467 Main St., Moncton
This show is free