Toronto comedian Darren Frost isn’t shy about acknowledging his black sheep status within Canada’s comedy scene.
“The industry doesn’t acknowledge me,” he plainly says. “I have done more with my career than a lot of other comedians: I’ve got four DVDs to my credit, a box set. The industry could care less, though.”
He says the above in such a factual yet casual way, one can’t help but feel as though Frost just might wear his outsider status proudly on his sleeve.
Frost – performing at Riverview’s Five Bridges on Friday evening – realizes that the comedy path he has chosen has not always been the easiest one to walk, but is also smart enough to acknowledge that his brand of dark comedy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. That is something he made peace with long ago.
“Shooting my mouth off is the kind of comedy I do, and I want everyone that comes to one of my shows to know what they are walking into right off the bat. I have no interest in punking the audience into thinking I’m a Seinfeld-type of comedian that throws in the occasional swear word. That’s not my style at all.
“When I’m doing a show, I have no problem if people want to leave because it’s not their thing. It’s the people that try to railroad the show that are the ones that are ultimately going to lose. I’m going to win, whether I get laughs or not. I liken coming to see me live as more of an experience than anything else. I can’t promise laughs and I can’t control whether someone in the audience has had a bad day. What I can control, however, is what I am giving the audience in return for their showing up.”
Although many comedy lovers might tend to shy away from conflict, others thrive on the excitement. Not everyone has taken to Frost’s routines with open arms, however. He says that in addition to being the target of death threats in the past, he has been physically and verbally assaulted on more than one occasion, footage of which inevitably found its way onto the internet.
“If you type my name into Google, one of the results that will inevitably return to you is a video of me being attached. It’s incredibly tough to watch, but is also something that affects my career. I’ve probably lost more money than I’ve earned because my reputation precedes me. If money was the big thing to me though, I would have stayed in my career as a 9 to 5’er,” he notes.
That isn’t to say Frost hasn’t found success. In addition to being a mainstay at comedy festivals including Just For Laughs and the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, he has appeared in films such as Hairspray with John Travolta, the Ethan Hawke film Assault on Precinct 13, the Drew Barrymore/Jimmy Fallon film Fever Pitch, a role in the Michael Douglas feature Don’t Say A Word, in addition to a role in the Kojak series.
As if that isn’t impressive enough, Frost also lends his voices to a number of cartoons including Total Drama Island Ridonculous Race, Looped, Camp LakeBottom and the PBS series Timothy Goes to School.
Most recently, he worked with Nicolas Cage in the upcoming movie Pay The Ghost and was a two-time nominee at the 2014 Canadian Comedy Awards.
He’s the first to say how far he has come in the day since being bullied in school:
“I was bullied horribly in school and began using my mouth as a weapon to get myself out of situations,” he laughs. “Ever since I was a small child, though, I always tended to gravitate towards stand-up comedians. I rented videos from Blockbuster and would just set about memorizing everyone’s act.”
Upon his completion of high school, Frost enrolled in a business school, despite the natural gravitation he felt towards comedy. Perhaps ironically, at the time he graduated from business school, Frost decided to give himself two years of trying to make a career in comedy, knowing he had a back-up plan in place if he wasn’t successful.
“My general rule was this: I wanted to feel as though I was making some progress each year, whether I measured that in terms of what I was writing or growing my audience. Once I made my commitment to comedy, I actually started making okay money right off the bat. I lived like a rat for a couple of years, but was banking as much as I could for the purpose of being able to sustain myself,” he says.
Considering he has continued making audiences laugh for more than two decades now, one could reasonably break out the “Mission Accomplished” banner for Darren Frost. As brash as he may come across to some, there is an underlying feeling of gratitude that runs through any conversation with the comedian:
“When it comes to comedy, there’s no magic bullet that will bring you instant success,” he says. “Being a comedian is sometimes harder than it looks and sometimes easier than it looks. It’s not an easy vocation to stay in; it takes time to find your voice, but it’s not something that you can’t approach half-heartedly if you want to carve out a career. You ultimately have to take the bull by the horns, and find your own territory.”
Also performing with Darren Frost on Friday evening are local comedians Trevor Muxworthy and Scott Campagna. A portion of proceeds from the performance will be donated to Big Hearts, Small City, a non-profit organization that serves to help people in emergency situations.
What: Darren Frost
When: Friday July 17, 10 p.m.
Where: Five Bridges Bar & Grill, 121 Pine Glen Rd., Riverview
Tickets are $15, available for purchase at Five Bridges