Ron James Keeps The Audience Laughing

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Canadian comedian Ron James has worked hard for his current show business success.

He has many one-hour comedy specials under his belt in addition to a television series that is entering its fifth season. Of course, that success didn’t come without investing countless hours into working and re-working his stand-up routine while also maintaining an active role on his TV show.

Taking the stage of Moncton’s Capitol Theatre Saturday night, Ron has consistently tackled a variety of topics with a no-holds-barred kind of approach. Sports, weather, television, religion and more have all figured prominently into past routines. But when it comes to the material contained in his stand-up performances, incorporating new topics is pretty much a given.

Luckily for James — and audiences — the turmoil in the Canadian Senate as well as the ongoing saga of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford are providing plenty of fodder for his upcoming 10-show tour of Atlantic Canada. He jokes that the show is almost writing itself these days.

“Every time Rob Ford opens his front door, I get another 10 minutes of material for my show,” Ron laughs. “In all seriousness though, the man is an unrepentant, dysfunctional narcissist that makes one outrageous statement after another. We are heading into the realm of the abhorrent, but perhaps the best part of it all is that you can’t make this stuff up. Rob Ford makesBreaking Bad look like an Amish quilting show.”

Since leaving his Nova Scotia home for the bright lights of Toronto more than three decades ago to pursue a career in comedy, Ron has learned how to make an audience laugh and how to make a show work. This wasn’t something that he picked up in a matter of a year or two; it has been a lifelong journey for the comedian.

After landing in Toronto, Ron joined the famed Second City Comedy troupe before packing up and moving to Los Angeles where he picked up a number of guest spots on various sitcoms as well as appearances in a couple of movies. It would be just a few years before Ron would find his way back to his home and native land.

“I knew that I felt most alive when I was making people laugh. I stayed in Los Angeles for approximately three years and then returned to Toronto in 1993 deeply in debt and wrote a one-man show about my experience.”

It was that show, Up & Down In Shaky Town: One Man’s Journey Through The California Dream that would prove to be the lynch pin to his making his career in comedy a reality once again.

“When I decided to follow my bliss, it truly changed everything. My one-man show had gotten some good reviews and feeling I had to make a further immediate impact, I decided to go into stand-up. I got my first cheque from doing stand-up in 1995 on a split gig with Barry Julien who is now one of the main writers for Stephen Colbert’s show. I just kept at it. I didn’t feel as though there was any other option. I had to learn the craft one step at a time.”

In the eight years that followed his first stand-up show, Ron toured Canada incessantly, embracing the audiences that would help make him the figure he is today. It wasn’t long before CBC-TV took notice, affording James television specials as well as his very own show.

Although he admits the first two seasons of the show aren’t the easiest for him to watch, they served an important role in helping him further develop his act.

“I don’t care to watch those seasons because it just wasn’t me. I was hearing it from my fans constantly and they were right,” he says. “There were too many chefs in the kitchen and while staying on the air was paramount, I also had to find my own voice in the show.”

Admitting that it is a bit of a cliché, Ron feels confident that the next season of The Ron James Show (slated to debut in February 2014) is among the best work that he and his writers have done.

“I really do feel that this season coming up is one of the best we have had. We have changed a lot with respect to the show, from there being all sorts of new departments to these great sketches of fictitious shows from the CBC vaults. We have really worked to raise the bar with this next season and I think we have done so thanks to the work of some very talented writers.

“I remember being in Los Angeles and telling myself that I would never take anything for granted. My career has been a victory in baby steps. My audience and I have grown together. It has been a wonderful journey.”

What: Ron James
When: Saturday, Nov. 30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 
 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets: $50 plus taxes and service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone at (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca