For a guy who has appeared on NBC’s Last Comic Standing and had parts in the Trailer Park Boys Movie as well as the CBC mini-series Canada-Russia ’72, Dee makes his success look fairly easy these days. But behind his good looks are many dues that have been paid that ultimately helped a stronger, wiser Gerry Dee emerge.
Gerry will perform at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre tomorrow night, taking the stage at 8 p.m.
“I recall being 13 years old and watching Michael J. Fox on Family Ties and thought to myself, I would love to do that,” Gerry says. “I was in my 20s though before I had started thinking about pursuing a career as a stand-up comedian.”
Even when buoyed by the confidence of being the “funny guy at parties,” Gerry would cast away thoughts of stand-up until the time he had turned 30. At the time, he was teaching at a private school in Southern Ontario when during a class one day, he was asked by a student if he had ever considered being a stand-up comedian.
“It was at that point, I figured I would try it out and went to an amateur night. I was teaching full-time and since the world of stand-up is not the most lucrative, there wasn’t any pressure for me to immediately succeed at stand-up.”
Gerry admits that it took three to four times of being on stage before he got anything in the way of laughs from the audience.
“I was so bad the first time. I had foolishly thought that being the funny guy at parties and what not, that the humour would translate over to the club. I found it was very different when I was being forced to make people laugh and it took me a while to adjust to that.
“I kept plugging away at it though, figuring out what worked and what didn’t. I recall thinking on many occasions that I had it figured out and would go through this roller coaster of emotion that would alternate between being completely confident in what I was doing and then completely doubting my abilities,” he says.
“Someone told me that I would find my voice and to not look for it and eventually that is exactly what happened. Now, I consider my performances to be nothing more than just me talking on stage.”
In 2003, Gerry was given a one-year sabbatical from his teaching position and moved to Los Angeles in an effort to find additional career opportunities in comedy. He says that his time in Los Angeles was humbling but notes that everything happens for a reason.
“You’re never as good as you think you are in stand-up,” he says. “I know I’m good – I’m not great though and I truly don’t believe that there are a lot of great comics out there these days. Living in Los Angeles brought me down to earth. I went there dreaming of landing a part in a sitcom but now I know it was crazy to think that would happen. People see guys like Seinfeld and Ray Romano land sitcoms that are these huge successes but what not everyone sees is the 20 years of their lives before their shows took off. I feel that had I moved to L.A. after having been on Last Comic Standing, things might have been a little different.”
Gerry admits that his time spent on the popular NBC reality show was intense but an experience he wouldn’t trade for the world.
“At the start, you know that you have to reach the Top 10 of the competition and then it became about reaching the Top 5. Once I made it into the Top 5, I was much more relaxed.
“But really, a competition is a silly way to judge comedy. It’s not objectively assessed at that point. I knew I wouldn’t win being a Canadian anyway but considering how far I got, I feel like I won regardless. I have a sitcom coming out and none of the others competitors from the Top 5 can claim that. I truly feel like I have won now.”
Gerry’s sitcom, currently known as Mr. D, has been picked up by CBC with episodes starting to air in January 2012. The show will focus on Gerry’s experiences as a teacher and will be shot in Halifax, which show producer Mike Volpe calls home.
“It is very exciting to be involved with,” Gerry gushes. “After this interview, I am off to a writing meeting for the show and that seems to be when it becomes even more real. I am starting to feel like the Michael J. Fox thing is happening to me now. It makes me shake my head. I felt it could happen and now it is happening.”
Article published in May 6, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript