Nikki Payne brings laughs to Metro

When Nikki Payne left Lower Sackville, N.S. in order to pursue a career in comedy in the bustling metropolis of Toronto, she admits that she had assumed her stay in Ontario would last a year. Eleven years later, Payne is still a Toronto resident. It doesn’t necessarily mean that she doesn’t miss being in the Maritimes however.

The comedian will be performing with Peter Anthony on Sunday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Downtown Moncton as a part of their Bluenosers Comedy Tour. The tour is hitting an impressive eight Atlantic Canadian cities before Payne leaves her native land to return to Toronto.

It was not for a lack of appreciating the slower pace of life on the east coast that drove Payne to seek refuge in Central Canada. But like many a Maritimer before her, she left the region in 1999 to seek opportunities in comedy that were simply non-existent at the time in Eastern Canada.

“I didn’t necessarily want to leave my family behind but at the time, there wasn’t much in the way of comedy clubs in the Maritimes. Now though, it is completely different: you’ve got comedy clubs and comedy troupes that are doing well and you have the chance to work in comedy without picking up and moving to Toronto,” Payne says from her Toronto home. “Had that been the case 11 years ago, I would have stayed out east for sure.”

Payne admits originally heading to Toronto mainly in efforts to “get comedy out of my system,” figuring that she would log some miles performing at amateur nights in the region’s comedy club circuit before returning to her relatively tranquil Nova Scotian existence.

“I had zero intention to stay in Toronto, but 11 years later here I am,” she laughs. “I would absolutely love to move back to the Maritimes though. I am finally starting to look at buying a home in Toronto and I am going to end up with a shoebox compared to what I could buy in Nova Scotia for the same price. I really have to stop looking at places in Nova Scotia on MLS; I’m bumming myself out.”

A bonafide comedy star in Canada, Payne is known for a “no holds barred” routine that could be considered lewd by some but is all a part of what should be a sidesplitting evening of entertainment.

One of Payne’s latest solo endeavours was the ominously titled “My Big Fat Donated Kidney” routine, an act based upon her experience of having donated a kidney to her ailing father. While Payne says her father is now in great health, she admittedly used the routine to help cope with his mortality and the gravity of the situation the best way she knew how, via comedy.

“Intrinsically, I deal with serious issues with humour. I think there is a certain amount of humour involved in donating an organ but would like to make some parts of the piece not so funny and make it a ‘real’ story,” she says.

“I have received a lot of good feedback concerning the show and feel very fortunate that it was so well received. I actually have a lot of future opportunities arising from it but for the time being, I want to put the routine aside and do a strong re-write of it with a director to help make the show as strong as I feel it could be.”

Payne admits that in the process of re-writing “My Big Fat Donated Kidney,” she is keen to see it develop into being more of a story with a beginning, middle and end rather than strictly a comedy routine.

“I think the routine is in a really good third draft stage but I very much want to take it to another level and help make it the show that I know it could be. I’m hoping to focus some more attention upon it in 2011.”

With television appearances on Muchmusic’s Video On Trial and NBC’s Last Comic Standing under her belt, Payne admits there were many instances of doubting her career choice along the way, long before she reached TV’s golden entry way.

“Honestly, I still question my decision to pursue comedy,” she laughs. “I always have days where I’m convinced that I am going to move home to Nova Scotia and breed Yorkies! The truth is though I can’t leave comedy. It is such a big part of who I am; I am human and certainly have my days however.”

Like virtually anything in life, passion is the key to continued happiness and seems to be one attribute that Payne is not lacking when it comes to comedy.

“I think that if you are passionate about anything, you can have a really lovely life. When you’re doing what you love, it seems like the money comes in no matter what. But if my heart wasn’t in this 100 per cent, I would become very bitter, tired, angry and unhappy really quickly.”

Payne’s upcoming tour in the Maritimes is the result of what she says is the first tour that she has had a hand in booking and co-producing, securing venues across the region while also co-ordinating ticket sales in the various cities.

As anybody who may have tried to purchase tickets to the Moncton show might attest to, Payne admits that they had the show lined up with no outlet to sell tickets. Since ironing out that important detail, it has been smooth sailing for the comedian and the tour itself.

Although Payne and her tour partner Anthony might have been able to fill a room twice the size of the venue in which they are slated to perform in Moncton, Payne admits that they wanted to play it conservative in terms of venue size the first time out.

“I specifically chose the Maritimes as the location to book this tour myself. It’s my home turf and I wanted the first time I tried my hand at booking to be well supported. We would rather go with small venues that we stand a chance at filling than performing in a bigger room that is half-full. The extra nice thing about the show is that we can grow it if demand dictates so. We will see what happens!”

Article published in November 12, 2010 edition of the Times & Transcript