Local comic hits the top

Brian Stollery wins a national contest but has to perform with Pauly Shore

As a student in Ottawa a friend once introduced me to an aspiring young comic while at an open mic night at the campus pub. I can’t remember a single line of the jokes he told that night. Truthfully I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a comedian.

I’ve never met a real comedian.

Sure I’ve watched Robin Williams do standup on television and heck it felt like I knew him. But I’ve never actually met a real comedian. Not face-to-face.

For that reason I didn’t quite know what to expect when I met Brian Stollery — recently minted Canada’s Next Top Comic — at Caffé Beano.

I was delighted when it turned out that Stollery was no Sasha Baron Cohen. Calgary-born Stollery isn’t crass or offensive. He’s soft-spoken and pensive with a subtle sense of humour a sharp wit and a vital understanding of his environment and personality. He wears the same geeky thick horn-rimmed glasses as Woody Allen though he apparently shares none of the neuroses Allen is known for. What he does share with Allen is his introspective and often self-deprecating sense of humour.

“Part of comedy is identifying who you are. I’m quiet…. I’m not the life of the party” says Stollery

“I heard someone describe me once as ‘nice enough.’ I just thought ‘They should have gone all the way and said ‘He’s almost an asshole .’”

Stollery has been doing comedy whether at a club or for corporate audiences for the last 22 years. “The joke in my act” he laughs “ is that I was 40 years old five years ago…. I’ve got jokes that are older than you.”

Stollery’s onstage identity is frequently revisited and refined with each of life’s passing milestones. He is a son a brother an uncle and a bachelor (though he recently started dating). He is nice enough but he can also be callous. He is a writer a social commentator and an impromptu teacher.

“When I observe myself it’s kind of like putting my life under a microscope. You’re constantly living your life observing and going over it with a fine- tooth comb” he says. “Over the next year I will work my girlfriend into my act and just the things I’m learning about being in a relationship.”

For now those exceedingly mundane and trivial moments in life — his own single life — form the butt of Stollery’s most memorable jokes. Like the one about his freezer — a morgue for bruised bananas that he can’t devour quickly enough. The image of this feeble mound of limp bananas is pathetic enough even if we couldn’t relate to so seemingly absurd a situation. But I think most of us probably can and that’s why his jokes resonate so deeply with his audience.

Stollery will be performing in Vancouver at the Global Comedy Fest one of the perks and prizes of being named Canada’s Next Top Comic from September 17 to 27. Other comedians featured over the week-long event are Steve Martin David Cross Andy Dick and the Encino Man himself: Pauly Shore.