With this article I am starting a series on Calgary’s funniest people.
Since coming back to Calgary in January of 2014, I have been spending a lot of time in dark rooms late at night with a bunch of strangers. Some of these strangers have become friends; others have remained strangers (and probably for good reason).
Of course what I’m talking about are comedy clubs, and the strangers who are now friends are comedians. I say this for anyone who wasn’t able to put that together for themselves. Well recently I had the opportunity to sit down and talk comedy over a veggie burger, some salad, a sparkling water, and a couple pints of beer on a sun-drenched patio with one of the funniest people in Calgary: Chris Gordon. (The beers were mine. The rest was his.)
I first met Chris at a show which he was opening for Jon Dore in my hometown, Red Deer. I hadn’t seen his set yet, but was immediately impressed by his sense of style, quick wit, and of course his great moustache.
Our first meeting started with me complimenting his sense of style, him complimenting mine, and my response being “Thanks, I bought it all in Spain.” In which he cracked up thinking that it was the perfect hipster response. I haven’t lived that line down. Every time we meet he asks where I bought my clothes.
So that’s how I got to meet Chris.
Shortly after, I saw Chris’s set for the first time. His combination of outright goofiness, incredible crowd work, and total confidence on stage was fantastic to watch. He owned every bit, and made everything he did on stage funny.
Since then I have seen Chris perform multiple times, and every time I am excited to see what he’ll do. His sets are never the same. One of the bits that sticks in my mind is “Shark Car” where the premise is a guy driving around in a Tercel with a dorsal fin on top of the car to make it look like a shark. At what point in your life have you given up on everything else, in order to be driving around in a shark car?
Another classic bit of his actually came about by his friends giving him a hard time about his long hippy hair and then him putting it into a “man bun”. The bit wrote itself through a conversation with two fellow comedians. The string of hilarious, self-deprecating one liners are so accurate, that you can’t help but to laugh at the failing juice bar owning, protest rally leading, didgeridoo playing comedian on stage with a mic in his hand.
So I sat down with this funny piece of long-hair-rocking, formally mustachioed man and asked him a few questions. This is how it went (mostly, but with some funny discourse, and occasional comments about passing girls in-between.):
BP: What made you get into comedy?
CG: Actually, when I first saw stand up as a kid I thought it was cheesy. I didn’t really like it, and thought that I would rather do improv or sketch comedy. I’m a huge fan of SNL, and so I thought that was what I wanted to do.
BP: So you started with sketch comedy?
CG: No, I had horrible stage fright so it took me a long time to get the courage to try anything. I hit a low point in my life and wanted to stand on stage alone to see if I was funny or not. After trying standup once and getting a few laughs, I was hooked and realized that stand up was what I wanted to pursue. I realized with stand up there is complete creative freedom. You can do whatever you want on stage. This idea of complete control giving me complete freedom on stage intrigued me.
BP: Isn’t that one of the greatest things about stand up, that you have complete creative freedom?
CG: Exactly. Once I realized there were no rules on stage, that’s when I really dove into what’s funny and how I could get to that conclusion. It’s also how I started to discover myself as a performer. There are many routes to funny, and so I started to experiment. I was still terrified though, it’s not like that ever really goes away. The second time I ever went on stage I performed shirtless with a tie on, and started my set with “Do you ever feel like you wake up in the morning and forgot something?” A dumb joke I really had nothing else about, but in my head I thought, “Even if my jokes aren’t funny at least I’m not wearing a shirt and that is.” I learned that when you’re willing to try anything and fail, that’s when you can grow as a comedian.
BP: Who has influenced you?
CG: Chris Farley was my greatest influence growing up. His fearlessness, goofiness, commitment to a scene and presence are something that amaze me and always make me laugh. I also related to him as a fat kid, haha!
BP: I see that influence in your comedy. You have a great, zany on stage persona. Moving on, what was the first joke that you remember really hitting hard?
CG: Actually, the first joke that really worked was about my mom’s vagina. It was about how I worried my dad has been mad at me since my birth because I had such a big head. It was funny, but I felt bad performing it. I eventually told my mom about the joke, just to ease my conscience a little, and then me asking her became a part of the bit. My mom actually thinks it’s really funny; she has a great sense of humour.
BP: What motivates you in comedy?
CG: For one, I started with a group of great comedians who are all touring comics now. I’ve always had to perform with very talented folks and still do. I never want to feel like I can’t compete or have the best set of the night. I grew up playing sports so maybe that’s my competitive nature. But most motivation comes from within. People always ask me what type of comedy I do. That’s hard to answer, but all I know is I want to have people laughing so hard, they don’t know why they’re laughing anymore. Like when you were a kid joking with your friends and nothing made sense anymore but you were having the best time. That motivates me every time I step on stage.
BP: Any other motivating factors?
CG: Well, I think it’s Jerry Seinfeld in his movie “Comedian” that says something to the affect of, “if a man can work eight hours a day doing construction, I can put that much time a day into my comedy.” This resonated with me and I even thought about it while driving here. I have the time in the afternoon to do this interview about comedy when there are guys picking up trash for a living. Some may love it, but I love being a comedian, and I want to be the best I can be at it. Remembering what I don’t want to do in life can be a great motivator of what I do want.
BP: Anything else?
CG: Ya, fuck everything! Shark Car!
Well, with that Chris paid our bill, wished our fantastic server at National ado (Shelby, like the Mustang,) and we parted ways, both thankful that we don’t have to pick up garbage for eight hours a day, and haven’t reached the points in our lives where we’re adding a dorsal fin to our cars.
I’d like to thank Chris Gordon for being the first participant in this series. I’m a huge fan of his, and enjoyed picking his brain for a little while. Go see a show of his. If you’re disappointed, well you’re obviously not very bright.
On that note, goodbye.
Chris will be putting on his own show called, “Keep Comedy and Carry A Sword” June 13th @8pm at the Oak Tree Tavern in Kensington, Calgary. For tickets please click on his name, Chris Gordon, to be redirected to his site.
Thanks for reading about one of Calgary’s Funniest People. Stay tuned for more profiles of the fantastically talented comedians in Calgary.