September 27th, 2016

Live and kickin’ — no longer constrained by TV, Ron James can let the comedy flow

By Lethbridge Herald on February 13, 2015.

Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald
His latest network television series may be over after five seasons on CBC but Ron James isn’t slowing down at the age of 57.
The veteran comedian, known for his stream-of-consciousness like monologues, is back on the road again for another tour of Canada which brings him to the Yates Centre Feb. 28. Tickets are $55.50 at the Ticket Centre, 403-329-7328.
James, a staple of Canadian television with “The Ron James Show,” “Blackfly” and seven one-hour comedy specials, is a master of the live performance staging a frenetic two-hour show that doesn’t slow down from start to finish.
“I’m glad it’s over,” he says of the series.
“I don’t miss working 365 days a year, going non-stop burning the candle at both ends.”
He recently took one item off his bucket list, taking a three-week tour of the Patagonia region of South America which includes 130-mile hike in two weeks.
“It was gruelling, very strenuous,” said James last week in his trademark lightning quick speech. “But I figured I would scratch it off the list.”
Whenever he travels, the native of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia writes, compiling material for his shows.
“I’m always writing, filling up my well again with experiences.” One of those experiences this summer will be a canoe trip in the Arctic.
James started his comedy career with the renowned Second City group in Toronto during the 1980s, eventually landing in Los Angeles for a ew years, returning to Canada in the early 1990s.
While fame and fortune escaped him south of the border, his home country has been kind and welcoming to James.
He has made regular stops in Lethbridge, his first featuring a memorable joke about former alderman Dar Heatherington after she made national headlines.
The quip stunned the Yates Centre audience but emphatically showed how James keeps current on events of interest to the audiences he engages.
With no TV censorship and lawyers to deal with, James is looking forward to letting his humour and words flow freely.
He says with corporations “so quick to sue over the slightest perception of slander, it’s hard to tell the truth about corporations” on television where he felt the CBC was being invasive.
“I love my work, and I’m very proud of this year’s New Year’s special. I’ve feel I’ve really turned a corner with my satire.”
On his last year’s special, he wanted to parody the Sugar Crisp song, portraying the Sugar Bear as a junkie but couldn’t.
James, however, admits being frustrated with network politics, saying the CBC “never gave me a solid time slot. It bounced me around.”
He calls his 200-minute live performances “a kinetic experience with my audience. It’s such a visceral connection.”
In addition to his live shows, James is also writing a book for release by Random House, a collection of short stories, observations and the journey to mid-life.
“The theme of the stories is a tip of the hat to the daily struggles of the everyman,” says James, who has a Gemini Award for his writing on “This Hour Has 22 Minutes.”
“I feel like Kerouac sometimes, you know. I like to talk to people in the cafes and on street corners. It’s been an amazing adventure, like a Macchiavelian minefield you have to negotiate.”
While comedians prefer only to do bigger venues — which James admits he also enjoys — the down-to-earth Canadian says he gets as much joy out of playing to smaller crowds.
“I get just as much rush travelling to the Milk River country,” says James who has toured the hoodoos as well as Waterton National Park.
“The stage show is so much different than the TV show. It’s an authentic show, much more natural. You have to tip the sacred cow.”

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