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Call & Response with Comedian Peter Stevens

Posted by Amie / April 16, 2012

Peter-Stevens-comedy-montrealCall & Response is a series of Q&As with bands, artists and random people we dig that live in Montreal, visit here, or have some dubious connection to the city.

I don't usually do interviews in the interviewee's bedroom, but when that bedroom doubles as the show venue, I'll make an exception. So sitting on the third floor couch at Theater Ste-Catherine I asked comedian Peter Stevens about tipping etiquette, the Canadian comedy scene and poutine entrepreneurship.

Where are you from?
Born and raised in the parking lot plains of Suburbia, Ontario.

Who's your favorite Canadian comedian?
Kurt Smeaton, Kathleen Phillips, and Kayla Lorette. I don't think anyone knows them very well. They are all performers when I was growing up and they're still on the scene. They really inspire me. Kayla Lorette - young performer, great quirky to the next level and she has a real dark sense of humour sometimes, which I'm a big fan of. Kurt Smeaton - just an amazing improviser, writer. Fast, clever, fun. Taught me so much leading by example. And just incredible pace. And he's writing now for a CBC show, Mr. D. I also love Alain Mercieca and Sandi Armstrong; I love this group at Theatre Ste-Catherine. I haven't been exposed to a lot of the Montreal scene, except the grinders that come here. And then Kathleen Phillips - I think you'd really like Kathleen Phillips.

What does that mean? You barely know me.
It's because what she does is so good and particular. You go to a comedy show and you have people doing stand-up this and comedy that, and she has an acting background so she would just come as a character and tell a story and it was just brilliant. So peculiar and the stories were so bizarre. She's a sort of sympathetic person as well and she plays these oddballs who are struggling through life. So those are three people that if you saw them in a club, you'd be like, "Oh that person's rich. This is probably their off-night from packed houses."

Besides family, friends, other comedians, and long summer nights, what influences your comedy the most?

Watching a man yell at his car for making him late. The surreal pettiness and seriousness of human existence.

What do you love most about Montreal?

Alain and the theatre/comedy scene at Theatre Ste-Catherine.

What do you love most about Poutine?

That first bite.

What do you hate most about Poutine?
The price. It should be complimentary at all restaurants - like salt. Every table should have a massive poutine shaker. Shake some poutine on your soup, your fries, or your poutine. Think about it. I need 800 thou for startup. We'll be rich.

Genius. I'm in.

Who was the first comedian you saw perform live?
My Dad at the dinner table. I thought, "One day, I'm going to open for this guy."

Grinders - Episode 1. Really I just wanted to play you episode 8 (below), but you kind of need to see episode for context. That and it's awesome.

If your comedy was a famous historical figure, who would it be and why?
The guy who started the French Revolution by shouting for blood at the Bastille but then slunk away when he saw he might get hurt.

So how do you make it as a comedian? What's your next step?

I have this idea of crossing my fingers tighter than ever before, and I'm going to add closing my eyes. Right now I'm working on a feature-length film - a ninety minute film of short stories. I like the idea of being able to film something, send it out to festivals, and if it doesn't go well it at least always exists and you can put it online and promote it. I still believe that merit rises. If something is really good people will find it and watch it. It's a nice experience to see your own work and be like, "Oh yeah! You're funny in that!"

With people who don't come to comedy regularly, you've got one chance to convince them you're good. So how do you grab people?

I try to put my best material up front. Especially with a new crowd, what's working against you is people don't know if you're funny. They want to give you the benefit of the doubt, but you've got to give them some reason to. If you turn on a comedy special and you're two thirds of the way through and the crowd is loving it, and you're like, "Well this person's not that funny," be there for the beginning when they won the crowd over. Then the snowball is there. It's about building the snowball.

Do you prefer stand-up or improv?
Tough call. I've enjoyed both. Improv creates special live experiences but stand-ups have wittier epitaphs.

Grinders Episode 8 - Muse. Puppies do indeed become dogs, which become old dogs, which die. Yes...sweet death, indeed. And no, the love you found cannot cure death. And neither can puppies, no matter how cute.

Have you ever had any extreme audience reactions to your shows?
One audience member told me that they have trouble drinking milk now.

I don't think you mean you made them lactose intolerant.

What can audiences expect next Friday at your show?
My goal is always to have a couple zingers that you can laugh about on the way home. And a couple more that haunt you.

How would you describe the opening act, Dog in Jacket?
Relentless.

What's the best way to spend a million dollars in 10 minutes?

Leave it as a tip at brunch.

What's the best place you've ever been to (not necessarily for comedy)?

I'm really lucky to have traveled to all sorts of interesting places: the Colosseum, the Pyramids, the Acropolis, the Himalayas, Angkor, the Great Wall, the Louvre but the best place for me is still next to the people I love, laughing our faces off.

Aw...You're like a normal person. Best of luck to you, Pete, in your goal of writing "the joke equivalent of Picasso's Guernica." I believe in you.

Elephant Empire - pilot from Nemo Dally on Vimeo.

Check out the poker sketch just over halfway through. Heck, just watch the whole thing.

Who: Peter Stevens
When: Friday, April 20th.
How much: $10.
Where: Theatre Ste-Catherine. And he'll be at Comedyworks (1238 Rue Bishop) with On the Spot improv this Wednesday (April 18) at 8:30pm. He's heading out of town for a bit after that, but Montreal will drag him back onstage for Montreal Sketch Comedy Fest in May with his group Elephant Empire.

Discussion

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