Jokes, tokes and working with funny folks
Jacob Balshin on his pursuit of a standup comedy career and his cannabis-centric tour
Comedian Jacob Balshin was always the class clown.
“Though I didn’t go to class much,” he jokes, “I wasn’t popular. Mostly I just went home to hang out with my dog.”
And although his time at Westmount Collegiate Institute wasn’t exactly what you would call studious, he got through the token superficiality of high school with a little help from his friends. Somehow with his dog and his fellow gang of misfits, he maintained enough perspective to know that a pair of Roots sweatpants couldn’t make him a more worthwhile human being, no matter what the masses thought.
After coasting through his tenure at Westmount, Balshin enrolled at the University of Guelph to study philosophy but admittedly ended up spending most of his time making funny YouTube videos with his then roommate, Sam Berns. However, due to creative differences the would-be Abbott and Costello duo parted ways shortly after college.
“I wanted to do comedy sketches,” says Balshin. “He [Burns] wanted to do videos for children. His videos got a lot of traction, but I just wasn’t into it.”
At this time in Balshin’s life, it would be clear to an onlooker that a love of sketch comedy was budding, but the idea of becoming a full-time comedian hadn’t quite registered for him yet.
“I failed drama in the ninth grade, so a career in comedy hadn’t really occurred to me,” he says.
However, luckily enough, Guelph’s comedy club, the Making-Box, happened to have a first-timer show at the Guelph Comedy Festival, and couldn’t resist.
“It [the first-timers show] went very well, and after that, I knew I wanted to do it forever,” he says.
So with the comedy bug decidedly caught, Balshin set his sights on Toronto to give show business a serious attempt.
“That first year I lived in Thornhill and would TTC into the city for every open mic I could,” he says. “I bombed so many times that I had to take a year off and quit for a while. I didn’t think I could do it.”
However, like so many performers, it turned out that giving up was much easier said than done. Balshin ended up missing the stage and the rush of making an audience laugh too much to ignore.
“You have to just take your mistakes and grow from them,” he says. “Toronto really does have an amazing open mic scene. Senior comics will offer a lot of valuable advice.”
Things are going better than ever for our intrepid young jokester. He just finished touring throughout the GTA and Ontario with the cannabis-centric Jokes and Tokes Comedy Tour. This standup comedy showcase features a string of talented local comedians and is run by Balshin’s friend and fellow comedian Andrew Packer.
Don’t worry, if you missed the tour, Jokes and Tokes runs the first Thursday of every month at the Underground Café and Social Club, a 420-friendly venue at Queen Street East and Broadview Avenue.
Balshin’s career is now in full bloom. In March, he won the award for best upcoming comedian at the I Heart Jokes awards in Toronto. He has opened for comedy greats like Rick Vos and Mike MacDonald and performed at countless events, including the 420 Comedy Festival. With all this momentum, we see no signs of him slowing down any time soon.
Balshin began to dabble in comedy while attending the University of Guelph