Jokes, tokes and work­ing with funny folks

Ja­cob Bal­shin on his pur­suit of a standup com­edy ca­reer and his cannabis-cen­tric tour

Thornhill Post - - Currents -

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 Bal­shin 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

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