Jeff McEn­ery,

Waterloo Region Record - - NIGHT LIFE - Coral An­drews

There is some­thing about small towns and com­edy. Take Listowel. Un­til last year, Listowel was just one of many charm­ing ru­ral On­tario com­mu­ni­ties.

Now it’s the coolest burg on the map thanks to Listowel’s own Jared Keeso who created “Let­terkenny,” based on his life grow­ing up in a small town.

Co­me­dian Jeff McEn­ery (who had a guest cameo on “Let­terkenny” as Alexan­der the bar drunk) has done the ex­actly same thing with Ac­ton.

“Small-town hu­mour works in Canada be­cause it is more small­town than big cities. It’s coun­try. And gosh darn it, that is how peo­ple in the coun­try talk!” says McEn­ery in his sig­na­ture husky drawl.

“Ac­ton has a bunch of re­ally en­ter­tain­ing char­ac­ters. Most of my stuff is bi­o­graph­i­cal,” he says. “Some peo­ple can write about pol­i­tics and all of that stuff. I am not smart enough to do that. So I just write about me and my life ex­pe­ri­ences be­cause it is the eas­i­est stuff to write.

“And no one will steal those jokes be­cause this is exclusive to me.”

McEn­ery jokes about ev­ery­thing from drunks and skinny peo­ple, to coun­try mu­sic and work­ing as tele­mar­keter.

“I did that job very briefly. It was just long enough to get that joke. That was the only good ex­pe­ri­ence I got out of it.”

It helps that he comes from a hi­lar­i­ous fam­ily back­ground.

“My dad’s side of the fam­ily is coun­try peo­ple — more shy and re­served — not much sense of hu­mour. My mum’s side of the fam­ily is just a bunch of de­gen­er­ates,” says McEn­ery.

“I call them the Kennedys. They have all the prob­lems of the Kennedys but with­out the money — drunks and dere­licts. But they are re­ally, re­ally, funny peo­ple, he says. “So I got my sense of hu­mour from them.”

When he was younger, mim­ick­ing com­edy faves in his room, McEn­ery’s favourite fun­ny­man was Jeff Fox­wor­thy.

“Those were the first al­bums that my fam­ily mem­bers lis­tened to. But as I got older I got into Richard Pryor. He in­flu­ences my standup and my whole style ac­tu­ally,” he re­calls.

“My high school drama teacher Mrs. Ross is like my North Star,” says McEn­ery. “I was lost and she got me pointed in the right di­rec­tion. She told me I was re­ally funny and I should sign up for the im­prov team. Then I started do­ing plays in high school.”

McEn­ery was the comic re­lief in Peter Col­ley’s Cana­dian mu­si­cal dram­edy “The War Show” based on the Sec­ond World War.

“That is how I found out that I like per­form­ing,” he says. “Then I found the Hum­ber Col­lege Com­edy Writ­ing and Per­for­mance Pro­gram. I ap­plied, got in and that is how I did my first Yuk Yuk’s set. If it was not for Hum­ber I don’t know if I ever would have done this be­cause I was so shy,” says McEn­ery, adding that standup was a manda­tory part of the course, and that he was lucky enough to start young and get ahead of the other comics.

He has done work for tele­vi­sion (“Still Stand­ing,” “The Lat­est Buzz”). He has also writ­ten and pro­duced two short films “Yes And ...” and “Be­hind the Funny” for The Com­edy Net­work on the show “Cana­dian Com­edy Shorts.”

McEn­ery was a mem­ber of the sketch team for TV com­edy “Hotbox” and has also ap­peared on “The Jon Dore Tele­vi­sion Show,” “The Howie Man­del Show,” “Covert Af­fairs” and “Nat­u­rally, Sadie.”

The co­me­dian also co-starred op­po­site Adam Butcher in Kim Chap­iron’s crit­i­cally-ac­claimed drama “Dog Pound” based on in­mates in a ju­ve­nile de­ten­tion cen­tre.

“Turns out, the di­rec­tor was a crazy person,” says McEn­ery. He was a nice guy but he wanted re­al­ism in this movie so ba­si­cally me, Adam Butcher and Spin­ner from “De­grassi” (Shane Kip­pel), we were le­git­i­mate actors. Ev­ery­one else was hired out of Monc­ton ju­ve­nile de­ten­tion cen­tre! I was one of the guys that picks on three new guys. The movie ac­tu­ally has a cult fol­low­ing now,” he says.

McEn­ery is now a top head­liner for Yuk Yuk’s and has ap­peared at ev­ery ma­jor Cana­dian com­edy fes­ti­val.

His one-hour “Com­edy Now!” standup spe­cial was broad­cast on CTV and The Com­edy Net­work in the sum­mer of 2011 and was nom­i­nated for Best Male Stand Up at the 2015 Cana­dian Com­edy Awards.

As a standup he’s seen and heard it all from au­di­ences — be it hellish venues or “al­ter­na­tive rooms” in Toronto where the crowd deems it­self smarter than he is.

“The punch line is “there is no punch line,” says McEn­ery in a mock­ing posh English ac­cent. “You’re telling jokes. We don’t like jokes.” he says with a groan.

He says a joke is good if it is based in au­then­tic­ity and re­al­ity.

“Chances are the more it hurt you in the moment, the fun­nier it is go­ing to be,” he notes.

“I can hon­estly say I do not en­joy writ­ing. It is te­dious. But the feel­ing af­ter I am done is the best feel­ing in the world.

“The thing not to do in standup is be in­au­then­tic up there,” he cau­tions.

“If you are do­ing a char­ac­ter or not be­ing your­self — you are try­ing to be squeaky clean when you re­ally have some crap go­ing on in your life — au­di­ences can smell the B.S. a mile away. They re­ally can. So if you go up there and be honest with them that’s half the bat­tle right there.”


Jeff McEn­ery

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