Ma­jumder sur­pris­ingly frank — and funny — in HBO spe­cial

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - BRAD OSWALD

ONE of the great plea­sures of writ­ing about tele­vi­sion is re­view­ing a show that ap­pears, at first glance, to be one rather-pre­dictable thing but then turns out to be some­thing un­ex­pect­edly and won­der­fully else al­to­gether.

Such is the case with the new HBO Canada spe­cial Shaun Ma­jumder, Ev­ery Word Is Ab­so­lutely True — what was ex­pected was yet an­other co­me­dian-on-tour standup-per­for­mance spe­cial, but what was de­liv­ered was one part com­edy spe­cial, one part Cana­di­an­show­biz trav­el­ogue and three parts bold, re­veal­ing and emo­tion­ally raw ex­am­i­na­tion of the in­ner work­ings of a pop­u­lar per­former’s heart and mind.

In this 90-minute film, which pre­mieres Mon­day at 8:30 p.m. on HBO Canada, a cam­era crew fol­lows Ma­jumder as he em­barks on last year’s This Tour Has 22 Cities jaunt, which stopped in Win­nipeg last May. In an in­ter­view pro­mot­ing that show, the New­found­land-born ac­tor/co­me­dian de­scribed the ef­fort to film the tour as “sort of a con­cert Dvd/road-trip doc­u­men­tary all in one,” but it’s clear that the plan changed as the jour­ney pro­gressed and cir­cum­stances evolved.

There are still plenty of clips of Ma­jumder on­stage, crack­ing wise about a va­ri­ety of top­ics that ranges from Mar­itime fam­ily val­ues to racism, but Ev­ery Word veers away from the com­edy road trip to delve deep into Ma­jumder’s roots, in­flu­ences and

Fea­tur­ing Shaun Ma­jumder, Shelby Fen­ner, Mary Walsh and Kenny Robin­son HBO Canada Mon­day at 8:30 p.m.

out of five as­pi­ra­tions.

What’s pre­dictable is a fa­mil­iar bit from Ma­jumder’s act: “My dad is from In­dia, and my mom is from New­found­land — the two most ridiculed groups of peo­ple on the planet, and I get them both (‘Paki’ plus ‘New­fie’). I’m a Poofie, if you think about it.”

What’s un­ex­pected is Ma­jumder’s frank dis­cus­sion of his par­ents’ split, back when he was a kid, and the way in which his mother’s self­less care left young Shaun and sis­ter Rani bliss­fully un­aware of the des­per­ate poverty in which they lived.

He de­scribes his lim­it­less af­fec­tion for his mom, and re­calls how he and fi­ancée Shelby Fen­ner took her along on ex­otic va­ca­tions — in­clud­ing one to Gu­atemala and Mex­ico a few years back, dur­ing which Mar­ian Ma­jumder suf­fered a mas­sive heart at­tack and died.

The film closes with a mon­tage of video clips in which Ma­jumder is seen sprin­kling small amounts of his mother’s ashes in such far-flung lo­cales as London, Paris, In­dia, Ja­maica, Morocco, the Swiss Alps and the B.C. rain­for­est.\

Ev­ery Word also ex­am­ines Ma­jumder’s deep con­nec­tion to his New­found­land roots and how, partly in trib­ute to his mother, his cur­rent pas­sion project is es­tab­lish­ing an up­scale eco-friendly ho­tel on the site of the shut­tered school he at­tended in his home­town of Burling­ton.

Much of Ma­jumder’s ca­reer has been fo­cused on act­ing — from youthori­ented YTV shows to the com­edy of CBC’S This Hour Has 22 Min­utes to gritty dra­matic roles in such U.S.net­work se­ries as Detroit 1-8-7 and The Firm — but the per­former seeks to make it clear that he main­tains an abid­ing in­ter­est in de­vel­op­ing his standup-com­edy skills.

“I think standup, of all the crafts and skills out there in the en­ter­tain­ment world, is the hard­est of all, hands down, to do at the high­est level and to be tran­scen­dent, to be great,” he of­fers.

To prove his point, Ma­jumder in­cludes footage of his very first foray onto a com­edy stage — at Toronto’s Yuk Yuk’s club in 1994 (where he’s in­tro­duced by a ver­sion of Mike Bullard that has a full head of hair). He is, quite frankly, ter­ri­ble.

But he’s per­sis­tent — as com­edy col­leagues like Bullard and for­mer Win­nipeg­ger Kenny Robin­son gladly at­test, Ma­jumder was and is a guy who has the will and en­ergy to work tire­lessly at his craft.

Footage of Ma­jumder from last year’s 22 Cities tour shows a guy who’s con­fi­dent, com­i­cal and fully in con­trol of his tal­ents.

He’s im­pres­sively funny. But what makes Ev­ery Word Is Ab­so­lutely True such an en­gag­ing and worth­while Cana­dian-show­biz pro­file is that Shaun Ma­jumder re­veals him­self to be ever so much more than just that.

Ma­jumder’s spe­cial fea­tures an emo­tion­ally raw ex­am­i­na­tion of the pop­u­lar per­former’s heart and mind.

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