Mark Bres­lin

The true story of four Toronto standup vir­gins

Richmond Hill Post - - Contents - MARK BRES­LIN Post City Mag­a­zines’ hu­mour colum­nist, Mark Bres­lin, is the founder of Yuk Yuk’s com­edy clubs and the au­thor of sev­eral books, in­clud­ing Con­trol Freaked.

Do you re­mem­ber your first time?

No, not that. Your first time on­stage. Do­ing standup com­edy.

Ev­i­dently it’s a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence, as ev­i­denced by the new doc­u­men­tary film De­liv­ery, which re­counts the tri­als of four standup vir­gins and their jour­ney to get on­stage.

For Mark My­ers and three friends, do­ing standup for the first time is more akin to an ex­treme sport with all the ac­com­pa­ny­ing adren­a­line rush and fear. My­ers is a video and com­mer­cial ed­i­tor here in Toronto. His wife is about to give birth to their first child, and he feels he should do some­thing equally brave. Note to My­ers: sorry, there’s no com­par­i­son!

But he wisely be­gins his film with a clip from Jerry Se­in­feld, who jokes that “pub­lic speak­ing is peo­ple’s num­ber one fear. Which means that, if you’re at a fu­neral, you’d rather be in the cas­ket than de­liv­er­ing the eu­logy.” Great joke.

My­ers en­lists his three friends Shane, Sean and Bert on his mis­sion and gives them a dead­line to de­liver a five-minute rou­tine be­fore his wife de­liv­ers the baby. None of the lads have done standup. The movie fol­lows their chal­lenge un­til they fi­nally have their first time three months later.

Mean­while, they go to Just For Laughs, take a com­edy class and hang out with some well-known comics, most of whom treat the as­pir­ing comics rather badly.

“One time means noth­ing,” is the mes­sage they get from Andy Kindler, Bobby Slay­ton, Marc Maron and oth­ers. And I have to con­fess they’re right. I al­ways tell new comics that the first five hun­dred times don’t even count.

It’s a long game if you want to do it right, which is one of the lessons the boys learn. I call them boys be­cause, even though they’re around 30, there’s some­thing cal­low and un­formed about them, even Bert who is on the far side of 70.

In the real world, it’s doubt­ful that as­pir­ing comics would make their de­but at a com­edy club. More likely, they would try out at one of the dozens of open mic nights at bars around the city. The pres­sure is low, the at­mos­phere ca­sual and the drinks cheap.

There are about 300 as­pir­ing co­me­di­ans in Toronto who are at the open mic level. If you watch an evening of them, you’d be sur­prised at how com­pe­tent they are. The gen­eral level of pro­fi­ciency has risen over the years as am­a­teurs have watched pro­fes­sional comics and learned from them with­out even re­al­iz­ing it.

So when My­ers and his friends fi­nally get their five min­utes each at Yuk Yuk’s, they’re not bad at all. The el­derly Bert seems out of his el­e­ment, but the other three ac­quit them­selves just fine. They have a nice vul­ner­a­bil­ity, a smooth de­liv­ery and, if they wanted to, could have pur­sued standup fur­ther. The only dis­ap­point­ment is their ma­te­rial: crude sex jokes ad nau­seam. Easy stuff that al­ways gets a laugh but no ca­reer move.

My­ers may not have a great ca­reer ahead of him as a standup, but this is a more ex­cit­ing film than the topic sug­gests. He’s a ter­rific ed­i­tor, al­ways filling the frame with pop-ups and cartoons and bounc­ing around at break­neck speed. It’s no won­der the film got a mod­est the­atri­cal re­lease and is now en­joy­ing a healthy life on video on de­mand.

Oh, and not to ruin the end­ing, but his wife had a baby boy.

Four com­edy rook­ies chron­i­cled in fun new doc­u­men­tary film

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