Life of music, laughter
There’s no big payoff yet, but you can’t say performer Wes Borg isn’t devoted to his craft
Ten thousand hours.
That’s the length of time it takes a person to fully perfect something, according to author Malcolm Gladwell. The Canadian author’s 10,000 Hour Rule has since been applied to everyone from the Beatles to Bill Gates, geniuses whose considerable talent, Gladwell argues, was developed over many thousands of hours of practice, inspiration and innovation.
Wes Borg, a popular local playwright, actor and musician, figures he has put said amount of time into his craft, though he’s still waiting for his Gates-like payoff. “Apparently, that’s the magic number,” Borg, 43, said.
“But I’ve got my 10,000 hours, why do I still suck? I think I’m of the group that has to do 20,000.”
Borg put a considerable amount of time and effort into theatre and music during his time in Edmonton, where he lived until the age of 40.
He always considered himself a native of the Alberta capital until he applied for a birth certificate and passport prior to embarking on a trip of England. He learned then of his early family history.
He was born Randy David in the small town Valley View, located 100 kilometres east of Grande Prairie. At eight months he was adopted by a family in Edmonton, where he lived until moving to Victoria in late 2007.
Borg brought with him to Victoria little in terms of personal possessions (“I had $30 and a half a pack of smokes,” he admitted) but had plenty in the way of professional experience.
His performing arts career began at the age 15 when the self-professed “band and drama nerd” was entered into a Theatresports improv tournament by a group of friends. To their surprise, Borg and his collaborators won their division.
From that point onward, Borg said “the needle was in the vein,” so to speak. He gained fame early on as a member of the improv and sketch comedy collective Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie, which ran full-time for the better part of 25 years. The Trolls enjoyed a substantial run during their time, penning the occasional novelty hit ( The
Toronto Song) and wowing Fringe festival audiences across the country.
The Trolls even came close, at one point, to securing a CBC TV series of their own.
The project eventually ran out of steam, Borg said. Cast members Neil Grahn and Cathleen Rootsaert quit the group, while Paul Mather went on to write for This Hour Has 22 Minutes,
Corner Gas and The Rick Mercer Report.
At first, Borg and co- founder Joe Bird continued, though Bird’s interest eventually waned, too. “And then he died, which really cut down the number of bookings,” Borg joked.
Bird died of congenital heart failure, two and half years ago — on April Fool’s Day, of all spots on the calendar — so a reunion is out of the question. Borg still does some Trolls bits during his stand-up comedy routines and concerts, but for the most part that chapter of his life has been put to bed.
“There’s still some surviving bits, but basically that’s that,” he said.
Borg found his muse again in Victoria. He arrived here big-time depressed over the state of Edmonton’s improv and comedy scene, which had dried up. A one-week vacation in Victoria to raise his spirits got better when his longtime friend, Victoria institution Carolyn Mark, who has known Borg since the late ’80s, let Borg have the run of her place for a month.
Mark was going out on tour, so Borg took over as unofficial caretaker of her house, which she had dubbed — fittingly, in Borg’s case — the Last Resort.
He couch surfed for a few months, then bought a retro-fitted (read: beat-up) RV that became his permanent residence. He lived there for a year, until it burned to the ground.
Ironically, around the same time his talents were heating up.
He remounted in 2008 a one-man show (which he’d co-written with Chris Craddock) titled Ha!, which made some waves locally. “At that point, people went, ‘Oh, he’s not an idiot.’ Or at least, ‘He’s our kind of idiot.’ Gradually, I started to get gigs.”
Borg started working with Atomic Vaudeville and joined the board of Intrepid Theatre, which runs the city’s annual Fringe festival (fun fact: Borg performed at the first Victoria Fringe, 25 years ago, with the Trolls).
“I’m a Fringe guy,” Borg said. “That’s the thing I know how to do.”
His plate has been incredibly full in the past few years. He saw an online revival of his popular Internet parody, Internet Help
Desk; re-staged the popular revue, War of 1812, which he co-wrote with Mather in 1996; organized Victoria Covers, an all-star band that paid musical tribute to They Might Be Giants, Bob Dylan, and Pink Floyd; and created Phillips Comedy Night at the Victoria Event Centre, a monthly showcase of skits, improv and songs.
He performs his musical stand-up on a monthly basis at Heckler’s Bar and Grill, and every Tuesday through April 17 will appear in the improv show Sin City:
Carnies at the Victoria Event Centre, where he also works. Borg is also appearing on stage in a local production of David Mamet’s
Glengarry Glen Ross, which opens Nov. 16.
Though it appears his career is progressing nicely, Borg is his usual deadpan self when asked about the future.
He did suggest that — maybe — there is something truthful about Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule. He’s not out of the woods yet, but Borg was told recently that a song he wrote in the Trolls days was used in the new Showtime series, Shameless, which stars William H. Macy and Joan Cusack.
“Apparently, there’s a $300 cheque in the mail,” he said.
“I’m entertaining the world, 20 people at a time, being paid $300 at a time.” Wes Borg performs Saturday at The Office (759 Yates St.) as part of the First Annual Music and Laughter Festival. Tickets are $5 nightly or $8 for a weekend pass.