By:Tyler “Tyski” Dombroski
Hello to the humble readers of VR! Let me say, it’s an honour to be sharing this column with you. There’s an ever growing buzz surrounding the stand-up comedy scene in our region, and I thought it would be fun to share a little bit of perspective from behind the scenes with some of Canada’s rising stars. In a world full of frowns, I think we need to shed some light on laughter – so do enjoy!
Most times I find it difficult to recall with great detail different events in my life. However, my 20th birthday is one that I will always be able to recount with a great deal of enthusiasm and it holds the inspiration for this first interview. My friends and I were front row, stage right, and seated in a cozy ‘L’ pattern when the show started at Kitchener’s own Yuk Yuks.
The main act was Mark Forward, a comedian that I have drawn great inspiration from in my own work, and who encouraged me (unknowingly) to take that first step into the limelight just a few years later. When my friends and I went to Forward’s show, he was fresh off of having won the 2005 Canadian Comedy Award for ‘Best Stand-up Newcomer.’ He was also gearing up for what would become another good year when he took home the Homegrown Comedy Competition award presented by the people of Just For Laughs. Forward has a knack for taking trivial life observations and turning them into long lasting tangents that will forever alter one’s outlooks on just about anything. Reeling you in with whispered monologues that taste like a dash of insanity sprinkled over genius, Forward’s comedy style has more push and pull than a lawnmower starting up for the first cut of the summer. He’ll mow you over with laughter no doubt about it.
In anticipation of his long-awaited return to Kitchener’s Yuk Yuks I asked Mr. Forward if he could lay down an interview with me and share a little bit of his own perspective on being a funnyman. This dude kick-started my brain and turned me onto stand-up, so who better to kick off this column? Enjoy.
Tyski: How long have you been doing stand-up professionally or otherwise?
Forward: 10 years
Tyski: Do you recall when you first started as a comedian? What was it like taking those first steps?
Forward: It was terrifying, yet exciting at the same time. I mean, if I didn’t enjoy that terrifying experience I wouldn’t have gone back.
Tyski: Much like everything these days, there are sub-classes that help identify a comedian’s style or in some instances warn the audience. If you had to, what would you call your brand of humour? What can people expect from one of your shows?
Forward: I get asked this a lot, in many different ways. I would say mine is a touch absurd, not much is grounded in my reality. I don’t talk about my life in anyway. So, as you can see, I’m not really sure how to describe it, but that’s the best I can do.
Tyski: Many comedians and comediennes can recount certain indicators in their life that, in retrospect, defined their path to becoming a stand-up comic. How did you finally know you would become a touring comedian? Who influenced you?
Forward: I was doing theatre for two years, and realized that it wasn’t for me. I loved performing, but wanted to do it on my terms – so what better way? You are the writer, performer, director and producer when you do stand-up.
Tyski: There’s an ongoing battle between the comic and the heckler, just the word ‘heckler’ evokes a certain level of angst for people of your profession. So what’s your take on the subject? I would guess that the rest of the show can depend greatly on your own reaction to a heckler. Do you have a formula for dealing with them?
Forward: There are good and bad hecklers. There are people that are just playing along, and they have good sense of comedic timing, and it’s playful. I don’t mind that. It’s the people that feel it’s their right, that they are helping (that aren’t so good). Most will sabotage a whole show, then want to shake your hand after “because they helped you.” I’m not a fan, I used to get angry and fight, now, I more so leave it up to the rest of the room, because I have always been so surprised that a room full of 200 people will let one person ruin their night. That to me is odd.
Tyski: Do you have any juicy stories to share about a situation where you encountered a heckler?
Forward: There are so many stories! From rubber chickens being thrown at me, cops being called, vomit being carried out with a tablecloth. A woman was so angry at the audience one night, that they sided with me, that she went out into the parking lot and threw rocks at their cars.
Tyski: On a more positive note, could you share with us one of your best moments on stage? Furthermore, what has been your favourite stage to perform?
Forward: I got the opportunity to play Massey Hall. That was huge for me, such a great space. Always playing Just For Laughs is a huge thrill for me. But the best thing was when I went to L.A and did theLate Late Show with Craig Ferguson! That is the highlight so far.
Tyski: From my understanding you have a reoccurring roll on the new CBS television series Mr. D. Can you share some details about your roll on the show?
Forward: I play the librarian, an odd angry man, raised by Chinese parents. He is a strange dude. But I would rather play that than the nice guy.
Tyski: Well, we’ve reached the end here, but I must ask you, do you have any parting words of wisdom for fans, potential comics or just the world in general?
Forward: Stay positive, we all expect too much, and just try and remember you are doing this because you love it, not because of what it will bring you. Corny I know, but I really believe it. I used to get angry for nothing. It’s not worth it.
There it is readers, life in a nutshell for one of Canada’s best. Forwardboasts a large list of TV appearances including a special on Comedy Now!, as well as appearance on The Newsroom, Degrassi: The Next Generation, and Double Wedding. If you would like more information, please visit www.cbc.ca/mrd or go to his website for complete show listings at www.markforward.com. You can catch his act live at Yuk Yuks in Kitchener, located under the Walper Hotel (1 King St. W.) on Feb. 24th and 25th. Reservations can be made at www.yukyuks.com. Stay tuned ladies and germs for a one-on-one with Rebecca Kohler and other seriously funny Canadians.
Author’s Note: For those who were following the Yuk Yuks Great Canadian Laugh Off. The preliminary rounds have been postponed for now, but you can still get a taste of funny at the Little Bean Cafe on Thurs. Feb. 16th. Go towww.facebook.com/tyskistandup for more information!
By:Tyler “Tyski” Dombroski