Kevin Banner’s Comedy Dreamboat
It’s an exciting time to be alive in Canadian comedy. I almost feel strangely… wait for it… vaguely optimistic about the future? I can’t be 100% sure, this is a new sensation.
And granted I might advise all of our readers to approach a lot of open mics with caution for the next four years to avoid hearing comics trot out the same tired Trump punchlines – but aside from that, right now, the audience generally wins. There’s a wealth of wildly original, independent comedy content readily available on every platform. Independent producers, promoters, content creators and a new generation of Canadian comics might just be ushering in the next “golden age” of standup on our own smaller scale. Getting Canadians to pay attention to the talent here at home has always been the great Canadian struggle, and without a doubt it always will. But suddenly, the traditional gatekeepers aren’t holding control of the entire industry anymore. There are newly paved inroads and opportunities to expose our talent to a wider audience.
From coast to coast, all across Canada, new and independent comedy clubs are sprouting up. Networks. Web series. Record labels. Comics are following in the footsteps of some of the original trailblazers we grew up watching on those classic Just for Laughs specials, and taking our own self-produced tours on the road and across the country. Peddling our jokes to prairie folk, the way crooked salesmen sold the Good Book during the dustbowl. And of course, social media and the Youtube generation has cracked open a whole new set of digital doors. And it seems like a new audience and the industry as a whole, are now taking note. On Sirius XM (Canada Laughs) you can hear live material and album samples from some of the best upcoming (and underexposed) standups on the scene today. In comedy hubs like Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and points in between, you can walk into new alternative spaces on any given night and open your horizons to live comedy most Canadians might not otherwise know exists. Canadian networks are slowly, but hopefully, finally putting faith in our reputation as a comedy incubator and exporter. Content is being created and, it seems – even trusted to grow. New series like Letterkenny, the Beaverton and Baroness Von Sketch are finding a home on networks that up until recently preferred to dole out a 24/7 schedule of game show retreads and had a habit of pulling the plug on any comedy series’ that were deemed potentially noteworthy. This isn’t the first wave of bankable Canadian comedy content that mades its way through the cracks. This is after all the same country that produced landmark examples like Kids in the Hall (the series largely responsible for my entire generation of Canadian comics) and cult classics like Fubar and the Trailer Park Boys that found a wide and defiant audience here at home. And what about underappreciated gems like Less Than Kind. Didn’t we ALL love to hate on Winnipeg together? There are a lot of perfect examples of classic Canadiana in the comedy realm. But it’s what’s happening right now, again, that feels like a little bit of a groundswell.
So maybe it’s no surprise then that a record label, focused almost entirely on recording and releasing Rock music the traditional way – decided to run with this current comedy climate, and get “on board” (you’ll find out shortly why that boat pun makes perfect sense…) Enter 604 Records. A label co-founded by Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger (hold your jokes) Yes, Kroeger might have been labelled by some as the Dane Cook of Canadian power-Rock – if by that you mean he found a massive audience, made some serious bank, and sold out stadiums across North America regardless of the naysayers (he also built a cult following of Eh-sayers, on the radio here at home). 604 Records has been releasing upcoming Canadian bands and chart toppers from major Canadian acts into the wild and onto the airwaves since 2001. And now, they’ve set their sights on comedy. Releasing the first ever comedy album on a traditional label in Canada. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, the only other label in this country releasing comedy is our friends over at Comedy Records, dedicated entirely to just that. Why would a label like 604 Records take a chance on standup?
Their choice was Vancouver comedian Kevin Banner. A regular on comedy festivals like Just for Laughs Northwest and performance festivals like Pemberton Music Festival and Blue Bridge Comedy Festival, maybe it’s no surprise that a comedian with established chops playing to larger audiences and mixing company with the music scene like Banner would be picked up by 604 Records’ first foray into the world of standup. Banner is known for his self-professed “dark” tone of humour, tackling tougher topics while drawing audiences in with a personable storytelling style and self-effacing charm. Banner is an original voice in Canadian comedy and an on-stage multi-threat. Accessible to a wider audience. Smart play on the part of 604 Records. Recorded over a 3-night run at Vancouver’s Comedy Mix (a favourite club of the west coast comedian), Dreamboat was given the full production treatment. Recorded by music producer Kevvy Maher, known for working with top-charting acts like Carly Rae Jepsen, Down with Webster and multi-platform personality Kat Von D.
It may sound funny at first, a record label breaking bread with comedians and lending support to standup. Aren’t we supposed to have some unspoken rivalry? (Musicians also claim to have more sex appeal which… yeah ok that part probably has some truth to it) But maybe this is a sign of things to come. If you record it, they will listen. And while our own industry is figuring out how to adapt to the “digital age” and the era of the Indie producer, maybe the music business likes what they’re hearing. Kevin Banner’s Dreamboat is available now from 604 Records, on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and everywhere fine comedy albums can be downloaded!