Just For Laughs – In conversation with Carl Barron and Jessica Kirson / The Ethnic Show
JFL – There’s no doubt about it, Carl Barron is the hottest comedian in his native Australia. Just consider this: His solo shows have sold over 300,000 tickets in Australia alone, and of the10 best-selling Australian DVDs of all time, five of them were comedy DVDs that were produced by and starred Barron.
And on July 26, Montreal audiences will get the chance to discover why Carl Barron is such a mega-successful comedy star in Australia, as he performs his one-man show “Carl Barron: Drinking With A Fork” for one night only at the Gesu on Bleury Street, as part of Just For Laughs’ Jack Astor’s Solo Series.
“I got the unusual-sounding title for the show from a bloke who was talking to me about something difficult and compared it to drinking with a fork, and I liked it,” said Barron, during a recent phone interview from all the way in southern Australia, which took place about an hour following one of his live stand-up performances.
Born in Longreach, Queensland 53 years ago, the son of a sheep shearer, Barron worked as a roof tiler before he decided to pursue a career in stand-up comedy nearly 25 years ago. “When I was a kid, I always enjoyed watching the Royal Variety Performance on TV, and I loved watching the comics perform on it,” he said. “I felt that was just right with me, and I wanted to do that, too.”
His comedy ambitions was further reinforced when he saw Irish comic Jimeon (pronounced “Jim-owen”) perform in Sydney, which prompted him to walk into a local pub on a Monday open mic night. “There was a person at the pub, when he found out I wanted to get into stand-up comedy, told me ‘It’s not hard to get into it. It’s hard to stay,’” he said.
One of the reasons Barron has managed to stay in the world of comedy for nearly 25 years and built a huge following in Australia and at comedy festivals around the world is his uncomplicated style of observational humour, especially the subject matter that he likes to focus on as part of his routine: himself.
“Making fun of myself onstage was not a choice. Rather, it came naturally to me. I have done it ever since I was younger and always used to poke fun at myself when I chatted with my friends; I thought it was hilarious,” said Barron.
And somehow, as his popularity continues to grow outside the boundaries of his homeland, Barron has taken to international stardom as a comedian with a rather relaxed approach. “During my early years, when I performed at pubs across Australia, the audiences always thought ‘who’s this guy?’. Now when I perform onstage overseas, I get a different feeling from my audiences. Because I am more unknown to them, I feel less pressure,” he said.
Barron, who tours around the world twice a year, plans to produce another comedy DVD of his current tour, which concludes in 2018. “I’ve done the same thing all my life, which is mainly touring,” he said. “Stand-up comedy is pretty much the main focus of what I want to do for the rest of my career. To be honest with you, I don’t want to make movies; it’s a lot of hard work!”
Comedian Jessica Kirson, who is part of the line-up of this year’s Ethnic Show, admits that she developed her sense of humour at an early age and was always the class clown during her school days growing up in New Jersey. However, it was her grandmother, a maven of Borscht Belt comedy, who gave her that necessary push to get her to take up the mic and pursue a career in stand-up comedy.
“We were at a club, and she noticed that every time people were sitting with me, they were laughing; she then told me I should be a comedian,” said Kirson during a recent phone interview. “I then answered an ad in the Village Voice newspaper for stand-up classes, so I took one. When I first performed on stage, I was really nervous, but I did it. In the end, she was right and I’m glad I listened to her.”
Kirson, who this year is marking her fourth time at Just For Laughs and her second time as part of the Ethnic Show line-up, is proud of the fact that she does represent the Jewish people on the show, and the proud comic tradition that is associated with the Jews. “I am indeed proud that I am representing that comic tradition on the Ethnic Show, although I am not that religious,” she said. “I am proud of who I am and I love making fun of the way I was brought up with my Jewish family.”
When you see Kirson perform onstage, two characteristics come into view. First is how the usually calm and soft-spoken comic quickly becomes a human boiling cauldron of rage, complete with a wide repertoire of impersonations and a rubbery expressive face; and then there are times during her set when she does her own little asides, as if she is talking to herself in front of a large audience, as if she is sharing with them what goes on in the mind of Jessica Kirson.
“I’m usually very low key, and I am usually more angry when I go onstage, because I love being high energy. People like that and I want them to be entertained without having to think too much,” she said. “As for those asides, I did that one time onstage, and I thought it was very representative of who I am, because I like to talk to myself. As a result, I got a huge response from a lot of the audience members, in which they told me they easily related to what I did and what I said.”
And while she is winning over more audience members at the Ethnic Show, Kirson is spending her time between shows wandering around the city and shooting a series of videos that she is posting on YouTube and Facebook on a daily basis. And if you can’t get enough of Jessica Kirson, she will be performing her solo show “Jessica Kirson: Talking To Myself” as part of the OFF-JFL series on July 24 and 26.
“I Love performing at Just For Laughs because this festival is just about the comedy, plain and simple,” she said. “And there are a lot of Jewish people in Montreal who can easily relate to my material. In fact, the Montreal Jewish community are similar to the community I grew up with in New Jersey.”
And speaking of the Ethnic Show, I have to admit that I have seen every Ethnic Show since it was introduced as part of the Just For Laughs festival, and I was never disappointed with the show year after year. But I have to say this year’s Ethnic Show is the best one ever, with the strongest line-up that has been put together for this show; there is not one weak link at all. Anchored by host (and festival favorite) Alonzo Bodden, the Ethnic Show’s comics Vladimir Caamano, Mike Rita, The Doo Wops, Steve Byrne and Jessica Kirson delivered the goods with non stop laughs about their respective ethnic backgrounds; in fact, each performer killed with their sets.
Highlights include Vladimir Caamano talking about how his fellow Dominicans in his neighborhood like to drop in random numbers in their conversations; Mike Rita speaking about how his parents just can’t let go of their Portuguese roots; the Doo Wops singing about a couple who live above their condo and make noisy love, and what it’s like to marry a non-Italian girl; Steve Byrne explaining why Asians are the worst drivers (with an excellent impersonation of President Trump as a Cheesecake Factory waiter thrown in for good measure); and Jessica Kirson talking about performing in front of an audience filled with elderly Jewish retirees (complete with dead-on impersonations of those aged audience members).
The Ethnic Show ends its run at Club Soda tomorrow night (July 23), and then moves to the Metropolis for a three night run from July 25-27. This constantly entertaining United Nations of comedy showcase is a definite must-see!
For more information – or to purchase tickets — for The Ethnic Show, “Carl Barron: Drinking with A Fork”, “Jessica Kirson: Talking To Myself”, or any other Just For Laughs show, go to www.hahaha.com