GIGGLE CITY: Tim Koslo’s comic recovery

Tim Koslo once experienced a personal Fear and Loathing in Alberta wasted on alcohol, morphine, Ativan, Valium, Quaaludes and LSD. He remembers the list very clearly. On day three of the epic bender, he did a stand-up comedy show which audience members later described as “brilliant,” featuring material nobody had ever heard before or since. When his set was done, he walked triumphantly off the stage – and straight into a wall.

Knocked unconscious, lips turning blue, Koslo was suffering an overdose and would’ve surely died if a “junkie friend” hadn’t recognized the signs and quickly called 911. The comedian was even “on” after he woke up in the hospital – telling a curious reporter, “don’t try this at home.” It was right around this point in 1987 that Tim Koslo decided to turn his life around. He’s been clean and sober ever since – working hard on his comedy, artwork and various forays into the music scene. He starts a three-nighter at the Laugh Shop in Sherwood Park on Thursday night.

Q: If you could be any famous Canadian, who would you be and why?

A: Did you say Canadian or comedian?

Q: Which one would you rather be?

A: I am a Canadian comedian. But if I could be any comedian, I would be George Carlin. The man was one of the most prolific, poignant and to-the-point wordsmiths that the performing arts has ever known.

Q: What’s your best heckler story?

A: I was doing in a show in Regina about 16 years ago, and this guy was heckling all throughout my show. Very obtuse, off-the-wall stuff. He shouldn’t have been drinking on an empty head. He was so hammered. It was nonsense. But he was piping up at the most inopportune times, right on punch-lines, right in the middle the most crucial part of the set-ups, all through the show. At about the last minute of my performance, he stood up and started to heckle again – and then he started to choke. I don’t know what he was chocking on. He was turning blue, and people were getting very concerned. And I, quickly, because he had been such a pain all night, I said on the mic, ‘quick, we need help! Somebody give him the Heineken remover!’ People started pounding him on the back. He sat down and stopped choking. And that’s what I ended the show on. I got a standing ovation. The odd thing is that I was in Victoria four years later doing a show and the same guy approached me and said, ‘I learned my lesson. I have never heckled another comic since.’

Q: What’s your favourite joke you don’t do anymore because it’s dated or stale?

A: One of the things I used to do that I haven’t done forever is take a Tim Horton’s box on stage, and every time I’d do a joke I’d take out a piece of paper. See, they were Tim bits.

Q: What do you do when a fan tells you a joke?

A: That happens all the time. Usually I let them go ahead and basically tell them the punch-line before they get to it. Then I say, see, we really don’t need to hear this stuff. It’s what we do for a living. We’ve probably heard it. But I try to be very positive. Ask their name, where they work, make some small talk – so they buy artwork!

Q: Do you have new bit that’s going over particularly well?

A: It’s hard to tell just looking at me, but I’ve suffered from depression for the better part of my life. My last psychologist told me what I really need to do so is socialize, join an organization, get involved. So I did. I went and joined a club. I joined a bridge club. I jump next Tuesday.

Q: What was the worst meal you ever had on the road?

A: I’ve got a plastic envelope of different foreign objects that I have found in my food. I saved it. I have pieces of glass, a piece of a mouse backbone, an inch of wooden skewer. Funny story: We’re in a doughnut shop in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. I say to the other comic with me, ‘Don’t order the dutchies: They’re made by the Dutch. They knead the dough by walking on it with their wooden shoes and then ship it over here.’ But then I got some dutchies, because I love dutchies. I went to my hotel room to have one. I bite down on something and I pull out one inch of a wooden skewer – and this after warning my friend about Dutch people kneading the dough with wooden shoes. All he said about it was we should take the skewer back to the doughnut shop so they’d give us some free ones.

Q: This is a question just for you: You used to end every show with a speech about addiction recovery programs, which sort of puts a damper on the comedy. Do you still do this?

A: The only time I use it now is when I’m doing conventions for the 12-step recovery programs, where there are people in my audience that I know really need to hear it.