GIGGLE CITY: Gilson Lubin don’t want no trouble

Let’s play the race card again. As long as there is racism in the world, comedians of race will play the race card. Stand-up comics are expected to be honest, right?

Gilson Lubin is no exception. While the Caribbean-Canadian comic fits right in with shows like the Def Comedy Jam, where the audience is mostly black, he says he’s not so sure what kind of material he’s going to do Thursday through Saturday (June 9-11) at the Laugh Shop in Sherwood Park, where the audience is mostly white. He’d like you to know that not all his jokes are about race. He can also “work clean,” which would be a real shame. Can this comedy race gap possibly be bridged? Of course it can. Ask Chris Rock. Today, we ask Gilson Lubin.

Q: What’s your best heckler story?

A: I did the all black comedy show in Toronto when I was starting out, around 2000. Obviously it’s known as a very tough crowd. It’s mostly black, a lot of people from the Caribbean. I had no material. I had maybe 10 minutes, but it was kind of weak. I was still learning. They were short a few comics and they needed me to go on. I said, ‘It’s not going to work.’ I knew it was going to go bad. I had done another show a month before and I didn’t have anything new. They want you to bring fresh material. So I started off with a Bill Cosby impression that had a really long set-up. It was dead silence. And half the room just booed. I pulled a Charlie Murphy, I told them, ‘Go fuck yourselves! Fuck this!’ And people started applauding. And I walked off. (Producer) Kenny Robinson was like, ‘no no, keep going!’ And I said, ‘fuck that, I’m not going back!’ I didn’t finish. But I think this helped me a lot. I felt as if they forced my honest self out of me. They were happy I was sticking up for myself. It helped me tap into the kind of material that would work. But I took it so personal that I didn’t finish my set.

Q: Do you have a favourite joke you don’t do anymore because it’s stale?

A: Most of my jokes are stale. I’m always a work in process. I’m probably one of the slowest comedians for developing material. It takes a while as it is. I have one about racists and bigotry that I still do. The original idea is me coming to Canada and hearing a lot about things I never heard about when I was a kid in St. Lucia. I didn’t know what a racist was. I thought a racist was a very fast person. If you called someone a racist, I’d say, ‘he’s fast, hey, good luck!’ I thought bigotry was the oak tree in front of my neighbour’s house, because they had a bigger tree than we did. I don’t even know if we had any oak trees in St. Lucia. It’s just a joke.

Q: Do you have a joke you think is close to being over the line?

A: I have some horrible stuff. I don’t even like repeating things. The reason I’m hesitant is that I don’t think my true material would help me get me fans or support … I don’t want to offend anyone accidentally. If I do something like: ‘I’ve never been in a threesome but I’ve fucked a cross-eyed girl.’ That’s so lowbrow. I don’t want no trouble, you know?

Q: But aren’t good comics supposed to be brave?

A: I did this one club once and somebody heckled me right of the bat, ‘You better be funny, motherfucker!’ and I was happy! It was great because it gave me the right to be as gross as possible and it ended up being one of the better shows. The crowd loved it. But sometimes you don’t know the people out there. I have a friend who’s a comic and his mom was at the show and he didn’t know it. He said he wouldn’t have done some of the jokes if he had known she was there.

Q: What do you do if someone from the audience tells you a joke and says, ‘You can use this in your act?’

A: Sometimes if I’m still in character I say, ‘Go fuck yourself!’ But I say it in a silly voice. One time this guy said to me: ‘I know a guy who was so cross-eyed that when he cried, tears rolled down his back.’ I have used that one. Hell, yeah.

Q: Why do you tailor your show to different audiences?

A: Early on, I was encouraged to write clean material, which is OK. I love it. I did my best, but that’s what got me in the door. So I got booked for that. If you want to make money, you have to be able to work clean. You censor quite a bit of yourself.

Q: Do you think you’re at that point in your career where this sort of thing doesn’t matter anymore?

A: I’m trying to. I have to pick my battles.

Q: Do you have a joke that goes over particularly well with the Caribbean crowd?

A: They really like the black candy joke. One time this guy said to me, ‘I don’t know why you have to talk about racism and bigotry.’ I guess the jokes bothered him. I said, oh, man, I’m sorry. He said, ‘You have to realize, my friend, that we live in a day and age where racism doesn’t even exist anymore.’ So I say, ‘well, I fucking hate you.’ But racism will never be over until they change the taste of black liquorice. I don’t give a fuck what anybody thinks: But what fucking ingredients are they using to make the black candies? What the fuck tastes so bad? Every other colour makes logical sense: the red ones taste like strawberry. The orange ones are cirtrusy. You bite in the black ones, what the fuck are the ingredients? It’s the only candy that makes you want to fight. What is this? Sugar and broken dreams?