GIGGLE CITY: Jon Lajoie brings viral comedy to the stage

Jon Lajoie is admittedly a “little hungover” when reached on the phone for an interview one recent morning. Some kind of late-breaking Halloween party, apparently.

We’re trying to get him to explain how it is that some guy with a viral YouTube video suddenly becomes one of the hottest new comic performers in Canada – and he does, eventually (with the usual MATURE CONTENT warning, below). His quirky brand of X-rated musical comedy performance art or whatever the heck you want to call it is a huge hit. From seemingly out of nowhere, Montreal, actually, Lajoie jumped right over the comedy club circuit and went straight into a theatre tour. He played two shows this Saturday at the Myer Horowitz Theatre.

How did he do it? Lajoie gets as far as “I figured it out as I went along” and then unleashes a giant yawn.

“Sorry,” he mutters.

Q: It’s OK, man. Why don’t you paint us a more vivid picture? What are you wearing?

A: I’m just in my underwear. I could take the underwear off if that would make you feel more comfortable.

Q: No, that’s OK.

A: I could Skype naked with you.

Q: We don’t have the technology.

A: … So in 2007, I’d been in a band for a while and I was in a French-Canadian TV show that no one’s ever seen. It paid the bills. I always wanted to do comedy and had never done it for many reasons. So I was browsing around on the web and I saw a bunch of hilarious videos that clearly didn’t cost any money to make. Just a guy in front of a webcam, yapping away. I thought, Aha! You don’t need money to be funny! So I went out and bought a camera and illegally downloaded some editing software because I’d spent all my money on a camera. I literally just started playing around.

Q: How can you make a video “go viral?”

A: Just when I think I figured it out, I realized that I haven’t. A few times, I’ve gone, Oh, Britney Spears is in the media. I should do a video about Britney Spears – and it turned out to be one of my least popular videos. Same with Mel Gibson. Another time I did a video called “Show Me Your Genitals” and wrote a silly song, threw it together. I have no idea what I’m doing, and I edit it and it still makes no sense. It gets 47 million hits.

Q: Is doing live comedy shows harder than you thought it would be?

A: Oh, yeah. I’ll pretend to do stand-up for a bit because I know how insanely hard it is. It’s an art form. I have stand-up comedy buddies who are amazing. So I do not claim to be a stand-up comedian. I do live comedy. That’s what I say.

Q: What’s your best heckler story?

A: I was heckled by an entire crowd in New York at Carolines, a late show on Saturday night. I usually do well, but I get in front in front of this audience and they just hate me. The manager told me afterwards that this crowd comes in every week from Jersey and they don’t care who the comedian is. They just come to heckle. The comedians that do well are like the guys that go, “Hey, I fucking hate my fucking wife!” And I don’t do that. They were booing and heckling and being assholes. I drop a joke and no one laughs and a guy goes, “You just died on stage!” Usually I just fuck with the audience whenever that happens. But they were all against me. My go-to, nail-in-the-coffin is: “Hey, now that we’re talking, I’m really curious to know: What is it like to survive an abortion?” Usually the person shuts up. So I pulled that on a guy. And he came right back with, “What was it like for to YOU survive a fucking abortion?!” And everyone started yelling at me. It was terrible. Hats off to all stand-up comedians. Most stand-ups have to go against crowds who don’t know them, they have to bomb. But I don’t have that kind of self esteem. After that night I said: I am never doing comedy again! It took me weeks to recover.

Q: Do you have some new material that’s killing right now?

A: I have a story about how I learned how to masturbate. Most people have interesting stories – rubbing up against the dishwasher and it was warm and then something funny happened. Mine’s kind of boring, actually. I was nine years old, in the bathtub, looking around, hanging out and all of the sudden I look down, hey! I got an idea in my head. So I put some shampoo in the palm of my hand – and I start stroking my brother’s penis.

Q: Do you think there’s a prejudice against you because you haven’t “paid your dues?”

A: Of course. And I completely get it. I look at what I do sometimes and think, Oh, yeah, I get why people want me to go away. Like, “Hey, this guy starts doing YouTube videos and now he’s doing tours, has a TV show and I’ve been fucking doing this for 15 years!” I completely get that. I never think, oh, I deserve this. Everyone deserves it. I got lucky.