GIGGLE CITY: Sean Lecomber delivers a deadly deadpan
The conventional “wisdom” of what stand-up comedians can get away with is that they should only joke about things they have the RIGHT to joke about – as in, cancer jokes if you have cancer, race jokes if you meet the minimum criteria for being a visible minority, harelip jokes if you’re Nikki Payne, and so on.
Edmonton’s Sean Lecomber doesn’t subscribe to that theory. He’ll make a joke about anything, abortion, rape, incest – you name it, he’ll put a deadpan spin on it. And if someone is offended, well, too bad. This is a hard way to build a career in professional stand-up comedy, perhaps better for the comedy than the comedy career, he says. Lecomber performs Tuesday at the Brixx Bar as part of its monthly music and comedy night.
Q: If you could be any celebrity, who would it be and why?
A: Steven Wright: Low key life, recognized from a few movie roles, sells out small theatres. That would be a nice life.
A: Best heckler story?
Q: I had this joke where I asked right off the top, “Has anybody in here ever been on fire?” And no one would respond and everyone would laugh at how silly the question was. But then I did one show where I was bombing horribly. Somebody was heckling me in the crowd, saying I wasn’t funny, so that got in my head. So then I asked if anybody had ever been on fire. And a guy raised his hand and it was a stump. He said, “I’ve been in a fire.” For some reason I ignored him and carried on with the joke: It’s about how “stop, drop and roll” is ridiculous. Once you realize you’re on fire, you have stopped. It’s time to drop now. And you’re an idiot if you’ve been on fire. And this guy with the stump took offense to the idea I was making light of being on fire. He was screaming on me: “I couldn’t get out of the way! What was I supposed to do? It was an electrical fire!” The exchange ended badly when the other heckler got into it … The big thing about heckling is that if the crowd likes you, you can do almost anything and you’ll win. But if they don’t like you, they don’t really want you to win.
Q: What would you have done differently?
A: I wouldn’t have done the joke.
Q: Paul Sveen said that when an audience member is pushed to the point of throwing an ashtray at a comedian, it means that the comedian has made touched on the worst pain that person has ever suffered and made jokes about it. Do you think that’s true?
A: Yeah, I had a beer bottle thrown at me once … People aren’t going to like me every night, because I’m talking about stuff that reminds them of something in their life they’d rather not be reminded of.
Q: Is this the best direction to go for you?
A: For sure. It’s the most rewarding type of comedy … it depends on what you’re in it for. Some comedians are in it for the adulation of the crowd. But other comedians are in it because they want to talk about everything – and if they don’t get to talk about everything, they don’t want to talk about anything.
Q: Do you censor yourself when you do corporate shows?
A: I just have to do material I wrote a long time ago. Maybe one out of 50 jokes that I write is appropriate for all ears.
Q: What’s the one joke you will absolutely not do at a corporate show?
A: I actually tried to write a joke for a corporate and it ended up not being suitable. It was on the old adage about how 73 per cent of women prefer chocolate to having sex. I wrote it as: 73 per cent of women prefer chocolate to being raped. And then the other 27 per cent? You guessed it – diabetic.
Q: Do you have an old joke you were sad to let go?
A: I had this joke about real estate agents I liked that I dropped. It was just about I don’t know why real estate agents feel that we need to know what they look like. And they leave the For Sale sign up after the house sells and just put the Sold sticker over it, when really what they should be doing is taking the sign down. It’s the height of arrogance. It’s not that hard to a job to convince somebody with money to seek shelter.
Q: Do you have to be a pessimist to be a good comic?
A: I think the good comedians by nature tend to be pessimistic. I find that most comedians that have a positive worldview aren’t really natural comedians. They’re in it just for the laughs and to get the girls.
Q: And you have an agenda beyond that?
A: I would say the happy comedians are the ones with the agenda: I don’t care what my material is, I don’t care about my choices, I just want to elicit a response and move up the ladder and get a TV show and get the girls. The pessimistic view is that I’m never going to make it anyway, nobody’s listening to me anyway, so I might as well say what I think. The pessimism is good for the comedy, bad for the career.