FRINGE CITY: The Return of the Borg

It’s always nice when an ex-Edmontonian comes back to visit. Break out the good bong.

And show your love for Wes Borg when he returns to this year’s Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival – running Aug. 16-26 at innumerable theatres around town – the first time since his friend and partner Joe Bird died suddenly in 2009. Borg, the only remaining member of the Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie comedy troupe, has been living in Victoria for the last four years, where he created a new play called Rerentless, a bromantic comedy starring and co-written by Borg and Victoria’s Morgan Cranny as a pair of video game-playing stoners trying to forestall adulthood just a little longer. If you think you’ve seen this sort of thing before, you haven’t see this, they promise. Borg still seems to have a gift for stretching a premise.

With Borg’s 17-year-old daughter Anna as stage manager, Rerentless runs at Stage 3 Aug 17-24. Until then, it’s time to dust off the old comedian questions for one of the giants of Edmonton comedy:

Q: If you could be any celebrity (other than yourself), who would it be and why?

A: Louis C.K. He figured out how to make money and still be a good dad and still have control over his art. Pretty impressive.

Q: Best heckler story?

A: I’ve never been beat up. There was this one guy at the bar here called the Cambie – which is exactly like a bar that would be called the Cambie – and there was this drunken regular, just hammered. Not heckling, but just talking to the stage whenever he felt like it. So I was hosting the comedy night, and there was another comic up and I wound up standing in front of the guy screaming at the top of my lungs, “Shut the fuck up! Shut the fuck up!” And he did, eventually. And at the end of the show he gave me a big hug, “That was great fun!”

Q: You describe yourself as a “Discordian.” Shouldn’t that be “Discordionist?”

Morgan Cranny, left, and Wes Borg star in Rerentless, at the Fringe

A: You know the eye in the pyramid, the Illuminatus Trilogy? When I made my webpage I was big into that. It’s basically the idea of sowing chaos by playing towards people’s egos. The story is that one Goddess wanted to piss off the other Goddesses, so she made an apple that said, “For the prettiest one,” and threw it in the middle of them. And of course they fought over it.

Q: Is this a good technique for comedy?

A: It’s not a bad way to do it. If you’re only pissing off the uptight, if the only people who are offended are the people who should be offended, then you’re doing something right.

Q: Do you have to be a pessimist to be an effective comedian?

A: I find that pessimism makes you happier. You assume everything is going to go to shit and when it doesn’t, you go “yay!” … I thought the Mars Curiosity mission was going to crash. Seven different things had to go perfectly – all controlled by robot.

Q: Don’t you think the space program is a huge waste of money?

A: No way. I’m pro space. Space, space, space. What we need are space hotels, because as soon as they open space hotels, they’re going to need space comedians. And I’m going to be ready – with a zero gravity comedy show. I’ve been trying to plan it out. What kind of shit could you get away with if there was no gravity? How could you be funnier?

Q: What’s the difference between kids today and when you were a kid?

Joe Bird, left, and Wes Borg from the CBC TV series Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie in 1992

A: Their music’s terrible! They think they know everything, but they don’t. And they’re lazy! Back in my day, our music was awesome and it was the adults who didn’t know anything. And they thought we were lazy – but we had big ideas!

Q: Where’s the “line” that you do or do not cross?

A: When you do comedy for a long time, it’s quite a journey to get to the line. There’s some stuff that just has poison in it. You’re a comedian. You’re supposed to be making people happy. And if you’re using that happiness and there’s poison in the water then you get this mean kind of laughter and this mean vibe and it all just goes to shit for me. A lot of comedians say, “Don’t you hate it when … don’t you hate this, don’t you hate that?” and the word hate is all over the place. Bear in mind that one of the first thing we did was The Toronto Song, which is full of hate, but the idea was to point out how stupid it is that we hate everywhere we don’t live.

Q: How did you wind up living in Victoria?

A: I moved out here for a week and just didn’t go back … I was very sad. Life was not good. Then Joe died and I didn’t want to come back to that sadness.

Q: Are you good now?

A: Sure. Going solo is no fun for me, but I wrote this show as a two-hander, and Morgan’s great. I’m just not a solo kinda guy. I need a buddy to work with.