Kevin Banner always loved telling a good joke.
He’d think of something new, then take it to the stage and get some laughs out of it. It was good fun.
Living in Sooke and doing shows all over town and in Victoria, Banner didn’t think it would turn into anything – but it did, and more than six years later, he’s still at it, working part time as a professional comedian.
“It was something I’ve always wanted to do, but never thought I could. I wanted to try it once, just to say that I had done it, but it’s quite addictive,” Banner said, who first started doing comedy shows at Mulligan’s (before it closed) and open mic at 17 Mile Pub.
Like every comedian and artist, Banner’s style is tailored to his own life experiences.
“Mostly, I tell stories of things that have happened in my life, I’m a little bit dark, edgy at times, a little bit silly and goofy,” he said. “I try to think of a funny thing and say it into a microphone, hopefully it works out.”
Three years ago, Banner made a move to Vancouver to further his career, simultaneously launching two separate lifestyles: working in a downtown office by day, comedian by night.
“After the show I go back to being very introverted and awkward. We’re not nearly as exciting when we’re not on stage. There are those guys who are on all the time, but nobody likes them,” he laughed.
Still, it’s not easy to make a living in Canada as a comedian, and trying to make a joke in a more sensitive world has become a little bit tricky, Banner noted, adding that the big issue these days is context.
“People hear a buzz word and they think, oh, he said that, this is how I have to respond’, but without hearing the context,” he said, adding that he’s gotten some sharp responses to certain jokes that run past a more volatile plain.
“I have a joke where I talk about rape. The part I talk about is how there’s a politician in the States, Todd Akin, who made a disturbing statement about rape, that a woman’s body would shut down and she won’t get pregnant. I talk about that and how he’s an idiot.”
Banner said he’s had people come up to him after shows telling him he’s racist, though it’s never a person of colour making the statement, but almost always a white man or woman saying it.
“People like getting offended on behalf of other people. Everyone’s trying to show other people, ‘hey, I’m a really good person.’ It becomes this competitive calling out kind of society that we’ve got right now,” he said.
Using comedy as a vessel to tell stories or even portray the issues of modern society is nothing new or radical, considering the works from comics such as Jerry Seinfeld, the vivid (and hilarious) portrayals by George Carlin, America’s real-time troubles with racism by Dave Chapelle, and the world’s struggles with mental health by the late Robin Williams.
Given the gift of observation, it’s easy to see why comedians click so easy, Banner said.
“Even if you meet a comedian at a party or an event, you can bond over the fact that you are a comedian,” he said.
Banner’s latest move is taking part in Canada’s Top Comic competition – 40 comics in Vancouver and 40 in Toronto, three of which would be selected from both regions. There are 18 left. From that, eight go to Toronto, where the winner will get a $25,000 show at Just for Laughs in Montreal, Northwest Vancouver and JFL 42 in Toronto.
It would be a step forward, which is why Banner hopes Sookies will give him the boost he needs to make it to the very finals of the competition.
Banner was the winner of Bite TV’s 2011 “Stand Up & Bite Me People’s Champ” and has performed with notable comedians like Doug Stanhope, Bill Burr and Norm MacDonald.
To vote for Kevin Banner, go to: topcomic.siriusxm.ca/comic/kevin-banner.
He also recorded his first album last month, Dreamboat.