Friday, December 22, 2017
Best Xmas Present: Ron James On CBC-TV
When I told a dear neighbor of mine that Ron James was soon coming back in a new New Year's Eve CBC-TV special she clapped her hands.
She's the one who once suggested to me James was the Canadian equivalent of Will Rogers.
And she's right except that James is still alive and growing in stature.
Just check out his new hourlong special on CBC-TV New Year's Eve At 9 p.m.
"It's been a great year for comics," grouses James on the phone. Of course he's kidding. Or is he?
He's talking about the rise of U.S. President Donald Trump whose daily mishaps have given late night TV comics their highest ratings in years.
"His petulance is magnificent," James chuckles but adds :"It has really gone too far. There are gaffes by the hour."
About the difference between President Jimmy Carter and President Trump James tells his audience "One grew nuts instead of the one who is nuts."
That doesn't mean James is any kinder about Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.
"Justin does 600 selfies a day!" jokes James who also comments on those designer suits Trudeau sports.
And about the new Tory leader Andrew Schneer? "His autobiography should be titled 50 Shades Of Beige."
It's been a rough personal year for James whose dad died in Niova Scotia aged 85.
"My Maritime roots are deep," he tells me. But these days his stage is the whole of Canada.
"I had a great 18-city stop in the west at the beginning of the year,." he chuckles.
He drives himself from venue to venue and finds Canadians everywhere supportive of his comedic talents.
"In the hotel room after the show I'll look for Canadian TV but even the Canadian stations run mostly U.S. programs except for those talk shows in the afternoon where all they do is comment on American entertainment."
After graduation from Acadia University James jumped to Second City in Toronto --his is a craft that has to be learned in front of a demanding audience.,
'Every show is just a little different, James says. "I get to know the audience and I play off them."
After the show they all want to take selfies which takes another hour. It's when they stop asking for selfies that I'll be scared.
These days the legalization of marijuana is one dicey topic.
James snorts Canadians' biggest question these days is "When can we smoke weed legally."
James agrees with me there's a rhythm to his performances. This hour was taped in Guelph before an appreciative audience.
When he had his weekly half hour skit series James says "I had to stay away from political humor because we were taping months in advance. Now it's no holds barred."
Like many would-be stars James drifted down to L.A. and got some work but nothing he couldn't do better back home.
"It's all about me, really," he laughs. "It's what bugs me, what scares me in this life. And brother there's a lot of that pit there. And I find the audience tends to agree with me."
Some of the reasons this hour works so well: executive producers James, Lynn Harvey and Paul Pogue, writers James, Pogue and Scott Montgomery, director Michael Watt,technical director Curt Fuglewicz, lighting designer James Downey.
Too bad we'll have to wait another yerar for the next James special.
RON JAMES: THE HIGH ROAD PREMIERES ON CBC-TV SUNDAY DECEMBER 31 AT 9 P.M.
REPEATS JAN. 2 2018 AT 8 P.M. ON CBC-TV.
MY RATING: ****.