Comedian finds there’s no place like home
Globe-trotting comedian John Johnston says Langford has changed so much in the 15 years since he last played in his hometown that some of his jokes might not have the same punch.
Take his classic: “There’s a lot of money in Langford — if you cash in all the empties,” a joke that always gets the laughs.
“I guess I’ll have to change that to Sooke,” quips Johnston, whose standup show April 22, 8 p.m. at the Langford Legion is a fundraiser for the African Preschools Society, the charity he and his wife, Marianne Schaubeck, founded in 2001, and for West Shore Literacy programs.
“You can’t pick on Langford like you used to. We used to be the butt of all jokes, but now everyone wants to be here,” he says.
“There are traffic jams in Langford now, and more Range Rovers and Land Rovers instead of four-wheel-drive Corvettes.”
Johnston, whose charity’s longtime supporters include Langford Mayor Stew Young, clearly loves his home base.
The comedian also recently learned he’s something of a star on the West Shore.
He was amused to overhear a paving-crew employee say: “Hey, that’s where Johnny Bagpipes lives!” while working in his neighbourhood, referring to Johnston’s bagpipes-blasting alter ego.
“I guess I’m famous, or a has-been,” says Johnston, happy that “there’s still some old-school Langford” to lampoon, such as junk being dumped on the side of the road he lives on.
“I was on my way to Tim Hortons and I saw a three-legged table and by the time I came back it was gone,” he recalls incredulously.
“It’s a treat to be back, honestly,” he says. “I’m looking forward to doing a show where parents can take the kids to see me. That’s how long I’ve been doing this.”
He says his comedy self-esteem took a beating at an audition event for comedians seeking cruise-ship gigs in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where candidates got nine minutes to do their act in front of 1,500 people.
“All the cruise-ship companies are there to see you, but it seemed like all the audience was 80-plus,” he said. “They did not laugh.”
Not that this concerns the steadily employed comic, whose longevity in a fiercely competitive business is not the norm.
Johnston has made people laugh around the world at comedy festivals and on cruise ships to destinations including Alaska, Australia, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Jamaica and Hawaii.
He has also performed in B.C. logging camps, in Alberta oilfields, for thousands of fans at the Calgary Stampede and at an Oregon prison where inmates were not pleased he couldn’t play James Brown.
He says he has learned some lessons on the corporate and cruise-ship circuit.
“Clean [humour] pays,” says Johnston, who has also performed his share of uncensored material at nightclubs such as Yuk Yuk’s and in Las Vegas.
“You can’t even say the “S” word or you will offend someone in HR. It can be kind of frustrating.”
After saying “Are you guys still alive?” when he noticed that three front-row vacationers had apparently fallen asleep during a cruise-ship gig, he learned another lesson.
“Don’t pick on our best customers,” the cruise-ship director told him. Oops.
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