"It's not like the '70s when everybody was ugly. Now there's people that look like they're on The O.C. that'll be
funnier than you. They're just showcasing the same seven minutes their whole life so they can just crank
it out perfectly every time and know every eyebrow arch in their whole goddamn act... I'm not bitter."
– John Beuhler
Guy MacPherson: So you're in Regina?
John Beuhler: Yeah.
GM: What are you doing?
JB: I'm doing a casino show. I'm opening for Brent Butt.
GM: He got you that gig?
JB: Yeah, I guess so. We're writing the Junos, so I guess he wanted to have someone who's writing with him, just for convenience sake. So in the daytime we can kinda write.
GM: How big a star is he now? Especially in Regina.
JB: In Regina it's amazing. Everybody's coming up to him. It's so annoying. I'm having questions about wanting to be any kind of famous, you know? Because he gets just the biggest, weirdest mouth-breathers coming up to him all the time. Just constantly.
GM: Richard Lett tells me he's getting great mileage out of slamming Corner Gas.
JB: Yeah, he's a funny one. Because he thinks he's trying to be an iconoclast, but he knows Brent so it's not really an icon he's slamming; he's slamming the dude that he knows.
GM: Did you work last night at the casino?
JB: Yeah. It was awesome. It went really, really well. It was about 800 people in this really new facility. It's really a nice place, with a follow spot and a great sound system and everything.
GM: So when you pace the stage, they're there.
JB: Yeah. I even did some wind sprints to test the guy.
GM: They're there to see Brent Butt, so how is it when you come on? Do they go, 'Hey, you're not Brent Butt!'
JB: They're pretty pissed. I'm dodging ashtrays on stage. No, they're okay. The first night, they had this local deejay and he goes, 'Hey folks, it's Brent Butt tonight!' And then he goes, 'But first there's this guy from Vancouver. Please welcome John Beuhler.' And literally said it like that. It was terrible. Brent said that the Kids in the Hall, when he used to open for them, it was the same kind of situation where the fans were just rabid fans and they didn't want to see anybody but the Kids in the Hall.
GM: How long do you do?
JB: Half an hour.
GM: How many are writing the Junos?
JB: I think it's me, Brent and Chris Finn.
GM: Everybody watched the Oscars because of Chris Rock. So Brent is our Chris Rock. How much comedy will there be? Because most of the show will be, 'And
now the winner for Best Fiddle Music...'.
JB: It's a music awards show, so I think it wouldn't be as much as maybe someone who's hosting a movie thing, or something like that. But it's still going to be really funny. If Brent's doing it, it's going to be good.
GM: And you'll be out there in Winnipeg?
JB: Yup, I'm going to Winnipeg.
GM: How long have you been doing standup?
JB: About eight years now.
GM: What was the first corner you turned when you moved to another level?
JB: I guess it was doing your first half an hour.
GM: Because when you start out, you have what? Ten minutes? Five minutes?
JB: When you start out, you have like five. Four to five. Everybody thinks they have more. It's so funny when you see younger guys go, 'Yeah, I got half an hour.' And then you realize it's not really a headliner quality half an hour because there are not enough laughs in it. And it's not good enough. When you get a solid half an hour and you do really well for half an hour, it's really... And then an hour.
GM: How long do you have now?
JB: I've done an album, so I'm trying to get away from doing stuff that I've done on the album because I'm really sick of it. I just want to grow a little bit more. I don't want to become like Richard Lett or something like. Like all those guys from the Old West with a covered wagon with all the pots and pans on it: 'I've got some jokes I've been collecting for years.' They're all old and useless. I want to keep it fresh and produce stuff and get stuff out there. ... I was trying to clean up a lot of stuff and get a lot of the stuff that I'd done earlier out. I recorded it last year and there was a Titanic joke on there, if that tells you how old some of the stuff was. I'm cleaning out the basement. I'm almost ready to do another one now.
GM: Because you have that much more new material?
JB: Yeah, I had a lot left over. Granted, it might be a little bit different stuff. It's a little newer. It might be a little edgier, too, and stuff that's a little more topical. I don't want to do jokes about universal shit all the time. Like cat and dog jokes are going to be good forever, but I don't want to tell them forever.
GM: What is your goal in your topics? Isn't comedy about the universal?
JB: Maybe 'universal' is a bad word. Maybe 'timeless' is better. I don't want to do jokes that have an unlimited shelf life.
GM: So you want things that are more relevant to people right away.
GM: But that kind of hurts if you're making a cd because a year goes by and people say, 'Oh, that's old.'
JB: Yeah, but jokes do have a shelf life. You can't just be stagnated and do the same stuff or you become like an old road guy who's telling the same joke for the thousandth time and wants to kill himself.
GM: Andrew Grose, every time you see him it's his anniversary.
JB: Yeah, and that's even more disillusioning if you watch him more than once. It's not just that, 'oh, he's telling the same joke', it's that he's lying bald-facedly. It's a different direction I want to go. I want to be cleaner and I want to be more topical. Because old dick jokes are not doing it for me anymore. The album is littered with them, though!
GM: How old are you?
JB: I'm 27 right now. Just turned.
GM: When did you win the Homegrown competition?
JB: I guess that was two years in. I was 21.
GM: Are you still with Kirk Talent?
JB: Yeah, definitely.
GM: Is that acting stuff or comedy stuff?
JB: That's for acting. I tell the joke that my agent's always telling me it's really slow for ugly guys right now. Which is basically the truth, you know? (laughs) It's like, 'It's so slow, it's really slow'. Meanwhile Sam [Easton] is going out for a million things.
GM: He's not exactly hot.
JB: He's got a look to him. He's got a little sump'in-sump'in.
GM: I guess.
JB: But you know what I mean. It's always slow or something, and then the part for John Belushi came up and I got an audition for that. Hey, nobody thinks I'm that attractive.
GM: Belushi's ugly brother... Are you a Yuk Yuk's comic?
JB: I wouldn't call myself a Yuk Yuk's comic. I work in their clubs, but I go eat at Tim Horton's and I'm not a Tim Horton's guy.
GM: What year did you move to Montreal?
JB: Two years ago, so 2003.
GM: And how long did you stay there?
JB: About a year and a half.
GM: You moved there because you wanted to get the festival?
JB: I was auditioning out here and nothing happens, nothing happens. 'Oh, we see people from all over the world. You've gotta be great to get the festival.' So I moved there and I get put on four different shows. And then from doing the four different shows, they're like, 'Oh, you ARE okay. Would you like to do a gala?' The whole showcasing system is so retarded.
GM: Is it because it's not an accurate reflection at what the comics can do in only five minutes?
JB: Especially Canadians. I mean, Americans are just so much better at just packaging everything and shaving the doorhandles off of it and being all slick and everything. Canadians take a more organic approach to standup and that's why they're more successful. If you can go through your whole act and eliminate every word that you don't really need, you become this really homogenous group that you see in LA all the time. You don't even know who's telling the joke. And the only reason this guy's different from this guy is because he's black or he's gay or this guy's got long hair or this guy's got a hat on. That sets people apart, right? They kind of polish their personality off of their jokes which is something I think the showcasing method really encourages. The States for me is not really... Especially when you go to LA, you go, 'Oh, okay, this isn't really standup.' It all just comes down to what you look like. That's pretty much what it's going to be. Espcially nowadays. It's not like the '70s when everybody was ugly. Now there's people that look like they're on The O.C. that'll be funnier than you. They're just showcasing the same seven minutes their whole life so they can just crank it out perfectly every time and know every eyebrow arch in their whole goddamn act... I'm not bitter.
GM: Most Canadian comics' goal is to get down to the States.
JB: Yeah, but there's a lot more people down there. I don't think people realize that even if you're hilarious you're still a flower and there are still going to be weeds around. They're not going to be as funny as you, but they're still going to be trying just as hard to get stage time, pulling out contacts, doing everything to kind of get what you want, too. And people don't know what they want, too. The standups are like, 'I dunno.' They want someone to come to them and go, 'Here, would you be in this show? Could we make a show about you?' Or 'Do you want to be in this movie?' When you go down enough, and you read enough of these goddamn scripts, it's like a dog that plays volleyball. And you're sweating it! That's the funny thing. You go home and you're like, 'I hope I get this! I really could use this movie right now.'
GM: It's all just about the money, isn't it?
JB: I guess so. It's so much garbage in LA. The people that do it are graduated from really good schools and stuff, but they just don't have any idea about how things work. Or they're not really great artists, or they're failed artists. You have to look at them and go, 'Be serious!' It's like, 'Yeah, I'm developing this show. It's a cooking pet show. It's for pets, but it's also cooking.' And they're like full of themselves. And you're like, 'Are you fucking kidding me? How can you be taking yourself so seriously?' I kind of more respect people that make something where they're from. Movies like Napolean Dynamite or Bottle Rocket or Clerks. Things like this are more the way to go rather than trying to get into some big budget thing.
GM: Have you had many TV or movie parts?
JB: I did a movie that Quintin Tarantino produced. It was probably one of the worst movies of all time. It was called Stark Raving Mad.
GM: Don't know it.
JB: (laughs) Well, it went straight to video. It was horrible. Lou Diamond Phillips was in it, if that's any indication.
GM: That should have set off some red flags. Did you have a big role?
JB: No, I was just a day player.
GM: A lot of standups use their act as a springboard to acting or writing, which you appear to do both of. What's your ultimate goal?
JB: To make films.
GM: Make as in direct, produce, act?
JB: Write, direct... I guess that's it. Or star in them, hopefully.
GM: No, you're too ugly for that.
JB: I know. I'm too ugly for movies. Yeah, it's true. They say Matt Damon can't be a leading man, I heard. I'm like, 'Fuck! What chance do I have then?'
GM: Have you written any scripts?
JB: Yeah, I've written a few. I had to go through a lot of the growing pains of it where you write a hundred pages and you realize, 'I don't have an ending.' Or something like that. You have to do a few of those and bump around. And I did another one that was terrible. Then you figure out, 'Oh, there has to be three acts.' And you learn about story structure. So I've gone through those now.
GM: Do you have any desire to go back to Montreal, now that you've spent some time there?
JB: I like the town. For a town that has the comedy festival, the comedy scene was a little bit light. But it's definitely a good place to go. I wouldn't go there in the winter again if you paid me, though. And I'm not kidding.
GM: Do you think it helped that you were out there and now people know you more?
JB: It comes down to really tangible things, is the only thing you can really get out of it. The guy who booked me at the gala has now changed positions in the company so it's not like I can call him anymore. It came down to just basically getting a gala tape. That's pretty much it. I got that tape, and that was good.
GM: Didn't you get representation, too?
JB: I've had about four or five managers in the past. That's the thing. If you're not in LA, what the fuck's the point of having a manager when you're in Vancouver? That's as far as it goes for me. They keep going, 'Oh yeah, you're great and blahbedy-blah and we'll do all this stuff.' I actually sat down with Paradigm. Paradigm really wanted me last festival. They sat me down and I made sure: 'You're not just going to shelf me, are you, like every other company does?' And they go, 'No, no.' And I go, 'You're not just shopping around to pick up people to justify your trip here or anything?' and they go, 'No, no, you're great, blahbidy-blah.' So now I can't get them on the
phone. Hollywood is so fucking retarded, oh my God. Everybody kinda wants to get on you when you're making money. Nobody wants to develop anybody because that takes money, right? And there are enough people that are already moving that they could get to give them ten percent or whatever. So it's not a place to develop, that's for sure.
GM: How did you get started in standup?
JB: I just went to an amateur night.
GM: What made you want to? Did somebody encourage you? Did you secretly want to do it?
JB: I guess everybody else thought I was going to do it. They thought it was the logical next step from just being a jackass in school, and writing a lot in school and doing comedy there. Not standup, but just stuff for plays and stuff like that in drama. I was always trying to be funny. I've always been a huge fan of it. I used to go to parties Saturday nights and I used to leave the party when everybody else was having a great time so I could go home and watch Saturday Night Live. Or find a room in the house and watch it. I was always a big comedy nerd.
GM: That was before VCRs?
JB: (laughs) There you go. I am dumb. You know what? I don't think taping it is very good. It's live, right, so half of it is seeing it live and knowing that you're up late Saturday night. My dad used to always say, 'Well, you could tape it and watch it tomorrow morning', but it's not Sunday morning material.
GM: No, because cartoons are on.
GM: They used to show Letterman the next day at 4:30 in the afternoon. It just didn't work.
JB: Yeah, exactly. You didn't feel right. Yeah, so it was just a logical progression of wanting to go in... My dad took me to my first standup act when I was on a cruise ship.
GM: Do you remember who it was?
JB: No. I think it was some nameless American fellow. It was supposed to be the X-rated comedy show and literally he said 'fuck' twice. And that was X-rated.
GM: How old were you?
JB: I wasn't old enough to be watching it. I think I was 13. And we went up to Lafflines to watch some people. Saw Darryl Lenox and Kerry Talmage. We went to an amateur night, too, and the guys that were on amateur night were terrible. And it was kind of a negative way to get into it, which I'm not really proud of, but I was like, 'I could do that! I could do better than that guy.' (laughs) That was my motivation.
GM: If your dad had done it all over again, you think he would have wanted to get into it?
JB: He wasn't very funny at all.
GM: Really! But he liked going?
JB: He really liked trying to make people laugh but he wasn't that funny. That's the biggest sin you can do is try to be funny and not be funny. You can not be funny or be funny, but if you try and you're not, you look like a big tool.
GM: Is your mom funny?
JB: My mom's really funny but she doesn't feel the need to be funny. My dad would tell a joke and it wouldn't be funny; then my mom would tell a joke every month and it would be hilarious.
GM: Do they like your comedy?
JB: My dad doesn't so much now that he's dead. (laughs)
GM: Did he?
JB: Yeah, he was a big supporter. He was one of my biggest fans.
GM: And your mom?
JB: She thinks it's too blue. She would like something that she could tell her friends at school. That's her big thing. 'Write something I can at least tell my
friends. They can't listen to your album. It's disgusting.'
GM: Is that one of the reasons you want to go cleaner?
JB: I find it's too easy right now. I'm really more aware now of the shock laugh as opposed to the actual good laugh. I mean, I think I have some smart shocking jokes and some smart dirty jokes, but I can really now tell the difference. Especially when watching other people. And when I'm writing. 'Am I writing a story about animal rape? Why am I doing this? Is this funny? This isn't funny, it's just can-you-believe-he-said-that? kind of thing.' Which, you know, being a class clown and stuff like that half of your jokes are that, right? 'Can you believe he said that about the teacher?!' 'I can't believe he just made that noise!' or whatever.
GM: Is it hard to transition now?
JB: It's definitely very hard. I'm having a really difficult time with it.
GM: Did you start out at Lafflines?
JB: My first show was February 13th at Lafflines and I did really well. Then Mark Dennison said that I could come back and do the next day, which was the Friday, and I was like, 'Oh my God! I can't believe it!' Valentine's Day was the next day. The last thing they wanted to see was me going up there; a little zit-faced 19-year-old. They all just wanted to finish off their dates pretty much.
GM: What's your worst gig ever?
JB: There are terrible ones that come along. I had to do a show for 350 senior citizens who had been on a bus tour from Toronto to Montreal that was supposed to take five hours but there was a snow storm so it took like eight or nine hours. And they were dead tired and had been in the bus all day. And they put me on before dessert. So they had just finished eating and they all wanted to go to sleep. There's people shaking, there's people with Band-aids on their face, tremors. Very, very old people. And very, very hungry for dessert and did not want to hear about bank machine jokes and shit like that because they literally had no idea what I was talking about. Debit card? Or Interac card? Or bank card? What? There was a lady in the front row who had been married for 63 years. It was the record so we had her on the front stage. It was terrifying. I got like literally no laughs for about a half an hour. Literally nothing. And the lady who booked the whole thing sat at the side of the stage shaking her head at me. And I was like, this is obviously a fucking terrible misbooking. This is the fault of my manager; this isn't anybody else's fault. And the biggest problem was that I had to come back the next night and do the other half of the group, which was another 350 people the same age.
GM: Did it go any better?
JB: Well, I got in trouble because 1) they said I talked too fast the first show. And I said 'God' twice. They couldn't take that. The second show, the whole day my agent was telling me, 'I guess you're not a corporate comedian, blah blah blah. I guess this isn't going to work out.' This is my first time being on my own in a different province. I don't have any safety net; I'm living hand-to-mouth. So I can't lose this job. So I go on the internet and download a bunch of clean street jokes. It was probably the worst feeling in my stomach I've ever had going into the second show. It was a cross between getting sent down to the principal's office, going in for a root canal and having to fight a bully all rolled into one. That kind of sick feeling in your stomach of 'I don't want this to happen; I don't want to do this for another half an hour.' And I went out there and went, 'Who's got adorable grandchildren?' They're all clapping. I asked one guy where he was from and he's like, 'I'm from Oakville.' And then almost everybody in the whole room told me where they were from, unsolicitedly.
GM: That's good. It filled up the half hour.
JB: It was great. And I was like, 'Do you think this hotel has too many elevators?' Because it was kind of confusing; there was one elevator to the parking garage and one to their room. 'Oh, yes.' They loved me so much: 'There's way too many. It's complicated!' They're giving me high-fives with IV's in their arm and shit.
GM: So it was a happy ending.
JB: Yeah, but the first show, I swear to God, you want to put your head in front of a shot gun, you know? Terrifying.
GM: Would the Gala count as your biggest or best gig?
JB: Yeah, 2200 people.
GM: And you did so well.
JB: I did all right. I don't think I did great; I just did well for the night because the night was so weird.
GM: You're trying to clean up your act, and I also notice you're taking a page out of the Brent Butt-Irwin Barker book of dressing for success.
JB: I'd never been a guy who can't wear a tie or 'Get this off me!' I'm out of church now so I'll rip all these clothes off me. But I like being Don Cherryesque.
GM: I think it also helps create this image of being a professional. Even when Brent was performing in front of ten people at the downtown Well, he always came on in a suit.
JB: Yeah, you wish you'd only be judged on your merit but it definitely makes a difference. The Hives are a band that went on David Letterman and they all had suits on. They were just rocking like crazy, flipping around and having a great time, and after they came off, David Letterman was like, 'That's just great. They come out and they look all good in their suits. That's just a great group right there.' The older crowd kind of really appreciate it. And girls, too. My girlfriend says she really likes me in suits. So that's when it started.
GM: Who are your comedy heroes? I know you have Alfred E. Newman on your biceps. Any now that you just worship?
JB: I'm a big Andy Kindler fan. I like Dave Attell quite a bit. Andy Kindler's probably my favourite. He's really inside. Paul Irving is a guy from Toronto. He's an extremely funny guy. Very, very out there. Hits you with left hooks all the time. We have just a lot of really great comics in town, too. Irwin Barker is hilarious. Brent Butt, obviously. Pete Kelamis is very, very funny. Pretty much the guys I play poker with.
GM: How does the Vancouver comedy scene compare with the rest of the country? Our little fledgling scene that everyone ignores.
JB: It's the best that I've seen. I haven't seen all that Toronto has to offer, admittedly, but from what I've seen, Vancouver has the most.... We just got a new crop of hilarious guys a little while ago. The Jeffrey Yus and Graham Clarks and stuff. And there's even another group coming up now that I just saw that are going to be really great. It was an amateur night on Wednesday at Yuk Yuks. But the amount of people that I saw that were obviously going to be very good is kind of frightening for an old guy who's been doing it for a while.
GM: An old 27-year-old guy?
JB: When I first came into it there were a lot of guys that were getting a little bit nervous. And they would give you the whole, 'Nice show. Yeah, I don't try to kill all the time. You don't really learn a lot by killing.' I got that a lot.
GM: Are you more supportive of the young guys?
JB: I'm definitely known as being an asshole to a lot of them, which I think is pretty necessary to dissuade the ones that you can tell are just going to be wasting their time.
GM: What about the ones you mentioned, Jeffrey Yu and Graham Clark, that you think are good?
JB: No, I like them. I'm very supportive of them. It's just a personal thing where I have to learn that not everybody's in it for the same reason. But my feeling is that you're in it as just a hobby, you're kind of in the way of the people that are meant to do it. The people that do the same jokes night after night. You know what I mean? The person will do the same five minutes because they want to be on stage. They're making it look like that's what it is. They're bringing the level down. People that will go and do gigs for extremely cheap money are devaluing it. They're doing bad work, and by doing bad work, they're giving the whole art form a bad reputation.
GM: So you turn down gigs if the money isn't where it should be.
JB: Yeah. I just turned down an $800 gig just a while ago.
GM: That's not enough?!
JB: Not if it's in Saskatoon. A guy told me that in San Francisco: You start getting what you deserve when you start saying no. ... At a certain point, I'm going to put the suit on, I'm going to do corporates, I'm going to work harder at it, I'm going to promote better, and I'm not going to take crap gigs. I've been doing this for eight years. It's all fun and games for a while, and you're like, okay, this is just a reason for me to go out and drink and smoke. But you gotta really kind of work at a certain point. It's all kind of part and parcel of how I'm feeling now and wanting to get married and stuff.
GM: Is that on the horizon?
JB: Hopefully. If my girlfriend wises up.
GM: Little Johnny's all growed up.