Shine those Shoes

Edmonton comedian Lars Callieou at a Comedy Monday Night gig in Calgary. Callieou will make a return appearance at the Ride For Dad Comedy Night at the Coast High Country Inn, January 17–19. PHOTO: James Moore


Canadian comics Lars Callieou and Derek Seguin will share headlining duties at the annual Ride For Dad Comedy Night in mid-January

If you’re a budding comedian who’s burning to go on the road with Lars Callieou, pay attention to your appearance.

Oh, and don’t forget to show up for the sound check.

These are some of the signs of professionalism the Edmonton comic looks for in performers who open for him.

“It’s a byproduct of what I learned from my parents, who were musicians. Be professional. Show up on time, iron your shirt and shine your shoes.”

As a world-travelled headliner with tons of career accolades to confirm the meaning of his first name—“crowned with laurel”—Callieou has usually been in the envious position of choosing who gets to share a stage (or a tour) with him.

“Because I had been fortunate enough to work as much as I have, I would always pick the guys and gals who were working the hardest,” he explained.

“There’s so much great talent in Canada. If I work with somebody and I know that they don’t care, they don’t treat it with a certain respect, then I just don’t work with them again. You just go to the next name on the list.”

At the age of 41, Callieou has been performing full-time since 2009, but started doing stand-up five years before that. He and Montreal comic Derek Seguin will headline Ride For Dad Yukon’s sixth annual Comedy Night in Whitehorse next month. This will be Callieou’s second stint headlining the local fundraiser for prostate-cancer awareness and research. He has also made two other tour stops in the territory, not to mention visits to more than 25 other countries.

“Every day I wake up and I find it surreal that I get to do this thing for a living. It’s unbelievable. I go from the Yukon back to Australia, back to Asia, back to Lloydminster. It’s all the hotspots of comedy.”

Asked about his unusual moniker, which juxtaposes a Scandinavian given name with a Norman French surname that contains all the English vowels, Callieou automatically defaulted to funny.

“It’s actually a stage name. I wanted something that’s really hard to spell and difficult to remember,” he laughed.

Among the A-list comedians Callieou has worked with are the likes of Jeff Foxworthy and the late, legendary Joan Rivers, whose people first spotted him when he was opening for Martin Short.

“The set went well, and after I walked off the stage, the entertainment staff of the venue said, ‘We’ll be sending you the contract for Joan Rivers tomorrow.’”

He later toured Canada three times with the famously acerbic Rivers, whom he still admires for the respect she showed her fellow performers.

“She used local musicians, local comedians, and always made sure your name was on all the promo. If there was a billboard or a newspaper article, your name was on it as well, and you got the same star on your dressing room that she had on hers,” he said.

“She was so gracious, and she didn’t need to be. She could have been a diva, she could have been a prima donna, but she was so appreciative, and she loved comedy. Gosh, I miss her all the time. She was as good as they get. I was lucky.”

Despite his appreciation of the late star’s graciousness, Callieou reverts to mock harshness when reminded that many Canadian comics credit him with also treating opening acts as his equals.

“The interesting part is that none of them are. These peons are really so far below me that it’s so nice to make them feel special, because they’re a bunch of nobodies,” he said, with a hearty laugh that echoed down the phone line from Edmonton.

“You’ve got to pick them up and carry ’em, because they’re not going to do anything with their lives, so make them feel special for a couple of hours,” he spoofed.

At this year’s Ride For Dad, Callieou will share the three-night bill with the bilingual Seguin, one of Canada’s hottest comedy commodities. There will also be three Whitehorse “host” comedians on hand. They are veteran George Maratos and relative newcomers Steph Aubé and Oshea Jephson. According to co-chair Sean Secord, a third evening was added this year, after both Friday and Saturday shows sold out last year. The change came at the request of sponsors looking for something a little more intimate than the regular 600-seat show.

“They said they’d kind of like something a bit more relaxed, so this year we added the Thursday night and capped it 200 people, and charged a bit more for the tickets.

That ticket price also includes hors d’oeuvres and table service, adding a “little bit of a different feel,” Secord said.

The Ride For Dad comedy fundraiser will take place from Thursday to Saturday, January 17 to 19 at the Coast High Country Inn, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

As for the content, Secord says it could vary from night to night.

“People like Lars and Derek, who have been doing this for a while, tend to play to their audience. They’ll try something to see how it goes over, and go down a different road a bit more when they see the reaction from the crowd.”


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