Acclaimed comic Steve Patterson, named the 2011 and 2013 Stand-Up Comedian of the Year, makes a City stop this month.
The host of CBC Radio’s comedy show The Debaters performs at the Memorial Centre Sept. 27th. Though most familiar to more than 750,000 weekly listeners as the host of The Debaters, it is as an international headline stand-up comedian where Patterson truly shines.
But before his knack for comedy flourished, he had his sights set on being a lawyer.
“I had to give it a go because I had a scholarship, but I decided it just wasn’t for me.”
A business degree led to an advertising stint, which inadvertently ended up providing him with inspiration for a full-time career in stand-up in 1997 when he lost his job as a copywriter for making an ad about an amusement park ‘too amusing’.
“I started doing amateur nights when I was at York University, but never thought about comedy as a possible career,” he explains. “And the only reason I got into advertising was because it gave me the chance to be sort of funny and still have a regular job. Then I realized I would rather be ‘funny-funny’ than just ‘advertising sort-of funny’.”
He also realized much of his comedic work in advertising would never see the light of day because clients just wouldn’t take a chance on it. “When I became my own boss, I knew that the only people who could tell me that something wasn’t funny were the audiences at my shows, and if that happens it could make me feel bad – but at least I’d have the chance to say something funny right after that.”
Patterson was the kind of kid who indeed liked to joke around. “If you can make the teacher laugh, you don’t get in trouble.” Some teachers would even give him time to read out loud to the class and let his imagination take flight with all kinds of humourous anecdotes. “If you can figure out a way to make the powers that be laugh, then everyone will laugh, and that certainly extends to corporate shows. If you can make the boss laugh, then everyone feels better.”
At home, his skilled were honed that much further. “It was an Irish household so there was lots of laughter, lots of storytelling and lots of embellishing of things that weren’t really true. I also have four older brothers, who would all consider themselves better comedians than I am.”
Patterson has since performed across Canada, as well as Australia, Ireland, Switzerland, the UK, the U.S. and even the United Arab Emirates. Performing in Ireland and Australia – and of course Canada – are especially enjoyable because folks in these countries can honestly laugh at themselves.
By 2010, accolades for his work garnered him a third invitation to perform on the Just For Laughs televised gala. Considered to be the highlight of the show by critics and audiences alike, Patterson’s performance prompted the comedy icon and gala host Steve Martin to quip, “If I’d known he was going to be that good, I would have cancelled him.”
Patterson went on to be named Canada’s Best Male Stand-Up Comic at the Canadian Comedy Awards in 2011 and again at the most recent awards in 2013.
This September, Patterson begins the final leg of a national tour with his one man show – ‘This Is Not Debatable!’
With his gift for capturing a funny turn of phrase, he seizes the opportunity to express opinions he doesn’t get to voice as moderator of The Debaters while throwing in a couple of original satirical songs to boot.
He’s open to fresh ideas breaking into his stream of consciousness, too. It’s not all firmly scripted – there’s plenty of spontaneity to spice up the mix. “Billy Connolly is probably my favourite comedian to see live – he knows how he’s going to start the show, and he knows how he’s going to end the show, but you can tell when he goes so far off book that he doesn’t even know what he’s going to say next.
“So he’s actually creating comedy on the spot. I think people appreciate that,” he says. “I really like that kind of comedy. I also love commenting on what’s going on in the room every night.
“I like doing a mixture of written material and reacting to what’s going on in the crowd that night.”
Meanwhile, other film and TV highlights over the years include the Just for Laughs: Montreal Comedy Festival in 2001, Comedy Now! (2003), the Halifax Comedy Festival, Stranger at the Door (2004), Just for Laughs (2006), the Great Canadian Laugh Off and the CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival.
As to being named Stand-Up Comedian of the Year twice, Patterson said the designation is very meaningful. “It’s a nice shot in the arm to know that there are people who do what you do that respect it. It’s a nice show of support.”
For tickets or more information about his Red Deer show, call the Black Knight Ticket Centre at 403-755-6626 or visit www.blackknightinn.ca.