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Comedians deliver pow to this snow job
You think dual citizen Neil Young is the only guy not happy with some of the decisions, primarily environmental, made by the current Canadian government?
Kelowna-raised comedian Pete Johansson, now based in England, has received an earful as of late from audiences upset about things like the Alberta tar sands while he has been touring around the U.K. and Europe.
But then, sometimes hecklers come with the territory of being a comedian.
“It’s enough to take that Canadian flag off our backpacks,” says Johansson, with a twinge of the oh, the irony shtick he delivers in his act.
“I’ve been confronted about what my country has done. Some say the last election was fixed. I tell them it’s like the Bush administration, the government is not who we are. They look at the economic benefits, where comfort has overtaken logic.”
But getting away from all that heavy political stuff, Johansson is looking forward to travelling through his old stomping grounds, where once pristine orchards have been dug up to make room for condos (his words.)
“Every time I come back to the Okanagan, I notice there’s no green space left. Is there any land zone commissioner still working there?,” he digresses.
As part of the sixth annual Snowed In Comedy Tour, it’s Johansson’s job to wax funny, along with his snowboard, when he takes the stage with fellow comedians Dan Quinn, Craig Campbell and Arj Barker.
The boys return to the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Friday, Feb. 7.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to come back to your home province and interact with Canadians,” he said. “I used to play crappy clubs, and now people get to come see us in theatres where we have to soar with sophistication and are given the focus. It’s a nice switch. I prefer sober audiences and the nimbleness of a sober mind.”
At 40, Johansson, like his fellow comedians, brings experience to the table. He has spent the past 24 years in the comedy biz.
It was in the Central Okanagan where he went through the growing pains that would later feed his comedy. And he remembers Vernon well. In fact, he says this city is one his favourite stops on the Snowed In tour.
“I used to play basketball against Vernon in the B.C. Under 16 team,” he said. “I liked Vernon more than Penticton: the south had their moronic parties, while the north seemed to be more laconic.”
However, before you southerners get your knickers in a knot, Johansson does admit that his favourite ski hill is Apex — in Penticton.
“You don’t have to dodge as many kids up there,” he explained, adding Sun Peaks in Kamloops is another favourite hill.
Like many youth itching to get out of their hometowns, Johansson eventually moved to the denser population of Vancouver, and then headed south of the border, before returning north.
It was around that time his girlfriend got a modelling contract in the U.K., so they made the move across the Atlantic.
That move proved to be fruitful, as Johansson was able to score a number of comedy gigs including appearances at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Comedy Store, and being nominated for Chortle’s (a U.K. comedy guide) best breakthrough act in 2010.
Johansson also returns home often.
Besides three years with the Snowed In tour, which has grown to 30 stops this year and heads to Europe after this Western Canada run, he has performed at Montreal’s Just for Laughs, the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, and on CBC’s The Debaters, where he once argued with fellow comic Sean Cullen on which is better, coffee or tea.
“It’s not hard to make a living as a comedian in England, it’s hard to make it in Canada. We’re too humble. We don’t like bravado and anything that sounds like we’re bragging. Self-promotion is seen as distasteful. We tend to make it somewhere else and then we come back,” said Johansson, adding, “The U.K. is beautiful and they love Canadians for our sarcastic humour.”
Johansson also loves to get back together with his fellow snowboarding comedians, whom he describes as all different and eclectic in their respective comedic and slope styles.
His former London flat-mate Barker, who once starred in HBO’s The Flight of the Conchords is a household name in Australia, where he now lives, and was brought on the tour three years ago by Johansson.
“He has one of the top selling DVDs in Australia and is incredibly funny,” he said.
“Dan is hard to describe. He has his finger on the pulse of Canada as he is based in B.C. Craig is an adventurer. He is a rock climber and has climbed Mt. McKinley and is going to Everest next year.”
As for himself, Johansson says he tries not to be preachy in his comedy, but he does like to point out and illustrate the things in the world that he thinks are absurd in his quirky and sarcastic way.
“I like to balance it with silliness,” he said, adding, “We all hope to bring some joy to the Okanagan.”
The Snowed In Comedy Tour is at the Performing Arts Centre Friday, Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 for adults (the show features some mature language and content) at the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.