Ali Eisner’s double play

Rating: NNNNNAli Eisner doesn't bill herself as anything. So you can call her a singer who's funny, or a comedian.


Rating: NNNNN

Ali Eisner doesn’t bill herself as anything. So you can call her a singer who’s funny, or a comedian who plays music or an actor who makes people laugh just by playing herself.

And comedy bookers, whose greatest fear is having a show lag energy-wise, salivate at the notion of Eisner injecting their motley lineups with an absurd dose of oft-needed adrenaline.

That she’s primarily a songwriter by trade isn’t an issue. Her bawdy true-life tales are showstoppers. Even at straight-up music gigs, she banters with crowds in an attempt to inspire them to enjoy their lives. While she’s never told a joke in her life, her anecdotal style draws ’em in like flies. And she loves people.

“Life is serious, I know,” says Eisner, who can be seen singing her upbeat original tunes and spinning her humorous yarns at the Pirate Video Cabaret on Sunday (June 25) at Clinton’s.


Freakin’ funny

“Humour just makes it easier for people to swallow. It’s always worked for me. Man, you’d fuckin’ kill yourself if you didn’t have a sense of humour. Take things too seriously and you’ll freak out.”

Which she almost did at York University, where the anti-funny mind-set drove her right out of the program. Eisner longed for a learning situation wherein her irrepressible personality could shine. So she enrolled in Second City classes, where more than anything else she learned to be true to herself, damn the consequences.

“I needed to find a place where I was allowed to be funny,” she says. “Second City was perfect. I got to do all my silly characters and be as loud as I wanted. It was there I learned to listen to myself. And once I did, it was a fucking chain reaction. Good things started happening every month.”

First of all, fellow SC student and now E-Now host Paul Maguire told her about open auditions at YTV, which led to her stint as host of the Brainwash series. The Fox Family Channel saw her and hauled her out to L.A. to host two kids’ shows. She says we don’t have enough space for her to adequately dis that town.


Broad embrace

Back home, she’s opened for Sandra Shamas, appeared at 1998’s Lilith Fair and embarked on a project for CBC, Ali Eisner’s Random Acts Of Kindness, to air “sometime” this summer.

And between comedy shows at venues from the Rivoli to the Laugh Resort, she’s working on her first album for Virgin Records. Next week she heads north to host the Dawson City Music Festival.

Eisner’s no fool. She’s fully aware that by embracing comedy freaks as enthusiastically as music lovers, and straights as well as gays, she broadens her fan base far beyond limits anyone may try to impose.

“Music’s my first love, sure,” she says. “It’s my passion. But I don’t like to say, ‘I do this.’ I think it’s sad when people are afraid to try something new just because they’re afraid to fail or be rejected. I wanna try everything at least once.

“Like the Triple Threat show a week or so ago with Sandra and Shoshana Sperling. It was a wicked night. I talked a lot and gave away a flute from the stage and a couple of people came up and grabbed my ass. It was great.

“And take Rhubarb!, for example. It was wild. I got hit on a lot.”

darylj@nowtoronto.com

ALI EISNER, part of the PIRATE VIDEO CABARET, with the ATOMIC FIREBALLS, RODNEY PENTLAND and SAM EASTON, at Clinton’s (693 Bloor West), Sunday (June 25) at 9:30 pm. $5. 535-9541 and at the El Mocambo (464 Spadina), June 29. 968-2001.

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