gord disley headlining at Yuk Yuk's Superclub (2335 Yonge), March 14 to 18, Wednesday-Thursday and Sunday 8:30 pm, Friday-Saturday 8 and 10:30 pm. $10-$15. 416-967-6425; also appearing in Comedy Now,Sunday (March 11), 9 pm, on the Comedy Network; and April 7 at 10:30 pm on CTV.
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there are two kinds of stand- ups. Those who bide their time till they land that sitcom deal. And those who genuinely get off on the art form and want to stay with it forever.
Gord Disley is the second kind. Watching the downtown dude grab a mike, pace the stage and rant is like experiencing a law of nature. You can't imagine him doing anything else, even when he bombs. You get the feeling he wants to take the art form, and you, to different places.
As he's shown during his four years in the business, that place could be anywhere. Exploring why a teenage boy would fuck a chain-link fence. Logging on to the Internet to enter a goth chat group. Sending up his former Timmins schoolmate Shania Twain.
"Stand-up is the equivalent of somebody standing in the village square pontificating or spewing stuff, the way things used to be before all... this," says Disley, looking around at the shiny franchised cafe interior.
This week, Disley's career could take another turn -- uptown, and across the country.
Not only is the master of intelligent sarcasm headlining a week at Yuk Yuk's Superclub after years of playing the alt-comedy circuit, but he's also premiering his first Comedy Now special. He's suddenly in a strange limbo between indie success and mainstream national recognition.
"When you're a comedian in Toronto and you move up and they send you out of town through Yuk Yuk's, it's a real awakening," says Disley, downing his coffee.
"A lot of the older guys sit in clubs with their arms crossed saying, "Welcome to the burbs. The shit you do downtown doesn't apply.' To me, a great comic does whatever is necessary at the time," he says.
"I try my best to stick to my point of view and keep the percentage of personal compromises low."
It's clear, watching his Comedy Now special, that he hasn't compromised much. The show's called Gord Disley Uncensored, complete with the horny boy fucking the fence, a strangely inoffensive bit about "fags and decorating" and the image of Jean Chretien getting a blow job from a parliamentary page.
Sounds crude, sure, but Disley puts a hip, sophisticated and completely accessible spin on it all. He's likeable, yet keeps his edge.
"Older ladies have even come up to me after pretty extreme sets to shake my hand," he laughs. "I'm stand-up Jo-Anna Downey's mom's favourite comic. She walked up to me one night and said, "I don't appreciate swear words, but I really like the way you swear.'"
When he's away from edgier venues like the Rivoli and Clinton's, he's learned to be a little friendlier, a bit more self-deprecating.
"Otherwise, people might think I'm a complete psychopath," he says. "I've lost audiences the second I walked onstage simply because of the way I look."
The Disley look? He's way over 6 feet, lanky, with a strong jaw that juts out and long dark-brown dried-out dreads that hint at his affinity with Rasta.
"I look like Sandra Bernhard before rehab," he says.
Growing up French-Canadian and Irish in Timmins, he credits early Saturday Night Live for stoking his imagination, and names the usual suspects as inspirations: Pryor, Carlin, Bruce. But having played bass in the band Dogpile for years, and toured Europe twice, he has no illusions about the entertainment industry in this country.
"Things come, then disappear as quickly," he says. "Nothing happens till it happens. I'm not fatalistic, just realistic. I've realized, though, that there's very little in Canada that can hurt me. A lot of my best work is going to be done elsewhere."
He's not eager to grab at Hollywood's brass ring, except maybe to play a baddie or an edgy character in an indie short -- "something where they don't make me change my teeth."
Right now he's more concerned with stand-up. He wants to be able to take any audience, even a tired, after-work Friday audience, and drum them up. He's also having a ball with his new day job writing entertainment stories for Nakednews.com.
Later, he wants Carnegie Hall, like his idol Lenny Bruce.
"The longer it takes me to get there, the better I'll be when I am there," he says. "I want to have reams of material and a lot more stage experience before anyone with a lot of influence comes near me.
"I'm still very much a student of this shit -- which is the only really healthy attitude to have. The second you go, "Ah, I know it all,' you're fucked." *
2001 Shots Fired (CD);
Comedy Now (TV)
1999 First appearance at Yuk Yuk's Amateur Night
1998 Nominated for Tim Sims
Encouragement Fund Award
1997 Stand-up debut at the Oasis