Comedians make a living making people laugh, which usually means making fun of people and things. There's a sort of hierarchy of comedy in my mind. On the lower level, there's making really basic and stereotypical observations about groups of people or a mundane activity (see: 'Bitches be crazy' jokes, Airplane/poop jokes, and Kevin Hart). Then there's taking things that happen in your life and being able to apply a comedic lens, which is more storytelling than anything (Jerry Seinfeld, anyone?).
Finally, there are comedians who stretch our brains and their own by either taking a mundane joke and using it to make commentary on our societal values (see: any Louis C.K. joke) or making up something ridiculously absurd. This kind of comedy takes creativity and more than just an observational eye or a loud voice to shout punchlines. This is the kind of comedy that has fuelled Mark Forward's career.
"Every comedian's just an extension of themselves. So you can get away with the stuff you think or you though and wouldn't say normally in public. You pay to have me say the stuff you're not allowed to say or don't say or get in trouble for saying," Forward says. "It's just an over accentuated you on stage. But in my case, nothing I say on stage is real."
Forward's decision to keep his private life private and rely on characters and outrageous bits definitely is not the norm in our culture of compulsive oversharing and voyeurism. But it hasn't hurt Forward's work. "It would be a lot easier to write jokes based on my life, so I sort of have to find humor out of nowhere," he says. This can be tricky when looking for inspiration to strike. When asked what his process is for writing jokes, he is just as dumbfounded as to what the heck inspired a joke as his audience is. "I don't know where they came from and I don't know if there are anymore coming. I'm terrified constantly that that's it."
Forward has been garnering interest since he was a Phil Hartman Award finalist in 2000, followed by winning the Best Stand-Up Newcomer in the ’05 Canadian Comedy Awards. 2014's not a bad year for Forward either - the album he released this year, Things I Thought, has received rave reviews. He's just wrapped up his last season as the truly psychotic librarian Mr. Leung on popular CBC comedy Mr. D and post-production has started on his latest film project with Community’s Alison Brie, No Stranger Than Love. He's taking some time now to tour his standup and NOT star in commercials (he's been in 96).
This is Forward's second time in Winnipeg this spring and he's excited to return. "I love Winnipeg, I really do,” he says. “I love you guys during the show and after the show. You and Ottawa, after a show, you will go home and look me up. It's very un-Canadian. Most Canadians will go, 'He's good. He'll be fine. What was his name? Greg something?'"
Published in Volume 68, Number 26 of The Uniter (May 7, 2014)