…or Todd Van Articles

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Goodbye, Home Club

There’s only one thing I hate more than receiving unwelcome news. It’s receiving it from Brian Hope. This past weekend I got the word that the Absolute Comedy club in Kingston has closed for good.


Over the course of this pandemic, thousands of venues were hit hard to the point of closing. I knew it was inevitable, but you always hope that the places you love will survive, that that piece of you that they hold will remain. Sadly, not this time.

The Kingston Absolute meant so much to me for varied reasons.

2021 Good Stuff


2021 sucked. It sucked more than 2021 and will probably suck a little bit less than 2022. So we have that going for us. It is easy to really get tied down with all the negativity and garbage that 2021 had to offer us. Ontario now sporting over 14,000 cases of COVID to round out the year. A politically polarized population that is as binary in its thinking as a refrigerator light switch. The fact Tiger King 2 is a thing.

It’s easy to drown in this. But one thing I do every year around this time is I review a list I keep throughout the year on my phone. Whenever something worthy of noting that was positive or an accomplishment worth remembering, I jot it down in a note on my phone. All year I update this list whenever something good happens. You’d be surprised in a year of rhino_taking_dump.gif, some bits of light creep in from the shadows. Here’s some of the good stuff that happened in 2021 that I have taken from my list.

Rest In Peace, Norm

Tuesday, I got a message from my friend Garnet Fraser, a writer with the Toronto Star. The message began “I don’t know how the Norm news is hitting you…”. I knew none of this “Norm” business he mentioned, but just the one name was enough for me to google “Norm Macdonald”. And then the articles came pouring into my laptop.

It was announced that Norm Macdonald had passed away at the age of 61 after a “battle with cancer” (Norm’s words from a bit about his uncle, but yet fittingly about him). A wave hit me with every post, and this feeling that the world at this moment was now less funny. And the world knew it. Better Than Ezra posted condolences remarking that Norm’s joke about them on SNL’s “Weekend Update” was one of the best jokes he’d ever written for the segment. They were right.

Garnet warned me that I might get a call from one of the Star writers looking for comics to talk about Norm’s influence and sure enough, I got one. I talked with Donovan Vincent about my run-ins with Norm, his legendary status in the community, and what made him great, and got choked up in the process. I had a couple of sentences make their way into the article that you can read HERE.

When I started out in comedy in the year 198-none-of-your-goddamned-business I was raw, dumb, and eager. I’d watch every comic that I had the chance to. I would make sure that I saw every comic that came to town at least once so I could watch and learn. When Norm came to town, you ran to the club and cancelled your plans for every night that weekend.

The Joy of Context

The other day I was poking through Twitter, a wise thing to do always, and I came across a reply that comedian Nathan Macintosh sent to another comic. The original tweet was sent by comedian Collie Tyrrell:

“All I ever wanted to do was tell jokes about my soft dick. I never wanted to know about microphones and computers or any of this dumb shit. I’m quitting comedy and moving back to Ireland. Fuck you all.”

Nathan replied to this with:

“Made me laugh”.

It was all I could do to not reply to this with:


I didn’t. Why not? Collie’s post was both funny and heartfelt. It told a truth which anchors the joke. Nathan’s reply reads as a statement to a friend stating that he got the subtext of the joke. It’s also a lovely set-up for a punchline of “Finally.” which makes it seem like Collie’s got bigger issues with his comedy than his technophobic leanings. Sure, it’d be funny.

The problem is, I don’t know Collie. I don’t know his comedy. I know Nathan, and a reply to him would be funny to us, but it’s at the expense of Collie who I don’t know. To Collie, I’m just some prick on the internet sticking his nose in where it doesn’t belong. Which I am at this point.

Is the “Finally.” joke funny? Sure, if I knew both Nathan and Collie. But I’m an outsider and this joke is out of context, and context is the thing that every joke needs. There’s a lot of jokes being made out there without the necessary context being provided. You need the context as a foundation to lay your joke on. If you don’t have the context, you don’t have a joke. And what makes life even more hellish for comics, is there’s several contexts that you need to consider before pushing a joke out of your mouth.

Here’s a few to consider.


There’s Always a Minefield

Heeeeeeeeere we go.

In a recent New York Post article, Billy Crystal was promoting his latest film co-starring Tiffany Haddish called “Here Today” about a man suffering from dementia. In the article he talks about the film, how he himself was touched by caring with someone with dementia and how heartbreaking it is. He talked about his career and the characters that he played and how he attempted to imbue them all with a sense of redeeming humanity. It’s an albeit short article about a man whose comedy career spans six decades. I would have loved there to be more, but this is the New York Post, where memes are too wordy. But the focus has been about this one quote:

“It’s becoming a minefield and I get it,” the comedian told The Post. “I don’t like it, I understand it … I just keep doing what I’m doing and that’s all you can do right now.

“It’s a totally different world [now] and it doesn’t mean you have to like it,” he added, with a laugh.

Cue the maelstrom. Another woke-online-social-justice-warrior-cancel-culture attempt to take an old white man down. Billy Crystal’s stand-up (And yes, he was a stand-up. Kid’s ask your parents…to ask your parents) was one of the defining works that steered me towards comedy. His comedy was like his acting: energetic, topical, and funny. The man is undeniably talented.

But now he provides another inflammatory talking point that will circulate for weeks before fizzling out like a sparkler on grandpa’s birthday cake. PC culture is killing comedy. A quick google of the words “comedian”, “PC” and “Culture” brings back a haystack of articles, some dating back as far as 1997 (Thank you Bill Maher). “Why can’t we take a joke?” “We’re too sensitive!” “How come I can’t say the n-word?” Sure, we’ve been dealing with PC Culture for a while. Not quite as long as the marginalized communities that were made fun of loooooong before that, mind, but yeah, PC Culture has been here for a bit. So, Crystal’s film junket blurb interview is now overtaken by a quote stating he doesn’t like what he sees in comedy today. He says this while co-starring with a woman who is making great comedy today. So, good. “[Comedy] is becoming a minefield”. He’s not right, but he’s also not wrong. Here’s why.