Chris Hearn tracks down fellow Canadian, comic Scott Porteous, to talk about the art of comedy and being blacklisted.
Winnipeg, Canada has an ever growing comedy scene packed with some excellent, national level talent. Yes, there most definitely are a lot of funny people in this city, and for good reason. When itâs -30 Celsius outside, you canât help but try to laugh at something, or youâll never stop crying.
Scott Porteous is a reliable, dedicated constant on the scene. The bespectacled, gangly, awkward, youthful looking computer gamer nerd-esque Porteous really is a funny guy, and is so in almost a naturally awkward way. And he knows well how to harness his own awkwardness. âWell I’ve always been awkward in front of people. It’s got to the point where I feel more comfortable when I’m uncomfortable (laughs). For a while I tried controlling every movement and it wasn’t really genuine. For the past couple of years I really just embraced it and let things happen genuinely. I don’t try to be awkward anymore because I am awkward.â And as far as I am concerned itâs paying off.
He got his first break at an open mic night at Rumourâs Comedy Club in Winnipeg. âI was always into the art of stand up. I remember watching âJust for Laughâsâ reruns and really enjoying the craft of a joke. It wasn’t âtil April 28th, 2003 when I first hit the stage. The rush I got from performing that night and having people laugh at my jokes, nothing has even come close to that.â
Ironically, for a while, Scott was blacklisted from the place. âAt one point when I first started, I performed at almost every open-mic at Rumors by fluke and it was really supposed to be on a 3-4 month rotation. A year and half later the owner discovered this and addressed one of his emcees to tell me “For the amount of time that I’ve been doing it I should be better and I can’t do any open-mics there anymore.”â Ouch, so, how does one deal with that? By going back and becoming a finalist in one of their big, yearly contest events, âWinnipegâs Funniest Person with a Day Job.â He literally got the last laugh on that one.
And now, itâs been ten years since starting out. How does one mark something like that? âI was looking into booking a show where I could do a 30 minute feature. I would like to have a handful of comics that really helped me out through my journey on the show, which is difficult because there were many.â But, on reflection, he did want to point out that, âI don’t like to say ‘headliner’ because I feel that’s a title that must be earned and not just thrown out through coincidence.â Well, dude, it is your own show, and you have been at it for ten years. I think you can break out that word.
But this statement pointed out one important sentiment that I got from Scott, that he has a real respect for stand-up comedy. âWell I consider it both an art form and a science. When you come up with a joke itâs usually something of a personal opinion, questions, frame of mind, etc. But you could also write that joke with a basic formula. I’m not saying there is a right or wrong way of doing stand-up. I’m just saying it’s not one of those subjects that you can just use one word to define.â And, if there is one thing you can say for Scott itâs that he treats comedy quite seriously, constantly showing up at open-mic nights, getting involved in any show he can, emceeing events, and has even done a bit of touring in Canada and the US. Heâs also applied to be part of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, which is a very big deal indeed, as well as the World Series of Comedy. He is dedicated to his art, and as Iâve seen him over time, I have noticed that he continues to improve and, yes, to me he really could be a headliner one day. I think his style of comedy is hilarious.
As his bio says, âScott’s style is rapid fire laughs with a dry deliveryâ¦.The material is honest, witty, and true to comedy style, self-deprecating and always hilarious! Scott is more than a little awkward on stage, which leaves the audience laughing, loving him and hanging on to his every word!â And that, my friends, is a pretty spot on description.
And, you can tell that he is enjoying it. The highs have been many, âTraveling to the states to perform was an incredible experience, making the finals four times at a comedy club where I was black listed at one point, having people one year down the road you don’t even know see you and right away remember you through a joke you told. There are so many highs I would need hours to list them.â And, in the end, thatâs what counts. There can be a lot of lows in the entertainment industry, but itâs the highs that matter.
You can stalk Scott on his Facebook page, and maybe get a date out of the deal!
Words by Chris Hearn. More writing by Chris on Louder Than War can be found here.