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Darrin Rose talks comedy writing, Video on Trial and punching people in bouncy castles

By Gurman Sahota, February 7 2017 —

Hailing from Ontario and currently residing in Los Angeles, Darrin Rose is a 15-year comedy veteran. Along with roles on shows like MuchMusic’s Video on Trial and CBC’s Mr. D, Rose keeps up with his stand-up comedy and will perform in Calgary at the Elbow River Casino from Feb. 16–18. Tickets are available online.

The Gauntlet sat down with Rose to talk comedy, brainstorming and his annual tradition of swinging punches at his brother on his niece’s birthday.

The Gauntlet: How do you come up with your ideas?

Darrin Rose: I do two things. One, just as I’m out and about and something strikes me as funny, I make a note on my phone, e-mail it to myself and, periodically, I use the same subject and collate them all and go through and go ‘hey, is there anything here that can turn into a bit.’ I do a lot of stories in my acts, so I try to take a story that’s interesting and see if I can tell it in a way that is funny. I was in Thailand a couple [of] years ago and walked into the bathroom of the hotel I was staying at and there’s a snake on the floor that swam up through the toilet. The whole story is good but isn’t necessarily funny, so I went and tried to tell the story in a funny way.

This year, one of my big first bits [is] about fighting my brother in a bouncy castle at my niece’s birthday party, which is a fight we do every year and is really serious. Like one year, my brother lost 30 pounds training for the fight. It’s a very serious affair. But it’s also fundamentally preposterous. Every year we just ruin this child’s party by getting into a fist fight in a bouncy castle. It’s been brought up to me that it might not be a good gift. I will say, one of the most gratifying sentences I’ve ever heard said aloud is ‘please stop hurting my dad,’ said to me by my niece.

G: Video on Trial and Mr. D are two very different shows. How do you balance traditional acting and something where you can improvise?

R: The key is I’m always just [messing] around. Even on Mr. D, especially when we first started season one — we’ve done six seasons now — we would improvise a ton. So essentially it was me and Gerry [Dee] [messing] around a lot.

We shot Video on Trial in a closet in front of a bed sheet. It was like three people. You couldn’t have a lower production value if you tried. Mr. D is being sketched and there’s 30 people on the other side of the camera and people who have been approving scripts for weeks and all this kind of stuff. We didn’t have any of that stuff on Video on Trial, we’ll just talk for like two hours and we’ll find eight things we liked and put it on the show.

G: You do stand-up and you do television roles, but have you written as well?

R: Actually I’m waiting to hear from the CBC for shooting a pilot for my own sitcom. We worked on that for most of last year and we submitted all the stuff in December — all the scripts and various documents you have to do. We’re waiting to hear, but I write all the time. I made my living as a writer for years while I couldn’t make any money doing stand-up.

G: How does comedic television writing differ from stand-up?

R: With TV, it’s about trying to tell a story, so the story is always moving forward all the time. And ideally it’s a story told in jokes. Whereas in stand-up, you can just have a joke and be like, ‘Oh, I’ve had this one thought about Teslas, here’s my thought about Tesla’s but in a TV show it has to be 22 minutes long and it has to hook people in so they’ll watch the whole thing. So the structure of TV writing is more specific. Stand-up, you can kind of mess around and as long as you’re creating laughter, nobody cares. On TV, there’s a fairly specific way you have to write.

G: You’ve been doing stand-up for about 15 years, how do you think comedy has changed in that time?

R: A bunch of things changed. I think the biggest wave was probably Dane Cook, who brought out act-outs and stuff. He really brought that physicality to it and the idea that it doesn’t just have to be words. Also, when anyone starts comedy they’re terrible at it. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen open mic comedy, but everyone is awful and you have to learn how to not be afraid to be on stage, how to be confident, and at the same time you’re trying to learn how to write a joke. Everyone is trying to go from being the funniest person in their group of friends to being somebody who’s funny in a group of strangers and that is a disgusting process to watch. It’s awesome. So part of how comedy changed for me is just me going through the process of learning and having to get rid of all those awful habits.

G: What tips do you have for someone who wants to start out in comedy? 

R: Most people who want to do comedy edge around the periphery of it. Like if you go to a comedy club, almost everyone who works there wants to be a comic, using the club as a kind of intermediary step. The only really good advice in comedy is to just try it. Go up there and do it and then if you like it, do it as often as you can. You sort of have to do five shows a week to learn how to do it and you have to do five shows a week for years.

G: Do you have any expectations of the audience when they come see your show?

R: I hope they remain relatively sober and have a lot of fun.

Edited for brevity and clarity.


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