Fraser Young is a comedian with a weird voice (he admits to this), which is probably the secret to his success (that, and his obsession with math jokes). First taking the stage back in 1995, Young has gone on to win the Tim Sims Encouragement Award and currently writes forGeorge Stroumboulopoulos Tonight when he’s not touring. We caught up with the Toronto-based comic to chat about his first time on stage, memory pills and what’s so funny about math.
When did you know you were funny?
I would say that I knew I was weird before I knew I was funny. Eventually, I figured out that I was weird enough to make people laugh if I just talked about the way the world seemed to me.
Describe your first stand-up experience. Where was it? How did it go?
After I finished high school, a friend of mine signed me up for this open mic at the Delta Chelsea hotel downtown. I remember it was both comics and musicians there, and I remember everyone bombing huge. No one who was there was interested in the show at all. I did five minutes, got zero laughs and still had fun, somehow. I figured it would be more fun if the audience was listening.
You were awarded with the Tim Sims Encouragement Award. Was that your big break?
I think the term “big break” implies something really big happening, but it was something that really jump-started my career, so I guess that might apply. After I got the award, I got a couple of short TV spots. Then I booked my Comedy Now special, and the Just For Laughs homegrown show. Then I got asked to do this interview. It’s all lining up for me!
You travel a lot as a comedian. Any funny road trip stories?
I travel a lot, both for comedy and just because I like traveling. I have many stories that are part of my act. Come out and see a show or watch some YouTube clips. Or just follow me around and listen in as I bother people on the sidewalk with stories about my life.
Do you prefer performing in hole-in-the wall clubs or theatre spaces?
I prefer playing anywhere there is an audience facing the stage. All the venues have their own charms.
Which comedians do you follow on Twitter?
I follow hundreds of comedians on Twitter. They’re all great! Hooray for comedy!
What or who makes you laugh the most?
I find math, and jokes involving math, much funnier than anyone I know. I often get made fun of by other comics for the amount of math that appears in my act. That’s a form of bullying and I’m trying to find out if I can sue all of them.
Favourite funny moment?
I find new stuff funny every day and forget about what I laughed at yesterday, so it’s tough to pick out one moment. The good news is that I saw an ad for memory pills the other day, so maybe the answer is just around the corner.
You write for Strombo. How does writing for TV differ from writing for stand up?
It’s the difference of writing in a different voice. Literally, in my case. I sound like a weird dude, so the way I say things can get laughs on its own. Another difference is that, for my stand-up, I don’t actually write anything down. I just work bits out in my head as I walk around. I don’t write the same way that I talk, and my stand-up is very conversational, so putting pen to paper doesn’t help me out. On the other hand, I find that when I’m writing for TV, my bosses usually aren’t cool with me just reciting jokes that I’ve thought of, so I have to write them out fully. Jerks.
If not in comedy, where do you see yourself?
I don’t know. I have a degree in business, but no experience because I kind of walked into a comedy career right out of university. I might try working in something to do with math. Is there a job where you can just add up a bunch of numbers in your head and then have your friend check on a calculator to see if you were right? If not, there should be.
What’s next on the horizon?
I taped a spot at Just For Laughs this past summer that should be coming out soon. I’ll be working on Strombo until the beginning of June, so you can watch that weeknights at 7 on CBC. Other than that, going to keep doing spots around town until my schedule opens up in the summer and hopefully do some touring then.