Meet a Comedian: Ron Sparks
Ron Sparks is a comedic jack of all trades: stand-up, improv, sketch comedy — he’s done it all, and in a relatively short time span. Since bursting onto the comedy scene in 2003, Sparks has racked up a number of awards, including eight Canadian Comedy Awards, and is a common fixture on The Comedy Network. Once voted “North America’s Sexiest Comedian,” Sparks is obviously the total jocular package.
We chatted with Sparks about MuchMusic’s Video on Tria, being a fishmonger and why he keeps on getting nominated at the Canadian Comedy Awards.
What’s the first joke you remember being told to you?
Were you the class clown growing up?
Definitely. My teachers still won’t speak to me.
How did you get into comedy? Was it always something you wanted to pursue?
I always knew I wanted to. I enjoyed improv in high school and got involved in the Vanier Improv Company at York University. From there I got into sketch with [the troupe] Gazebo Pals and The Minnesota Wrecking Crew, then finally tried stand-up.
What was your first-ever stand up gig? Where was it? How did it go?
The Rivoli. From doing sketch, Nug [Comedian Mike Nahrgang] suggested me to Zoe Randall, to take over the doorman gig at the ALTdot Comedy Lounge. [It was for] $20 a week and a free meal, and I got to see and meet literally thousands of great comics over the years I spent there. Anyway, they thought I was funny and eventually talked me into trying stand-up. I was terrified, but luckily it went well because I knew I wanted to do it.
What was the oddest job you’ve ever held?
Fishmonger at Loblaws. When I started doing stand-up, I quit and dove right in. Luckily I got nominated for the Tim Sims [Encouragement Fund award] so quickly, because I didn’t want to end up saying: "I should have kept that job giving people fish.”
What was your "big break?"
The Tim Sims Award.
You did MuchMusic’s Video on Trial for a while. How was that experience?
To be honest, I’ve never really watched the show. I would ask my agent to get copies, and he did, and I like knowing they’re there, but I’ve only watched maybe three episodes, including the Stars on Trial special. I like the show though, and obviously it hit with fans.
You’re performing with Shoeless, the sketch group. Which do you prefer — sketch comedy or stand-up comedy?
I’ve started doing a bit of improv again too. Starting in improv helped because you’re better able to deal with hecklers or any unforeseen problems that happen on stage. They’re all different animals. With sketch, you work with friends, support each other, present what you think is funny. With stand-up, you’re on your own, but you obviously don’t have to juggle schedules to rehearse. I think I still love stand-up the most, but I wouldn’t want to stop doing any of them. They’re all fun in their own different ways.
You’re nominated again for a Canadian Comedy Award. Why do you think they keep nominating you?
Because I keep submitting 2000 packages a year? Seriously, though, anyone in comedy can submit to the awards, it only costs $35, and you never know what might happen. Being nominated for Best Male Stand-up is a dream! I don’t think I have much chance but I’ve been reminding people to vote and have my fingers crossed. If not this year, hopefully, I’ll win down the road.
What’s your favourite funny movie?
The list would be too long to even know where to begin. I love Steve Martin’s old movies and the Monty Python films. I was just discussing "underappreciated" comedies with a friend — if you haven’t seen Quick Change or Short Time, check them out!
Who or what makes you laugh the most?
I can’t categorize it. The thing about those big belly laughs that make your sides hurt is you don’t expect them. Boyd Banks is a comics’ comic who always seems to get me. Mike Wilmot, Derek Edwards, Brent Butt, hundreds of other comics can get me. Troupes like The Imponderables, Picnicface, many more. But on the other hand it might just be something simple, like watching a drunk man roll down the up escalator at St. Clair West station.
If you could have a drink with any comedian, who would that be and what would you want to ask them?
I’d probably pick one of the dead ones because I’m a comedian at heart, and that would be the funniest. And I’d just keep asking them, “Why won’t you answer me?!” until the police came.
What’s next on the horizon?
Hoping to pick up a full time writing gig. Until then, just doing whatever gigs come my way. I’m surprisingly easy going, Brianne.
Year started in stand-up: 2003
Influences: My dad’s record collection (Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, Steve Martin and a few others) when I was a kid. Also, guys I loved growing up, like Chris Elliott.
Next Show: Black Swan Tavern, 154 Danforth Ave., Aug. 1