What’s so funny?

Student comic says there’s no better thing than making people laugh

Jim Robinson balances life as a student with his on-stage persona as a standup comedian.
Jim Robinson balances life as a student with his on-stage persona as a standup comedian.

Who: Jim Robinson, ArtSci ’08

Medium: Comedy

Where you’ve seen him: Time To Laugh’s Comedian Idol contest, Queen’s Players, Queen’s Varsity Improv, Eng Week’s Gong Show at Alfie’s

When did you start doing comedy?

My first time actually doing standup was October. Ever since I was younger, I’ve always felt really comfortable in front of a crowd, so what I would do in high school is I would host parent events or other things with the public, and I’d be doing the same thing, working with the crowd.

The desire has been there since I was about five or six years old, but the way it came about was I was seeing Glen Foster perform at Time to Laugh in September and I got very drunk—which is what you do at comedy shows. My friends Evan, Larry and myself saw a poster for the amateur competition, and because we were drunk, we thought “It’s free, let’s sign up.”

Do you watch or listen to standup comedy?

All the time. The thing is, I watch other standup comedians not to be inspired but merely to be entertained. If you watch other standup comedians with the intention of being inspired, it comes very close to crossing the line of taking over their style and performing the way they perform, and standup is very personal.

I watch standup with a lens of what I will find funny, and what I think other people will find funny.

If I listen to Bill Cosby, and try to adopt his style, it’s not going to work because he’s about 80 by now, he’s black and he’s a father.

I have to try to find what’s funny about me and not anybody else.

Standup was big in the ’90s—what makes you, as a young person, want to do comedy today?

I definitely wouldn’t say that it’s passé. There was obviously a huge niche for comedy in the ’90s, but comedy is still very prevalent, especially in the U.S. ... There’s always going to be a demand for standup comedy. People go to see comedy as sort of an escape.

It’s always really appealed to me. If somebody wants to pay me to stand up there and talk to a crowd and make them laugh, there’s no better feeling than that.

Obviously money would be great—if somebody paid me that would be fantastic. This is something I see myself doing for the rest of my life as a pastime sort of thing.

I love making people laugh; there’s no better thing.

Although if somebody told me, “You’re very funny, here’s $12 million” I wouldn’t say no.

What’s most important to you when writing your material?

What I try to do with my comedy is obviously now about being a college student who’s overweight. College students and overweight people will appreciate my comedy, but I think I tell my jokes in such a way that even if you can’t exactly relate to the problem, people will still find it funny.

You don’t want to pigeonhole yourself to a certain demographic, because if you do, you’re going to be coined as a certain kind of comedian. For instance, filthy comedians appeal to people who like filthy humour, but if you’re a clean comedian, not only do you appeal to an audience who likes clean humour, [but] filthy people will still find you funny. The opposite is not true: if you’re a filthy comedian or a dirty comedian and you tell dirty jokes, while the dirty crowd will love your jokes, you’re not going to appeal to the clean community.

Have you ever had a bad show?

I have bombed. I have definitely bombed.

Bombing’s a huge part of standup comedy. A lot of the time, it’s hard not to take personally, but I tell myself, I’ve bombed several times, and the times that I do bomb, I have delivered my jokes the same way and do the same things I always do when those same jokes have absolutely brought the house down.

So much of it depends on the crowd. As long as your successful shows outweigh your crappy shows, stick with it. If you bomb, it’s an even better excuse to keep drinking.

If I tell a joke that doesn’t go over very well it’s up to the comedian to win the crowd over by acknowledging how bad the joke is. As long as you’re comfortable on stage and can engage the crowd, you can pretty much say anything you want.

—Meghan Sheffield

The Comedian Idol finals take place Saturday, March 22 at 8 p.m. at Time to Laugh Comedy Club. Tickets are $10 at the door.

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