Risky comedy business

Comedian Ben Bankas’ humour seeks to offend, and succeeds

Ben Bankas says being funny isn’t about himself — the only way to judge a joke is by how the audience responds in laughter.
Ben Bankas says being funny isn’t about himself — the only way to judge a joke is by how the audience responds in laughter.
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There are a few taboo subjects in a romantic relationship.

And the semantics of bathroom usage in a relationship is only one of the relatable topics comedian Ben Bankas uses in his stand up comedy routine.

It’s those everyday activities, like “taking a stealth shit,” that Bankas says provide him with the most material.

“I don’t necessarily sit down and say ‘I’m going to write a bunch of jokes now,’” Bankas, ArtSci ’14, tells me. “I just casually live my life and when funny things happen, I take those ideas and use them on stage.”

Bankas says his key for comedy is to go with the flow.

“If you have to think about it, it’s going to ruin the moment — by the time you get there, your hands are going to be sweaty and your ass is going to be sweaty.”

I paused to laugh, not an anomaly while Bankas and I were chatting earlier this week.

Another entertaining story from his own life that Bankas told me was about his pet who recently underwent a name change.

“We went to the doctor for a regular checkup with my dog and apparently she’s a boy. She has a penis, so we can’t call her Betty anymore” he said. “We might call the dog Louie after Louis CK.”

After doing over 100 live gigs, including open mic nights at the Nog, the Mansion and CoGro, Bankas said the only way to gauge a joke is to take it to the audience.

“You need to hear the laughter, and that’s the only way you can really judge a comedian — by how much laughter they get.”

I got to be one of those audience members at the Mansion’s open mic night last Tuesday. Bankas definitely had me in stitches, both on stage and afterwards when he joined my friends and I for a beer.

For Bankas, talking to people after the shows is one of his favourite parts.

“If you go to a comedy show and don’t say anything for an hour, by the end of it, you’re going to want to talk about the things from the show,” he said.

Bankas definitely started conversations among his audience on Tuesday. When we were chatting, he told me about one particular joke about the recent events surrounding Olympian Oscar Pistorius.

“It was socially unacceptable for his teammates to say before a race to say break a leg so they would just say shoot your girlfriend in the face,” Bankas said. “And usually that gets half the audience to shit their pants, and half of them are shocked, but still find it funny.”

With plans to start a comedy club in September, Bankas shows no signs of stopping what he loves to do.

“The longer you do it, the more it becomes part of you and starts to feel like second nature.”

Ben Bankas performs at the Journal’s benefit concert tomorrow night at the Grad Club. Doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets are $5. All proceeds go to Dawn House Women’s Shelter.

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