FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH with Blake Melnick

Rambles and Ruminations with guest Ron James

July 16, 2021 Blake Melnick Season 2 Episode 24
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH with Blake Melnick
Rambles and Ruminations with guest Ron James
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH with Blake Melnick
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Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to this week’s episode of #ForWhatit’sWorthwithBlakeMelnick and our final episode of Season 2 of the show, called #RamblesandRuminations with our special guest, comedian extraordinaire, @Ron James.

Cam Brown, Ron and I discuss, Ron’s  soon to be released new book, #AllOvertheMap; his childhood years with his family in Halifax, Nova Scotia; His early career as a stand up comic; His influences, and the various trials, tribulations and stories from his time on the road, travelling his native land from sea to sea. Ron's infinite command of the English language and his innate sense of purpose and desire to alter people's perceptions through humour, is nothing short of remarkable ....You are going to love this episode ...For What it's Worth

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The Music for Today's Show, "Proof",  and "The Land We Knew by Heart"  is written and performed by @BlairPackham

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Rambles and Ruminations - with guest, comedian Ron James

[00:00:00] Blake Melnick: Well, welcome to this week's episode of, for what it's worth called rambles and ruminations. I'm your host Blake Melnick. And this is our final episode of season two of the show, and we're capping it off with something a little different. Our guest is a standup comedian who is played to sold at theaters across the country for 20 years.

[00:00:20] According to the globe and mail, he is a comic tour to fours. He has audiences rolling in the aisles says the Toronto Star. The funniest man in Canada, according to the Victoria Times Colonist His  one hour CBC new year's Eve comedy special has become a Canadian tradition garnering over 1 million viewers over the past eight years. Prior to his success as a standup comic, he cut his teeth with a prestigious Second City comedy troupe in Toronto.

[00:00:51] He has appeared in feature films, sitcoms and commercials. He was nominated for a genie award for best supporting actor for the [00:01:00] film, something about love and won a Gemini award for his writing on the show, This Hour has 22 minutes. With all these accolades. He's had to fight hard for his success.

[00:01:12] Something he's very proud of. He's a road warrior traveling his native land, making people laugh, wherever he goes. And he's about to launch a new book. called All Over the Map, which Chronicles his adventures from sea to sea with the same rye, sardonic political commentary and humor, which won him  such a claim as one of Canada's most loved comedians.

[00:01:37] Introducing comedian extrodinaire, Mr. Ron James.

[00:01:50]Hi, Ron. Thanks so much for agreeing to come on the show. There's so much we want to talk to you about, you've got a new book coming out. We want to touch on that, but I'd like to start with this recent year [00:02:00] and a half comedy during the time of COVID obviously you're a guy that's used to performing live to traveling across the country and you haven't had a chance to do that.

[00:02:09] What's that been like for you?

[00:02:11]Ron James:  it was a recalibration and  as far as I'm concerned, the universe's way of testing, how much it meant to me.

[00:02:20] I did about it.  Three corporate shows,  online. And then I did,  three shows here, one at a theaters request, and then two that I produced myself. New year's Eve. We drew 3,500 paying viewers at 30 bucks a pop. And I was standing right there and,  I hired a millennial camera man who knows his stuff.

[00:02:45] And he had a, you had a kid with, um, , works, the monitor who was very good. And my it guy, Keith Thomas Eko, I've worked with for five years and helped build up my social media platform. And I worked [00:03:00] with two writers, Chris Finn, and Paul Pope. Paul had worked with me for years on my series and the last four specials.

[00:03:07] And of course, Chris Finn is a multi award winning writer with this hour is 22 minutes that he wrote for Mercer for 17 years and was a, road hardened,  stand up before he  stepped in front of the computer full-time so the three of us had zoom meetings and it was really great to make sense of the chaos we're all walking through in the language of laughs and to make sense of this tectonic shift and the psychic paradigm.  That was a good thing for our mental health. The second thing was the satisfaction, of doing the live show  and providing laughs for an audience that wanted to process the plague in such a fashion.

[00:03:51] And the third thing was,  having faith, that technology, that  I was a real Luddite in could help me reach so many people. And then [00:04:00] we did another one in March, the 21st called Spring Loaded. And we did less numbers. I think there was come computer fatigue by then. Right. And,  the weather had begun to turn, but we still did 2,500 viewers, which is very respectable.

[00:04:14] So that's how I dealt with it.  And I wrote my book and  I kept exercising. I cooked good meals.  I saw I'm a girlfriend and I saw my daughters and, I work with what I was given and I took great solace from my parents' generation as we're called the greatest generation.

[00:04:31] I mean, You know, they were born into dark days of the great depression when the light at the end of that tunnel was the carnage of of World War holy jeez happy times are here again. All we were asked to do was stay at home, go without a haircut, wash our hands and watch Netflix.

[00:04:51]Cam Brown: Ron, when did you decide to write the book? Was that sort of pre pandemic you were going to do it anyways? 

[00:04:57]Ron James: Yeah, actually it was a commission piece [00:05:00] requested by random house. They had come to see me,  about the time I was starting my series. And, they always said they were very patient.

[00:05:08] They said, you'll write the book that's in you when you're ready to write it. And,  I threw the first version out about, 168 pages. It turned out to be about 290, I guess, but, one of the good things about the book. Was I had references. I had diligently kept mole skins filled with,  my travel journals in all my years that I hit the road.

[00:05:30]I had a feeling and I mean, I kept them for the intentions of my specials, but there was a lot of content in there that couldn't make the specials because it was  more contemplative and more observational than joke, joke, joke. And I understood the demands of the media   terms of television and I mean, I was there to make people laugh.

[00:05:51] And so that's what I did.  However,  there were some points and moments  I experienced talking to people in their place that I think, [00:06:00]  is best served as the written word or spoken word in the book. Then it was within a standup back where you want laughs laughs. Laughs. It's like listening to George Carlin's autobiography read posthumously by his brother.

[00:06:14] I don't know if you've read  that. have you ? Yeah, it's fascinating. Isn't it? I loved George Carlin . Yeah, I did too. I grew up just idolizing him and  he speaks to finding his authentic voice in that book. Right. And when he stopped caring, what people thought and really thought about what he cared about, something to that effect.

[00:06:35]But you know, I saw him in Vegas,  six years before he died. I was down there for a gig and I paid 75 bucks to sit in the 2,500 seat theater at Herod's to watch him talk for 90 minutes and not get a laugh really. Cause you didn't care too.  It was almost he'd taken comedy to his own personal level.

[00:06:57] I was reminded of the [00:07:00] days when Joni Mitchell would still tour and people were pissed off. She wasn't singing big yellow taxi or songs from blue. Right.  And she said, look, I'm an artist. I'm an artist.  I'll play what I want.

[00:07:13] And Dylan did the same thing that being said, if I didn't hear laughs every 30 seconds, when I'm on the stage, I commit harikari as a closer

[00:07:24]Blake Melnick: do you feel pressure to be funny all the time? I mean, other times when you're up there where you don't want to be funny? 

[00:07:29] Ron James:  No, but that doesn't bother me anymore when I was a younger man and I was more about. Needing to feed the ego. That's what I was like. And it, it bothers me when people remember me as that kind of person, I was,  party Hardy nonstop, frenetic,  fledgling stand up. This was before this was university days and stuff. Right, right. You were all funny back then, but  as I got closer to, answering the call or wanting to pursue a career in comedy at university, when everybody was going into business [00:08:00] or engineering, I was a bit of an anomaly.

[00:08:03] Right, right.  I'm not like that anymore. And I don't feel the pressure to be. And in fact, I think sometimes people are, taken aback, somewhat that I'm much quieter than they think I should be. Right. 

[00:08:15]Blake Melnick: Were you that funny kid when you were growing up in Glace Bay?

[00:08:18]Ron James:   Yeah, all the time, full blown ADHD,  it was like 47 pounds that I was 15 years old and 37 of that was my freaking head. I had red hair and freckles and bowed legs and my father was a Newfoundlander who could recite jokes, rat-tat-tat-tat, like buddy in the Dick van Dyke show. And my mother was a Cape Bretoner who loved to laugh. And I was surrounded by a rich oral culture of storytellers. Right. And not all of them were great storytellers and not all of them are musicians, but our kitchen,  our kitchen was a great place and my, all my buddies were funny.

[00:08:52] Right. So we riff and talk and,  I had the good fortune to be raised around good people and,  I think [00:09:00] that comes through in my funny, even though I get very angry about, the abuse of power and, the ineptitude of political leaders and how we're played and how we're spun, and that's going to get increasingly difficult to deal with as the country gets more fractured along polarized lines, and nobody can seem to take a joke anymore about anything.

[00:09:21] Right.  So that'll be a challenge in the next chapter of the road, but I'm up for any way to get back to your question? Yeah, I was,  there was always reports, you know, Ron would be a better student,  shut up,

[00:09:38] But I'll tell you,  my father could really swear, but he never dropped the F bomb, but it was just this alliterative poetic Newfoundland profanity. And I was terrible at math. And my teacher used to phone home. If I got lowered in 65 out of a hundred, when I was in junior high. And I mean that test to be burning a hole in my, like the map of [00:10:00] Bonanza I just lost 90% of your millennial listeners

[00:10:04] I know what you're talking about. Thank you brother. I told him, like I said, shit, don't get it, but he would look at me and he'd go, by the lumped up gentle German. Jesus, you better start passing mats. You sawed off little Christer or there's going to be a stranger in hell for breakfast by the Lord's snapp'n arseholes, I kept flunking just to hear the alliteration, right.

[00:10:27] I was around colorful personalities and,  my parents' threshold, carried people in now on the wind from the neighborhood  or from Cape Breton when they'd come for a course or the hospital or visitors or dad's cousins and things.  But then that being said, it's an exponential leap to being funny in the classroom and kitchen, to being funny as a professional.

[00:10:50] And people make these patronizing comments that they'd like to do at someday. well go ahead. And I hear it from what are you hearing from movie actors or you hear from [00:11:00] everyday Joes? Yeah. I'm going to be a standup. Are you good?

[00:11:04]Let's go. Cause they think sitting at the kitchen table or in the classroom cutting up or with their buddies, it's really no different than being on stage, but that is the difference. You're onstage staring at that. At the solo spot, that's drilling a hole in your solar plexus, like the unblinking eye of God.

[00:11:24] That's the amateur night fear where your step goes out the window. You can't remember anything. All you can relate to is the fear that's making the flood plain worthy of theNile sweat on your hands. And you can feel the coiled contempt, of the audience rising up from their seats because you have the temerity to believe that you're stand up commedian, right, 

[00:11:49]Cam Brown: as you know, I was a big improv artists and Iloved Second City. That the reason was I didn't have the big boonies to do.  I preferred working on a team where [00:12:00] there was the give and take. 

[00:12:01]Ron James:  yeah, I get that because I did once to  I came up from Halifax is doing a nerd character that used to kill and all that stuff.

[00:12:08] I mean, that's when we were face first and hot knives. I'm from a day where a hashtag was something you got from getting too close to the hash knives. And it was, you know, it was absolutely, chemanic elixir for me because the hash would come in on Friday at university and we'd cut it up.

[00:12:25] And then the boys would say, give James some. I talked for three hours, man. It was all free form that, but then when I came to Toronto, I tried standup at Yuk, Yuks and,  I maybe stayed with it for three months and the old Yuks on Bay street, I felt the energy was too dark and competitive and combative.  And I was bombing too, , I got big laughs the first night and then continued to bomb worse and worse and worse and worse. And I didn't have the guts. But what I did see was the incendiary brilliance of the gone too soon, Mike McDonald in his [00:13:00] heyday, which I never forgot. It's been burned into my retinas.

[00:13:05] And I remember watching him as a neophyte thinking, man,  I gotta do that someday. I gotta try. But I chickened out and that's when I went to improv, started taking the classes at Second City in Toronto and 110 Lombard street and its hay day when SCTV was on the air and made the touring company.

[00:13:22] And the rest is history. I got promoted the main stage, 

[00:13:25]Cam Brown: do you remember who you were on stage or who was it? 

[00:13:29] Ron James: Uh, John Hemple was the senior member, Kathy Lasky, Deb McGrath, America, Collin mockery, Bruce Perry, and,  the best improvisor of his day.  Johnny lake who's in Space Force now with,  John Malcovich and, Steve Carell.

[00:13:43] And,  prior to that wrote several vehicles for Bonnie Hunt in California and,  produced her television talk show. He's a wonderful human being and,  the quintessential improviser of his day, I always said that Don Lakecould make Charles Manson look good. doing improv

[00:13:58] Cam Brown: let me ask you, Ron, when you were [00:14:00] growing up as a young lad, who who do you look up to? Who are your favorite comics? 

[00:14:04]Ron James: Well I mean , the Seminole epiphany was seven words you can't say on television, George Carlin's album. Yeah, 19 71 72. Yep.  I just started watching a thing on apple TV about 1971 as a seminal moment when music changed and that was a great time to be a teenager man here was, you know, 1971, all that great music coming out John Lennon and Yoko band, uh, George Harrison's concert for Bangladesh, Marvin Gaye CCR were still in full swing.

[00:14:35] And then of course we had summertime replacement shows that summer summertime, please can show is Jonathan. I don't know if you remember Jonathan Winters with a locked off camera in one room and three boxes  filled with hats power that man, I mean, this guy, that's an actual world war II. I mean, that guy was a genius unfettered unrestrained, just a beautiful soul too.

[00:15:00] [00:15:00] I love that show. Richard, Pryor's  summertime show, the Smothers brothers true iconoclasts, all of them in their own way. And they were tipping the apple cart. Now we had to watch on Canadian TV was Wayne and Schuster,  but as far as any kid was concerned with any kind of edge, they'd long since worn out their welcome.

[00:15:18] I mean, your folks might've been laughing at them, but we had these great rebel American voices that inspired an entire generation. And I mentioned about this in my book and I mean, the only rebel voices we had really were the brothers McClain and McLean  who were profane and fought their public indecency by cursing too much. in their show adults said paid to see, cause I'd seen them that, that fall before it Acadia my final year I counted 157 F-bombs in like two hours, which was something you found rebellious then right.

[00:15:52] Yeah. content was funny too. Anyway.  They were the only thing we had. I mean, there wasn't really a stand-up circuit. It was them and David [00:16:00] Broadfoot who were blazing trails in those days. And they were diametrically opposite, but the brothers McClean and McClean killed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

[00:16:08] So there was nothing really, that was tipping the apple cart and was appealing to the rebel soul of the early seventies, late sixties until Carlin came along. Right. But then after Carlin, there was a period of time when. I don't remember much coming out after that, other than Pryor's stuff in 75 or 73, when was Pryor's first album 74. And then hearing that it was just what, whoa, this guy's on fire, which ironically, but,  it was him.  And then of course I have to tip a hat to the inspired anarchy later on of Harold Ramis with Animal House.

[00:16:52] But the appearance of Robin Williams, Steve Martin at the and of the seventies. And then the appearance of Saturday night [00:17:00] live in 77, as far as I'm concerned those three were the holy Trinity of comedy for my era of , 20 something boomers.

[00:17:10] Blake: Right. Right. 

[00:17:11]Cam Brown:  Were you, ,a Monty Python fan?

[00:17:13]Ron James:  I'm sorry. Sorry. I forgot them. Yeah, of course. Monty Python. How did I forget those guys? Monty Python actually saved us in 19 71, 72. When they came on TV at late night, Monty Python's Flying Circus.  I mean, it was incredible. And they say just, I'm sorry, I'm just thinking in terms of American, but 

[00:17:30] the Python gang. And then I saw of course Monty Python and the Holy Grail in 1975. And it was life-changing. it was an epiphany there was nothing quite like it.   But the only the smart kids getting Monty Python 

[00:17:44]Blake Melnick:  I wanted to ask you, because we've had this discussion with a number of guests on the show, particularly musicians, but how much of what you do is just spontaneous and how much of it is craft.

[00:17:53]Ron James: Look, it's all craft, but the inspiration is innate, right?  I'm not one of those people who steps on [00:18:00] stage and just starts talking  which is why I'm amazed at Billy Conley.  he doesn't write anything down, he just goes honest to God. A tartan, Sharman wizard. Yeah. I saw him do two hours and 24 minutes at the age of 64 on stage in Hamilton with my kid who I went to pick up at university and he has a throwaway line at the top of the show.

[00:18:23] He goes, oh, politicians, they should all be fucking burned. And my daughter who was 19 at the time looks at me and says, oh, this show is going to be good.

[00:18:32]I saw his one man show on HBO during a year of abject unemployment in Los Angeles when I was chasing the sit-com grail another lifetime ago. And it was absolutely a calling, but in terms of the content and the work where it comes from  it's all craft  you'll get the idea and you'll just write a line.

[00:18:53]And then that's where the craft comes in, where you begin to build it.  My long alliterative rants, some of them have a [00:19:00] long gestation period and some just came out right on the page. Right. But  my shows are meticulously crafted. I craft right down to the period.  I'll take tangents when I'm on stage and riff but I know, I always want to know where I'm going and you always want to know where you start.

[00:19:17] You want to know where you end, right?  A good closer  is worth its weight in gold. 

[00:19:22] Blake: Well, you're a pretty educated guy. I was reading somewhere. You originally thought you might be a history teacher. 

[00:19:27] Ron James: The only thing I can get with a bachelor of arts degree and quite frankly, my marks sucked.

[00:19:32] I was a C minus student.  I'd majored in binge drinking and I minored in hash knives.  When it finally hit, I was more intent with getting laughs. than I was getting great marks, right. And that's to my detriment. And not that I wasn't at a great school , not that I wasn't surrounded by studious people, but my calling came far differently than a traditional Scholastic route.

[00:19:59]That being [00:20:00] said, I've always been a voracious reader, although lately I'm a little worried that my addiction to social media may have compromised my ability to concentrate, like a lot of people. Sure. But I always read. And when I got to Toronto and finally was hired by second city and was in the Tour Co., I was always amazed at the television reference these people who were raised in Ontario had, cause they had seven friggin channels growing up. We had one BBC, you know, when I was six, all we got was Don Messer, Wagon Train, and Ed Sullivan and then the test pattern. 

[00:20:38] Blake Melnick: Yes, I do remember the test better too, but , the chapter you sent me, , it's clear that  you have a love of history you have an understanding, a deep understanding and appreciation of geography and nature and things like that. And that came across pretty clearly to me. I thought that chapter you sent me and I'm assuming you sent it to me because I live in BC,  you know, you just nailed it. Oh, thank you.

[00:20:59] Thanks. [00:21:00] Now I'm a transplant. 

[00:21:02] Ron James: There's a lot of content from that. Not a lot. I would say there's about, I shouldn't say a lot. There's 20% of that content that came from my  third special  The West Coast Wild,  my first one was The Row Between my Ears. My second one is Quest for the West and my third one was West Coast Wild and That's when they were all,  regionally themed shows but what I enjoyed about writing the book and about BC was just during the plague, I was back to a day in a world.that was right. And it was also exciting, Blake  to step beyond the parochial perimeter of the big smoke and have the opportunity to apply my trade in the country, I call home and see all the sites and talk to these people and breathe it and suffer the vicissitudes of brutal weather and fight the battle to get to the gig and make the DJ meetings in the mornings at 6:00 AM and do the shows that night and hit [00:22:00] black ice and hit blizzards. , be stuck in snow storms and yet he wouldn't want, and then see, British Columbia come to life in a mighty scream,of green driving through the Kooteneys in spring where Sasquatch mothers are suckling their children in hidden groves of Cedar trees.

[00:22:17] Jesus, it was magical and I wasn't high. It was great. 

[00:22:22] Cam Brown: Ron can I ask you are the audiences  different from the east coast to the west?  

[00:22:28]Ron James:  Toronto they're filled with shameless star fuckers. You know, it's a Vancouver. is like that too like that too. I don't usually play downtown Vancouver.

[00:22:36] You gotta be American to fill a room there  playing the Centennial in north van. But, Vancouver and Toronto are very similar  their measurement of status as focused south of the border where across the big wide open, people are glad you're just coming. You know, I mean, Toronto is the New York to Canada.

[00:22:54] Let's face it. There's an awful lot of, competition to be heard above the noise. And I [00:23:00] produced several shows of my own at the winter garden theater and one at Massey hall. And it's an astronomical amount of money to advertise here. But, with what we've learned with,  direct marketing through Facebook,  I can leave those big poster days and ads in the newspapers to,  the Mervishes and the big production companies that come through town with their musicals.

[00:23:22] And I'll tackle it a different way. That's been very beneficial. I mean, as much as disparage, social media is not being authentically connected with people. It's been very beneficial for us in terms of promoting our shows across the country. Now that so many small town papers have gone, but I'll play the big cities as much as I will, the small places.

[00:23:44] And to answer your question, look, I just make the assumption that everybody is tuned in whether or not they've taken the time to dissect what they've ingested, which really is the comedian's job to connect the dots and the chaos. We're all walking [00:24:00] through in the language of laughs there used to be a, there was a svengali that ran second city for years. I never had him, but people used to talk about us and he was Dell Close his name. Yeah.  And he always used to say,  play to the top level of your intelligence. In other words, don't try to be smarter than you are, and don't be dumber than you are, but it's important in a standup show.

[00:24:23]Mine run 90 minutes to two hours without a break that you spread a really eclectic buffet for all the people that are coming to see you. Cause they're from all walks of life and they deserve to get as good as show as if you're playing Carnegie hall. Why wouldn't they, they paid their 60 bucks.  However, that being said with the political polarization that's occurred and God knows attitudes have changed so much since the pandemic has passed through. It's going to be interesting to see what people will be willing to laugh at.

[00:24:59]Blake Melnick:  [00:25:00] Yeah. That's a great point. You brought that up earlier 

[00:25:01]I think that's what people want is some semblance of sanity.

[00:25:05]I mean, holy jumping Jesus. We just went through four years of that orange mutant south of the border post whose verbal flatulence has invaded Canada as well. And I mean, you know, if you believe that drink and chloratine fused fish tank water followed by a cow piss chaser is going to cure COVID

[00:25:25] You're absolutely right. We've had this  almost like doublespeak. We used to read about this and novels growing up,  brave new world,  right up is down left is right. And that's what we went through.  Certainly when Trump was in power.  I'm interested to hear  how you think that will impact comedy. You've pointed out. There are certain things that are going to be difficult to say these days, without raising the ire of the audience. I find it in day-to-day conversations, people are pulling back from conversations because they don't want to say the wrong thing.

[00:25:54] Do you think that will impact? 

[00:25:55] Ron James: Well, after nine 11, I hit the stage. That was a big learning curve for me, big growth [00:26:00] spring on the tree. Nobody wanted to touch it  it was the subtext. It was the elephant in the room. And I knew I had to find a way through that morass  with conviction, craft and compassion, I found a way and I found my funny.

[00:26:12]I imitated my Cape, Breton mother and grilling, and they're all nosy there. Right.  And they talk, talk dot, dot dot. And I am the date of my Cape Breton mother interviewing and Al Quaeda Operativeundercover in a backyard in Florida. And, it broke the ice. I found a way through. And I know that might not say, , and again, to your point now, in retrospect, but it helped it just lightened it, it got,  but anger fuels the funny as well.

[00:26:37]And I think comedians job and most comedians who are, committed to their craft will agree. It's our job to move the world to the right side history.  We have to be progressive. You have to hold power to account and Canadians as Farley Mowet. It used to say to me, have a dysfunctional deference to authority Ronnie

[00:26:57]they don't trust satire, you gotta sneak [00:27:00] in the back door and be sitting at their kitchen table before the sons of bitches even know you're in the house. Yeah. And so creative subversion, affable subversion, it's the way you deliver. And it's the way you insinuate the subversion here. And I think I might be a little too esoteric in my explanation, but, and it's not to say that it's better down there because 75 million people in America are still invested in Trump's big lie.

[00:27:27] That's true. But the country was born from the smoke and fire of revolution. And there's 375 million people. They have a predisposition for the rebel voice,  Canada and it wasn't benign delivery from the womb of mother Britain. while, America was a crack baby breech birth that chewed off its own umbilical cord.

[00:27:49]Their founding fathers, are deified, our founding fathers. had such a deference for queen Victoria and the Royal family. They would a bronze to one of her turds as a paperweight. [00:28:00] We're different and there's 375 million people in America. You can have half that nation hating your act and have the other have loving it and still have five times the population of Canada buying a ticket to see it.

[00:28:14] So if there's anything I learned about traveling the country, first of all, when you're in a place, you take your walkabout and you customize the top of your show to let the audience know that you've taken your time to invest your energies in what makes them tick. Great point. 

[00:28:33] And then over time throughout, the act you begin to thread in and feather in a wider perspective for the nation as a whole personal things, family mid-life dating sex, all these relatable topics and 

[00:28:50] I think it's important to try to reach the, every man with the everyday concerns they have without towing the party line.  It must be difficult. It's going [00:29:00] to be a challenge for me to,  hold power to account these days. There's an election coming up. Silver spoon dauphin no. Spent his youth snow boarding in blackface on Whistler. You got the evil Gerber baby Erin O'Toole. No. I mean, that guy was spawned by a party who at the 11 hour asked people to report barbaric cultural practices. They don't want that to euphemistic statement for keep an eye on the brown people want to see barbaric cultural practice.

[00:29:36] Drop by Patty, Mick fuckees on St. Patty's day and watch a purple face piss tank dressed as a leprechaun, sitting on a bar stool soil, his pants singing Danny boy, that's a barbaric cultural practice, but oh no, they're old school Canadians, it's why that guy who drove through the gates at [00:30:00] Sussex with all that Q Anon literature and a half ton truck loaded with weapons, got a check from the Mounties for an hour and a half.

[00:30:09] And the cops and Peele put seven bullets in the chest of an Indian man who had a fork in his hand and was suffering a schizophrenia episode. Fuck that, man, you got to call it out and you know what, if you don't call it out, the wrong side wins   and so there's big topics to address.

[00:30:27]I remember when,  the issue was around,  and it still is. It's just the papers, just aren't writing about it now, but  native reserves and their water boiling water, I said in one of my specials, I said jesus man,  we're worried about giving her water to America and the free trade deal.

[00:30:43] If we're going to be giving it away, why don't we give it to our native reserves, struggling on these boreal gulags in the treeline they've been boiling their water for the last 25 years. 

[00:30:53] This if  brown water was coming out of the taps and some Tony corner Ottawa [00:31:00] Rosedale, or Kitsilano, it'd be fixed faster than the horny horse and the Mountie's musical ride. So it's just,  anyway, I can be lighter too, you know?   

[00:31:11] Cam Brown: I guess this election coming up will be a treasure trove of material.

[00:31:14]Ron James: Jesus, the liberals, like the laugh at themselves. Cause they're egomaniacs and the conservatives won't laugh at themselves because they're so tender. You know, they're the first ones to call us snowflakes. And yet  you turn your sights on them and they're the first ones to cry foul   I was on CBC at the time. When, they had these moles roaming, the hallways at the mother Corps reporting ya  right, because Harper was in power say anything against them and helmet head was micromanaging the message and denying. And, wanted everybody to shut up and tow the patriarchal party line, if I would have said the wrong thing, I could have been disappeared, right?

[00:31:50] Like the dark days of Pinochet, I'd wake up in a Pentecostal church basement in Southern Alberta with a black bag on my head while the gang of young Tory stormtroopers [00:32:00] and sons of Odin put the boots to me with a box of stale timbits anyway, I'll shut up. Ask another question. Sorry. 

[00:32:07] Cam Brown: Tell me who makes you laugh now?

[00:32:09]Rickie Gervais's 2018 special. I laughed my ass off at that. That guy's brave, man. . He doesn't worry too much about what he's saying. And what he says is I think pretty enlightened and progressive for somebody who's a gazillionaire. He certainly, isn't afraid to take the stuffing out of the celebrity that he's been anointed with.

[00:32:29] That's a very fine line to walk. I think it's great. I don't watch a lot of standup though. , there's been no clubs to watch.  I have an easy laugh. Billy Conley always makes me laugh. Sometimes I'll go and watch some old clips of him. I'll turn it on YouTube and watch him.

[00:32:44] I always used to get a big kick at Zach Galifianakis between two ferns he made me laugh lot's of Canadians make me too, there's some great Canadian stand-ups Ryan Bellville for one, he's one of the regulars on,  Working Moms. Excellent comedian, one of the great unsung heroes of Canadian [00:33:00] standup.

[00:33:00] He's excellent. And,  I look forward to seeing them all again, sometime 


[00:33:04]Blake Melnick:  I wanted to get back to your book for a second.  It's not out yet, right? 

[00:33:07]Ron James: September 28th, 

[00:33:09] Blake Melnick: September 28th. And people can buy it

[00:33:11] Ron James: , the book come out at the same time. 

[00:33:13] Blake Melnick: Great. And you've been doing that recently, reading from the book.  

[00:33:16] Ron James: recording it? I was in there today.

[00:33:17] Yeah. Yeah. So I sit in a soundproof, both by myself with the iPad in front of me and the book and the director on my headphones and the engineer and the glass ahead of me and away we go. 

[00:33:28]Blake Melnick: So people can get the book at the regular outlets, indigo chapters. 

[00:33:31]Ron James: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.  I think, the rhythm of the words will be,  a great asset  to the book itself.

[00:33:38]And it's been a long journey, there's stories in there. My uncle,   who eventually found a sobriety , after years of being on the streets and Toronto, and, there's stories about Halifax growing up. And, there's stories about this country that I traveled in, the people I've met and the places I've been there's stories about Los Angeles and the struggles down there. [00:34:00]

[00:34:00]There's stories about the industry. I'm in the specials. I've done the people I've worked with the series that I've created starred in, and those challenges that come with working  on a series.  So it's an inside look  at show business,  in some sections, but mostly it's an homage to this nation and to the work that I've had, the good fortune to.

[00:34:23]Call my trade

[00:34:25]Blake Melnick: In our pre-call you mentioned,  it hasn't all been a bed of roses for you. I mean, there's been nothing more struggle than anything. Right. But you're proud of that. Struggle  . 

[00:34:35] Ron James: Geez. Yeah. I mean the first hammer a carpenter picks up, he doesn't build a mansion. You gotta learn, man. You gotta hit your thumb a few times. And  I've gone through long, long periods of abject and soul searching. Los Angeles was brutal,  a year and two months without any work, 87 auditions, just hoping to get something,  living on 17 bucks a week.

[00:34:55]It was a tough, tough struggle down there. And then coming back and [00:35:00] having a little bit of a lift, getting a movie and having some commercials and stuff, but Jesus, if you had three months rent cover, you were doing good, but I saved up.  I came back in with $48,000 us debt and I paid it off.

[00:35:13] And then the three years after paying that off, I ended up having enough to put a down payment on a house, which it's hard to laugh at now, but I bought it for $215,000 in Toronto in 1997, , and ended up selling it for almost three times that,  10 years later built a house.

[00:35:29] But even  that was hard too. I was in the house for 18 months and then we separated after 23 years and I spent. 18 months in the belly of the whale, man, that was a tough run being down in that, estranged from my kids and starting over and building my television show up at the time.

[00:35:45] Both like Nietzsche said, whatever tries to kill, you will only make you stronger. He also said, I'd like to have these boots in a size eight, but I guess that quote never stuck  but you know, , the work helped me, the creative in the sense of purpose and moving forward with,  a belief in the [00:36:00] future and a fortitude that tomorrow would be better than today.

[00:36:03] And knowing that this is what you have to do,  

[00:36:07] yeah. Well, you mentioned you don't have an agent, correct? No, sir. Would you like to know I'm giving them away. 

[00:36:12] Just going to get a call, a clan account again, not so fond of them in real life, let alone playing on. 

[00:36:17]So Ron, in preparation for the interview today, we went out to our Facebook page, our show Facebook page, and asked our members to come up with words and phrases that best represented how they were feeling in the midst of this pandemic. So I thought I'd, I've cam read you the responses and you can react to them.   

[00:36:36] Cam Brown: How about hair?

[00:36:37] Ron James: Cut hair cut. Yeah, just got my first one a little while ago. And, prior to that,  it was resembling one of those Romanian Wolf children that used to show up in a farmer's back porch in the Carpathian mountains back in the late sixties, chewing on a squirrel  half naked, although I was fully clothed. 

[00:36:57]Cam Brown: Another popular one was Netflix. [00:37:00] 

[00:37:00]Ron James:  Well Netflix is a convenient.  Seems they can make a show with somebody reading a phone book on Netflix these days. Right. It's Netflix.  It's crack television. Just when you think you're done. I mean,  you don't just watch a show. You binge watch it, right?  After 17 hours and an entire weekend, you're sitting in the lazy boy, just in a immaceated husk, stinky in your own filth, bleeding from the eyes.

[00:37:26]I mean, geez, can you turn anything on TV where it's not an apocalyptic end of the world story?

[00:37:31] I just watched Greenland last night. Oh, good. There's a nice little family drama. , those apocalyptic shows nobody ever says, fuck, am I ever hungry? I mean, I got to eat every 10 minutes

[00:37:43]Cam Brown:  one of our,  followers also said Trudeau became my hero during this pandemic.

[00:37:49]Ron James: Really?  How much of the liberal Kool-Aid did they actually drink? Come on, man. We were 33rd in the world. He dropped the ball. We were 33rd in the world. In terms of [00:38:00] rollout of vaccinations, Slovenia was getting the vaccines before us, which in layman terms, it means Melania's first cousin Igor got the shot sooner than our frontline workers did.

[00:38:13]No love lost for me with the silver spoon.dauphin. And as far as O'Toole is concerned,  influenced by that reform party. Biblical mandate who believed that no is, are really happened.  I  no wonder you're going to disavow science and closed down scientific inquiry. If you believe that Noah managed to get in blue whales on two by two, come on.

[00:38:36]Cam Brown:  Are you looking forward to getting back to touring?  

[00:38:38]Ron James: Ontario tour plan. It starts October 28th and goes to the November 16th. . Prior to that, I've got two dates at a Woody point writers and comedy festival in Newfoundland, which is smack dab in the heart of Gros, Morne national park and who Finland of course being my father's country.

[00:38:55] I'm delighted that the first time I'll be on stage since March 7th, [00:39:00] 2020 is, in the province that my father wants called home. 

[00:39:04] Cam Brown: Oh, congrats. 

[00:39:06] Ron James: Yeah. Thank you. 

[00:39:06]Blake Melnick:  I'm sure you're looking forward to that, Ron 

[00:39:08]I am indeed. It's a small audience of 120 maybe.

[00:39:12]Ron James:  I just know that going there is  going to be the battery boost, just to take the over the final hump and into that hard month of writing old habits. September prior to my tour, I've got a gig actually at Rick Bronson's club in Edmonton, at the comedy strip, Thanksgiving weekend and maybe one the weekend before that in Calgary.

[00:39:32] Ron, I really appreciate your time.  I know you're a busy guy and thanks for spending the time and coming to talk to us and anything that you would  like us to promote about you about becoming shows about the new book.

[00:39:43] Just let me know. We'll put it up on the blog page.  If you want people to be able to connect with you, reach out to you for any particular reason, just let us know 

[00:39:50] thanks. A million lads. They say. Thanks cam. Thanks Blake.

[00:39:56]Blake Melnick: This concludes season two of what it's worth [00:40:00] and the space in between with our final episode, rambles and ruminations with our guests, comedian, Ron James, as Ron mentioned during the interview, his new book All Over the Map will be released in September of this year. September 28th is a release date, and you'll be able to pick one up at your favorite bookstore

[00:40:19] ron has also kindly agreed to provide us with some personalized signed copies of the book, which we'll make available to you, our listeners and subscribers through our new website and our online store. We'll post updates on our show Facebook page when these will become available. And we're going to take a bit of a break, enjoy some of the summer, but we will drop a couple of unscheduled episodes during this period.

[00:40:43] So once again, check it out. Show Facebook page to find out when these episodes are going to drop. And as a final word on behalf of the entire, for what it's worth podcast team, Cameron brown, Rowan Melnick,  Alison Davies and myself. I want to say thank you to all of [00:41:00] you, to our subscribers and supporters without you and your support.

[00:41:04] We simply wouldn't have a show. I hope you'll stick with us for working on some amazing guests for season three. And I believe there really is something happening here. For what it's worth.