In 2004, during a televised “Just for Laughs” gala, Montreal comic David Pryde performed a carefully composed anecdote about the Second World War – one that was woefully misconstrued. The incident caused a backlash, leaving the celebrated writer/comedian wary of crossing the line – at least, temporarily.
“David Pryde’s Tete Offensive,” featured at the 25th St-Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival, offers Pryde the opportunity to revisit his most controversial material, amassed over myriad performances, from the perspective of one who has prevailed and is “comfortable in his own skin.” The show’s title is a play on words, referring to the infamous Viet Nam battle, but also translating from French as “Offensive Head.” “Heady” can also be defined as exhilarating, stimulating and edgy–everything great comedy should be.
Pryde has recently performed excerpts of the show in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. “Every one of the jokes has been stress-tested,” he quips. While Pryde has appeared on stages across the globe, he admits a home town bias. “In Montreal, there is a built-in support of comics, and a cool energy, especially at the FRINGE.”
Along with a smattering of controversy, Pryde’s career has been laden with success. He has appeared at four Just for Laughs galas, nominated twice for Best Male Stand-Up at the Canadian Comedy Awards, and is currently nominated for “SiriusXM Canada’s Top Comic.” The prolific writer’s credits include numerous Just for Laughs specials, CBC’s “The Debaters,” “This Hour has 22 Minutes” and “The Onion.” In addition to his loyal fan base, Pryde is “the comedian’s comedian,” profoundly respected by his colleagues.
“Tete” opens with a video sequence, an innovative concept that has Pryde feeling “giddy and excited.” As he puts the final touches on the editing, he explains, “The first fifteen minutes have never been shown to the public.” The entire show follows a chapter-like structure, so “there is a little wiggle room in each segment, where I can skip or add material,” allowing for spontaneity. “Tete” is truly a solo project for Pryde, who acts as the show’s writer/director.
Pryde is a lifelong writer, but unlike many comedians who started as a class clown, he was “definitely not an extrovert.” He describes his foray into stand-up, a career based on sheer audacity, as “counter-intuitive.” Yet, a gentle nature and all-around likability are tremendous assets to a satirist. Through clever misdirection, Pryde skillfully leads his audiences through his anecdotes, to their disquieting and ironic conclusions.
In describing his creative process, Pryde says, “I usually start with the punch line, working backwards to build the joke.” At first, he lets his ideas germinate. “I find myself chattering to myself, turning the words over and over, until they start to flow naturally.” Only then, does he sit down to write them. “That’s when I start tweaking the language; everything gets edited on paper.” Pryde’s greatest inspirations come from current events. “My comedy is issues-related; I go by what’s bothering me.” He employs dark humor to provoke his audiences, “shedding light on what I believe.” When confronting a taboo, Pryde often asks himself, “Am I going too far?” Fortunately for his devoted fans, his gut response is unwavering. “The answer is always no.”
25th St-Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival presents:
“David Pryde’s Tete Offensive”
Théâtre Sainte Catherine Theater
264 Ste. Catherine E.
June 11 to 21
Tickets: $10 – $12