Toronto comedian Mike Rita has lots to celebrate! Along with starring in Just for Laughs Montreal’s beloved, The Ethnic Show, Rita has been named one of the festival’s Top 20 Canadian Comics, honouring two important anniversaries: Canada’s 150th and JFLMTL’s 35th. Also appearing at The Ethnic Show are Alonzo Bodden, Jessica Kirson, Steve Byrne, Vlad Caamano and The Doo Wops.
As if all that weren’t enough, Rita and wife Danielle just became proud parents of their first child, a beautiful baby girl. With all the excitement, Rita somehow found time to talk with Mobtreal.
Mobtreal: First off, congratulations on being a Dad. I guess your Portuguese family aren’t very excited.
Rita: Oh my God, my family, they’re so happy! All my relatives—even old people I haven’t seen move in years! (laughs) I never thought anything could bring this much love into our lives.
Mobtreal: So, with all that, you’ve got JFL! It’s quite an honour to be named a Top Canadian Comic.
Rita: It’s humbling. Comedy’s such a weird thing—you’re working hard and all of the sudden, you have this surprise. I’m really enjoying it; this is a really sweet moment. But, there are a lot of funny people around…
Mobtreal: You’ve had some impressive success, early on. (At age 20, Rita won Second City’s Tim Sims Award for Best New Comic.)
Rita: Look, I had such hard-working immigrant parents, I had no choice but to succeed. I had to push so hard, to show them that all their sacrifices were worth it. When I first told my parents I wanted to be a comic, they said, “Our son is ruining his life!” (laughs) Then, when I was on the Portuguese national station—it’s like our CBC—my parents got calls from aunts and uncles, to congratulate them. They so were proud!
Mobtreal: Some comics get distracted by success, or they lose focus.
Rita: I know many comics who want to act or do something else. I never wanted to be an actor. I just want to be a great stand-up. I’d like to look back proudly, after a long career in comedy.
Mobtreal: What does performing at JFL Montreal mean to you?
Rita: Are you kidding? It’s like a childhood dream! I remember as a kid, just watching the JFL Galas on TV. Now, I get to meet those comedians I loved. I’m so happy to be there! It’s the biggest comedy fest in the world.
Mobtreal: Will performing for a week at The Ethnic Show be challenging?
Rita: I’m really looking forward to connecting with the other Ethnic comedians. There’s an underlying, shared experience we have… Ethnic parents are so quick to get angry, but follow it with so much love.
Mobtreal: Which comedians influenced you, when you were starting off?
Mobtreal: I loved George Carlin, when I was a kid. He appealed to everyone.
Rita: True—he was such a well-rounded comedian. I remember listening to Carlin at work, when I was starting out. Over and over. (laughs) I think his last two HBO specials are my favorites.
Mobtreal: We’re living in such conservative times. Do you ever worry about offending your audience?
Rita: I do, all the time. I’m the nicest guy, but some people just want to be offended. I know I can’t control that, but it must affect me.
Mobtreal: Tell me a bit about your podcast, “Stoner Sundays.”
Rita: I started as a pot activist in 2010, when it was just a small counter-culture movement. The 4:20 movement was just a few hundred people. This year’s rally in Toronto had fifteen thousand. Canadians really like their pot. When I meet people from other countries, it’s the first thing they say about us.
Mobtreal: Maybe that’s why we’re so friendly.
Rita: Definitely! (laughs)
The Ethnic Show: Just for Laughs Montreal
Jul 12-23 Club Soda
Jul 25-27 Metropolis
Tickets: $44.99- $60.49