Critically acclaimed British comedian James Mullinger will be appearing at Montreal’s newly improved ComedyWorks this Thursday to Saturday, performing five shows over three nights. A must-see stand up, he was nominated for the Just For Laughs Best Comedy Show Award at last year’s Montreal Fringe.
His is an interesting story. He left his homeland of London, England last year and moved to Saint John, New Brunswick of all places. Mullinger had his own TV shows in England, had written a best selling book and built up a decent fanbase through touring five solo stand up shows all over the UK over five consecutive years as well as working with the likes of Paul Rudd and Jerry Seinfeld as GQ’s Comedy Editor. So why did he give it all up to move to the Maritimes? Mobtreal asked him to explain in his own words and to tell us how his first year working as a comedian out of New Brunswick has been.
I moved to Atlantic Canada last year for a better quality of life. It is as simple as that. I had lived in London my whole life and my wife and I had our second child and wanted better for them. After the shocking and tragic election results in England last week (in which a far right party who cut taxes for the rich by taking away benefits for the disabled), I couldn’t be happier that I made that move. My wife is from New Brunswick and had a very happy upbringing. It is beautiful and
I love it here and I wanted my children to have that upbringing. There is no point trying to bring up a family in the most expensive city in the world if you have to work 24/7 just to live there. And if my job is going to take me away from home a lot so I decided that we would be better off based in a beautiful place full of lovely, happy people than in a crime-ridden city like London.
I hear a lot from Canadians how much they love England and I do too. The nice bits are beautiful. But that is not the reality of life there if you are living there. So we came here to live in a place that I deem to be paradise. I live in a small town outside Saint John called Rothesay and it is the most beautiful place on earth. The view from my house in London was of a kebab shop. Now I have a stunning view of the Kennebecasis River which wows me every single morning. We couldn’t be happier. But this was not a career move. The thinking was that my wife and sons could be in New Brunswick with her lovely family nearby then I could go off on the road to earn. The big surprise has been how much work there has been right here in New Brunswick. I have been working non-stop. I am certainly doing a lot nicer corporate gigs that I was doing in England. There was a gap in the market that needed filling, I just didn’t know that before I moved here. To put it another way: if you want a professional comedian to do your event in London, Toronto or Montreal there are dozens – if not hundreds – to choose from. In New Brunswick there is only a handful.
I have been playing Yuk Yuk’s clubs all over Canada and having a wonderful time doing it. I have also been doing corporates all over North America so my act is very much about my experiences as a Brit now living here. When I performed at the Montreal Fringe last year I had only been here four months and I was performing a show (Living The Dream), which I had toured the UK with. I had obviously made some changes to it in that I had tweaked cultural references that were very UK-specific to make them relevant here but the bare bones of the show were the same. Over the past year my act has completely changed. So much about life here confuses me, interests me, excites me – that now most of my act is about that. It really is a dream scenario for a comedian to be the outsider, the fish out of water. So funnily enough, when I came to perform the show at the Imperial Theatre in Saint John to almost a thousand people less than four months after the Fringe, most of the material had changed!
People seem to be enjoying hearing about the differences between life in London and Saint John and it has even led to a TV show for Bell Aliant titled Blimey! An Englishman In Atlantic Canada. The first season was six episodes and followed me on my new life here last summer adjusting to performing in venues such as vineyards, basements and food markets.
We then shot a feature length special during my UK tour in October and November last year as well as a Christmas special which captured the life of a comedian during the Christmas corporate gig season doing shows for prestigious forms like Lexus Of Saint John (who are incredibly lovely people who have been very supportive of me and have helped a lot with my local charity work).
Viewing figures were great and we were delighted to be commissioned for a second season very quickly, this time for ten episodes. The commissioners were keen for the second season to be more structured so we booked a Bell Aliant Community One Comedy Tour in which myself and some of the awesome up and coming comedians in Atlantic Canada hit the road and played in venues and towns in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI that had never seen comedy before. I would go to the town, meet people, sometimes do a local job and then do a show that night. It was a dream come true, the show I have been dreaming about doing since I started comedy over ten years ago. Some of the scenes are scripted but all of the stand up is real. Each night I would be improvising and coming up with brand new material specifically for and about that place. A dream for any stand up. The best thing about Bell Aliant is that they allow anyone, anywhere in the world watch the show for free. Obviously we would all appreciate it if you subscribed to FibreOP so you can watch it on your big TV screen live but you can watch it for free online. Bell Aliant are great people to work with and for. It’s been a genuine pleasure, which is not something you normally say about a TV collaboration.
The director of the show John Borbely is a very talented individual and I am pleased to reveal exclusively to Mobtreal that he will be accompanying me to Montreal this week to shoot a special one off extended episode of Blimey! in Montreal. We will be shooting scenes of me meeting people during the day and then he will capture the shows at night. Much of what I talk about will be very specific to Montreal although I will obviously be sharing some bizarre tales from
my new life in New Brunswick.
I have written and talked at length before about this but I love Montreal and to be coming there to headline ComedyWorks is a huge honour. It is obviously the home of Canadian comedy but it is also where my love affair with stand up developed. I have visited in July for Just For Laughs many times over the years and there is no festival, no event, no extravaganza more exciting, thrilling, buzzing than Just For Laughs. Many of my favourite comics are from or live in Montreal, people like DeAnne Smith, Eman El-Husseini, Derek Seguin, Jess Salomon, Ali Hassan, David Acer. Make no mistake: for a comedian or comedy fan – it is the greatest place on earth. I have had so much fun here, had so much support. I was new in this country when I came to do Montreal Fringe last year and I was terrified. Properly nervous. And so many kind people helped me out.
People like Amy Blackmore who runs the awesome Mainline Theatre and Montreal Fringe. Old friends like Leisa Lee, Jamie O’Meara, Bruce Hills, Talar Adam and Danny Payne (who is a fellow Brit). Doing Montreal Fringe was one of the best experiences of my life. I honestly don’t think that all of the wonderful things that have happened to me this past year would have happened without Montreal Fringe. As a performer it was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life playing in a venue as wonderful as the Mainline Theatre to such awesome audiences. And coming away with so many things – the nice reviews from people like Stuart Nulman, a lovely interview with Bill Brownstein, the award nomination. I think all of this definitely helped me get all the work and sold out shows that followed. It told people that I wasn’t just some limey chancer even though, obviously, I am. And best of all, thanks to Leisa Lee, I met Walter Lyng the man behind the reopening of the magical ComedyWorks who booked me for the shows this week. He kindly came to see me perform twice last year. Once at Mainline and once at the old ComedyWorks.
I am so excited about this week. Visiting my favourite city, playing this awesome club, seeing old friends. It is ironic that almost a year ago I came to your perfect city to do a show called Living The Dream about what a loser I am and how whenever I try and live the dream, I fail. And now a year later I return and thanks to that visit last year I actually am living the dream for real now. Thanks Montreal and lovely, brilliant people like Johanne at Mobtreal who kindly came to see my show and supported me throughout my Fringe run. You’ve made an insecure British fool very happy indeed.
To see James at ComedyWorks click here:
To watch Blimey! An Englishman In Atlantic Canada click here:
To buy James’ live concert album click here:
To see James live at the Imperial Theatre click here: