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What is it like being a comedian during a pandemic?

Squamish's Kelly Dyer on comedy, life and keeping it light.

For Squamish's Kelly Dyer, finding the funny in life is who he is.

As a stand-up comedian, Dyer, who has lived in the Sea to Sky Corridor for 30 years, has made folks in Squamish and beyond laugh for years. 

But with most in-person gigs cancelled or scaled back for the last two years because of the pandemic and life throwing seemingly less than funny curve balls, how does a comedian navigate it all? 

To find out, The Squamish Chief called up Dyer for a chat while he worked to keep two bars worth of signal on his cell phone in Crumpit Woods. 

What follows is an edited version of our conversation.

Q: It has been a while. How have you been through the pandemic? 

A: Well, luckily for me, I do have a day job like most Canadian comedians. I am a carpenter. So, I am OK, in that regard, but I definitely miss getting up on stage, that's for sure.

I think I have done three live shows in the last two years and maybe 10 Zoom shows.

Q: How is it doing Zoom shows? 

A: It's weird. It takes a little while to get used to not having any audience reaction. But I have done a few like the Whistler Blackcomb staff party where they actually let people be in on the call, so you can hear them laugh and can interact with them. So, that was cool. Getting paid hundreds of dollars to tell jokes while you're in your bedroom isn't the worst way to make a buck either.

Q: That's true. It's just a whole different thing, though, right?

A: Lots of people have straight-up quit comedy. And now, there's a whole new wave of young blood taking their place.

Q: How is it even being creative? And funny, through all this?

A: I've always been one to take a light stance on everything. But, I mean, just in general, people are far more easily offended and kind of more on edge. But we, as comedians, have always dealt with that. Now, it has just kind of been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Q: Do you find it tough? What would your show be about now?

A: Obviously, a comedian's job is to observe and report on what's going on in the world. So everyone's act has kind of been thrown out the window. So, it's like a full retool, right? It's pretty much starting almost from scratch. 

Some people write out word-for-word what they're going to say on stage.

I'm the kind of person who writes while on stage. So I just take a premise or an idea, and then I loosely write out a setup and then record myself at open mics. Then, I listen to the recordings and harvest out what worked and keep out what didn't work for me. I haven't even really been able to write that much because I write on stage. 

Q: What are some of the things that you have observed that are interesting that you think you might like to talk about when you do get back on stage?

A: Just the fragile nature of humanity now. Like, aren't we supposed to be evolving, but it seems like we're devolving? The pandemic has highlighted what's wrong with society.

And why are people so upset on behalf of other people?

Q: Given the pandemic, there isn't the usual pipeline for comedians to play gigs. What do you think is going to happen to the industry? 

A: I worry most about my friends who do this full-time. They basically starve to death at the best of times. This is like, super hard. Everything that is running, such as in Vancouver, is at half capacity. I mean, most showrunners have raised the price of tickets, but they haven't necessarily put those extra dollars into the comedians' pockets.

Q: In a way, it seems weird because there seem to be more Netflix stand-up shows, for example. But then there's the sort of a desert in the middle. How is the pipeline going to work for a Canadian comedian now?

A: It's always been difficult for us because we don't have the same population base as the States. 

An American can go to Dallas and do five or six clubs and stay there for a couple of weeks. Whereas in Canada, we only usually typically have one or two clubs in the city. So you're bouncing around a lot more and there are only so many big cities that have those clubs. Any Canadian comedian — if they are going to make a living at this — the goal is to get down in the States, get their green card and get working in America. 

Q: What do you hope to see happen in the next year?

A: Unfortunately, my employer Yuk Yuk's doesn't have a venue in Vancouver right now. There technically isn't a comedy club in Vancouver right now. The Comedy Mix closed three years ago. Yuk Yuk's closed with the pandemic, and it's currently trying to shop for a new venue. I mean, what I would like to see is just getting shows back in Squamish again and bringing in comedians from all over North America. 

Q: How have these last pandemic years been for you personally? Do you find this time depressing? 

A: I am a full-time single dad, so it didn't really change me that much. I am turning 49 in a couple of days and I am not one to go out and hit the town. I don't even drink. And I was lucky in the construction industry with work here. But that being said, two years later, it's definitely wearing on me. I'm missing being on stage and missing comedy. I'm missing going to festivals and I am missing all those things that everybody else is missing out on.

Q: What else have you been doing to keep busy? What's your outlet?

A: Biking is definitely the number one outlet, and snowboarding with the kiddos. Those have definitely been the things that have helped us keep our sanity.

Q: The other thing you are known for is your collection of vintage skateboard decks. When did you get into that and what do you like about collecting them? 

A: That was about six years ago now. 

I've got like 22 original ones now and probably eight reissues. And I'm always buying, selling, trading them. It's another hobby and revenue stream for me. The dream is that you find them on Craigslist or Facebook marketplace for nothing and use those to acquire the decks you really want.

It combines a bunch of things. It's nostalgia for one; memories associated with the decks. I tracked down all the decks that I had as a kid.

It combines art, sports — because a lot of the skateboarders, once the mid-80s came, all started to do their own graphics.

Just like any collecting, it's kind of like online treasure hunting. It is just something really fun to do. 

Q: Comedians have such a unique way of looking at the world that can be really perspective-changing. What's your advice for folks — pretty much everybody — who is struggling? 

A: Just don't take life so seriously, for one. Don't let it bog it down. I mean, hopefully, there is an end to this at some point. Just get off your computer and get outside.

Q: Anything else you want to say? 

A: Come on out when things get going again. Come see a show. There's no better medicine than laughter, as they say. It will be great to see everybody back out again and having a good time. 

Follow Dyer on Instagram and Twitter: @kdyercomic 



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