There’s a lot you probably already know about Ron James.
A familiar face thanks to shows like Made in Canada, Blackfly, and The Ron James Show, James is someone who is never at a loss for a joke, barb, word or quip, and may very well be one of the most loved and hardest working comedians in the country. But, did you know that, thanks to the mid-80s Ewoks cartoon, Ron James is technically part of the vast Star Wars universe? It’s true, although you’re far more likely to be impressed by that fact than James himself.
“It has no calories, none,” James said of his work a long time ago in a galaxy far away. “What matters to me is I’m going to be pulling in to Pictou and I’m going to be giving those people who bought a ticket two hours of enjoyment and I’m going to enjoy myself doing what I love to do. And there will not be one Ewok impression in the show.”
Instead, it will be an entirely new show – a fact that is a source of pride for the comedian.
James last performed in Pictou in 2013 when Prime Minster Stephen Harper was in office, Peter MacKay represented Central Nova and Rob Ford could be counted among the living. In short, the world is a bit of a different place than it was three years ago.
“Buddy, what’s my take? It’s hallucinatory,” James said. “I woke up after Donald Trump’s victory like the rest of the sane world did, knowing that the inmates had taken over the asylum. It’s a new world order where the bad guys are going to win for a while. It’s a great time to be a comedian in Canada, ’cause I don’t know if he’s going to suffer any dissent south of the border. It’s a good thing Trudeau is legalizing marijuana because everyone in this country is going to need to be face first in a bong every morning for the next four years just to get through that man’s reign,” he said in an interview earlier this week.
Beyond source material, do politics have an affect on comedy? “It certainly did when numb-nuts was running the country,” James said, “when helmet head had keys to the government store… Now that the dark cloak of Mordor has been lifted and Mr. Sunny Ways himself is in charge, I mean, jeez, the last prime minister couldn’t smile and the new one can’t stop.
“It’s a new day in Canada,” James said. “It’s a great day to be us.”
It’s a good time to be on the road as well, he added.
“I’ve been on the road for 20 years, stringing my trapline from Corner Brook to Courtenay-Comox and no matter where you go you get a vibe for a place.”
Politics aside, James said that entertains him – be it television or conversation – is a good story well told.
And he’ll be telling some of those stories on Sunday at the deCoste Centre. “I’m bringing an entirely new show to Pictou. Talking about everything from Netflix to Bell customer service to the rise of Trump, a new day in Ottawa, mid-life, growing up in the Maritimes, my opinions of the country and where I’ve been, embracing the soul-note and heart line hum of people and place from town to town, highlighting our virtues as well as some of the things we have to work on as a country.”
While James has a collection of hits in his back catalogue he said that he knows when material has run its course and it’s just his nature to move on.
“Curiosity about the world and raising the bar for myself and challenging myself – that’s what keeps my material fresh. And a genuine interest in learning and being ahead of the curve as much as you can, but not too much. The audience has to assimilate change as well, right? You don’t want to be staying on the same topics forever. As you change and the world changes you have to deal with it.”
It there’s one thing that comes to mind on the topic of Ron James – aside from the whole Ewok thing – it’s his unrivalled grasp of the English language. In an era of dumb it down, James has never been afraid to set the sights high or worry about losing the crowd.
“That’s when you want to be judicious,” James said. “You never want to seem like you’re too smart for the room.
“It’s how you deliver it,” James said, “and it’s how much you deliver it… and it’s a flavour that enhances a show but too much of it will ruin the stew. I guess in a way it’s the writer in me that wants to put words on the page as much as I do the stage. I just like the way words drip off the tongue and into the ear and tickle the funny bone. I think folks get a different bang for their buck when they come to me to see a show. Within that context in order for those poetic runs to work you also have to have a couple of fart jokes in your back pocket. It’s just the way human beings are. Once again you have to be scatologically judicious as well.”