By Victoria Banner
VANCOUVER — Artistic integrity is one of those ideas that is often seen as far more important to the artist than to the audience, but that misses the fact that it’s always running “under the hood.” It might not be obvious at first, but an artist needs it to build both skill and trust in their audience. For comedian Mark Forward, it’s clearly something that he puts a lot of thought into and underlies a lot of what he does and says.
Mark Forward is a stand-up comedian from Toronto. Being from Canada’s tinsel town, he also has an impressive acting resume. You may have spotted Mark on Letterkenny, Mr. Dee, and The Jon Dore Television Show. Mark is also a TV writer and if you pull out your phone and IMDB him, you can see that he is behind many other projects in the “tolerable” section of CANCON. Some of this work is by necessity, he explains, “I love stand-up comedy but you have to do lots of other things in comedy or you will physically die. Well I guess physically dying is the only way you can die, but you’ll emotionally die too.”
This intensity of Forward peppers much of what he has to say about comedy and his career. The theme of artistic integrity looms large for him. For Forward, rather than pander to one audience or another, the comedy has to come from within. He explains, “It took me 15 years to release an album (2014’s Things I Thought Of) because when you start as a comedian you’re first trying to make the comics in the back laugh, then you try to make the audience laugh and then you just start doing what you find funny which is the most fun for everyone.”
For anyone who hasn’t seen Forward in a club, he has a wildly unique style of stand-up that if you had to label it, would fall in to the category of Alternative Comedy. Having just performed in the Edinburgh and Melbourne International Fringe Festivals, Forward claims he gives people very little warning about his unique style. “I just put ‘something different’ in the programs and make sure the show is as funny as possible,” a smart way to initiate audiences to modern stand-up. “It’s amazing when you realize you have the freedom to do whatever you want, anything, on stage.” Forward appears to have a fondness for the undersell followed with a sensory overload of comedic ability.
While not being a household name when you think about Canadian comedy, Forward continues to advance in the big leagues just in the peripheral of the public eye. This can be a challenge given that Canada’s most talented comics are trapped in a who the f**k is Arcade Fire nightmare. Forward had 32 tour dates in the USA and three late night talk show appearances this year alone. His relative obscurity given his obvious talent is mostly due to a broken system, but he prefers to focus on what he can do with a little bit of tortured artist humility. “If I have any advice for aspiring comedians, it’s wait until you’re good. With YouTube and such there’s too many people calling themselves headliners and comedians before they have any ability. You can’t take back an awful TV set and no one looks at the date it was filmed and assumes you have grown as an artist later down the road. Focus on getting good first.”
Mark Forward performs at The Comedy Mix on May 5 and 6.BC, British Columbia, Mark Forward, stand-up comedy, The Comedy Mix