Chris Griffin  on the perils of storytelling 

Thursday 11th, October 2018 / 07:00
By Graeme Wiggins

Photo by Rebecca Blissett

VANCOUVER – Different kinds of comedians bomb differently. If you’re a one-liner, punchline kind of comedian, recovering from a failed joke is pretty straightforward: you move on to the next one. They might just not like your style and that might not work either, but your chances are easier. If you come from the line of comedians that are more storytelling in concept, if a bit isn’t working, recovery can be much tougher. Vancouver comedian Chris Griffin belongs to the latter camp and recognizes this difficulty, but has developed a sense of how to succeed.

“I just did a show a couple of weeks ago at a senior’s home at noon. Average age: 84,” he says. “I couldn’t get anything. Half of them weren’t even awake. It sucks the life out of you, doing two minutes of set up and then you ditch the joke so that’s now three minutes where nobody has laughed. It’s brutal. You learn to get out of that. And you learn to have the confidence to get out of that. Like, look, we’ll get through this and you’ll laugh. You exude that and they’ll buy it.”

There’s a sort of chicken-or-the-egg paradox to storytelling comedians. Are they people who end up in situations that allow for funny stories to turn into comedy, or are they comedians who actively seek out experiences that they can turn into comedy? For Griffin, it’s a bit of both.

“I think the stories come first,” he says. “But I also have the type of personality where you chase them. I think, as you do comedy and get years into it, you really develop a comedy brain. It’s always in the back of your mind – an eye for what’s funny. So when a situation presents itself that’s going to be crazy or people want to go do something that’s nuts, I’ll always be all in.”

This sense of chasing stories, especially the kind Griffin traffics in, doesn’t come without a cost: “For my own well-being, in the last year my friends had a bit of an intervention where ‘you have to tone down’ putting yourself in crazy situations.”

Griffin is recording material this October for a possible new special. It should showcase where he’s come since his last one, which was recorded back when he lived in Calgary. “This is sort of the culmination of the years in Vancouver,” he says. “I think I’ve grown as a comic since then. I’m excited. I’ve toured non-stop until now. I feel the hour is as ready as it will be.”

Ideally the situation will be a little better than the circumstances surrounding his last recording. He recounts, “The flood happened, and it flooded the theatre, and I had to postpone it into mid-summer, which is the worst because Calgary has two months of no snow. I still managed to get a lot of people out.”

With this recording comes a sense that he’ll have moved to a new point in his career, and to carry on progressing: “It’ll be nice to put this material to bed officially. I’ve forced myself the last six weeks to not write and just polish. And then it’s back to the grind and write a new hour, or try a one man show or something different. It’s freeing and terrifying. To start fresh like what I did when I came to Vancouver.”

Catch Chris Griffin live on October 18 at the Biltmore Cabaret.