Canadian funny man Pete Johansson clearly relishes pissing people off. Especially Australians.
In fact, before his fourth trip to the resort in as many years as part of the Snowed In Comedy Tour with fellow standups and powder junkies Arj Barker, Dan Quinn and Craig Campbell, Johansson was sure to let Whistler’s Aussie contingent know exactly how he feels.
“I think, and I speak for Arj when I say this, that Australians are awful people. He lives there because he likes to challenge himself to be around the worst people in the world,” he said.
Of course, like a lot of people who make their living telling jokes, Johansson’s comments should be taken with a shaker full of salt. The former Vancouverite has made a long career out of saying things other people only think, and clearly it’s been a successful strategy. The acerbic comic and vivid storyteller has earned acclaim the world over, performing in such far-flung locales as Dubai, Hong Kong, Guam, Cyprus and even Afghanistan — not exactly hotbeds of standup comedy.
So, how does Johansson tailor his sets to suit his international audiences? Well, he doesn’t.
“I don’t change anything. I don’t care what the audience thinks, I’m counting money in my head,” he joked. “When you see me onstage performing, I’m just going ‘I’m making this much money now.’ I could care less, I have no affinity or love for anybody in the audience.”
And where Barker, the laidback guest star of the cult HBO comedy series, Flight of the Conchords seeks out fans after his shows, Johansson employs a different strategy entirely.
“(Barker) expects people to come and talk and hang out, whereas a lot of times I’ll just spit in someone’s face before they even get close to me.
“It just makes people want you more.”
The U.K. has already heartily embraced Johansson’s spittle-spewing style since he moved to London in 2008. He has also become a mainstay of the iconic Edinburgh Festival Fringe, nominated for the Best Newcomer award in 2009 for his revealing one-man show Naked Pictures of Life, which explored all the most embarrassing moments in Johansson’s life that led him to his current “happy-apathy” view of the world. He followed that up with a second solo show in 2010, which again earned rave reviews and led to his signing with L.A.’s prestigious Collective Agency.
And just like in his standup sets, Johansson’s not afraid to ruffle some feathers during his solo performances at the world’s largest arts festival.
“The longer shows I do thematically and try to push boundaries,” he said. “I tend to like to offend people in the middle as much as possible and then try to win them back. I don’t know why I do that.”
The ex-pat has become a favorite of standup stages across England, regularly performing at London’s renowned Comedy Store, even closing for Jerry Seinfeld in 2011 at the iconic venue. While much has been made of the seeming chasm between the British and North American sense of humour, in Johansson’s experience Canuck crowds share more in common with their English counterparts than most people think.
“I’d say British people are more sensitive to racial-themed comedy and Canadians are more sensitive to religious-themed comedy, but other then that there’s not really a big difference,” he said. “It’s not like Americans where they’re a little bit sensitive about anything educational or smart or comedy about anything outside of their own city. There’s a worldly perspective that Canadians and Brits both possess that’s lovely.”
As he already made quite clear, Johansson’s opinion doesn’t necessarily extend to the Australian portion of the Commonwealth, but he still wants their patronage nonetheless.
“Since this is going out in Whistler, I would like to say that after the show if you do like me, call all your friends in Australia — that awful shithole of a country you live in — and tell them that I’ll be at the Adelaide Comedy Fest and in Perth, so you can tell your friends to come down and stare at me too.”
The Snowed In Comedy Tour returns to Whistler next Tuesday (Jan. 14), with doors opening at 8:30 p.m. at the GLC. Tickets are $21.25 and are available at www.ticketweb.ca.