There is no debate. Steve Patterson is a funny guy. But for anyone who has listened to his hit CBC Radio show, The Debaters, the guy also has an infectious laugh.
It’s that genuine guffaw — a mix between a high-pitched giggle and a manly chortle — that rings out on the airwaves on the show he hosts.
Best described as an unscripted comedian, Patterson admits it’s sometimes hard to hold it together when his fellow comics crack wise on such subjects as the merits of meat, or why seasoned rock stars should hang up their Fenders, or whether Sasquatch or Ogopogo is the superior legendary creature, as what happened when The Debaters was taped live in Kelowna last year.
“I’ve come perilously close to losing it a few times. That’s where my Depends come in handy,” he said, with that laugh.
And it’s no secret that what you hear on the radio, laughs and all, is basically how a debate happens live on the stage.
“I sometimes read the script or the opening arguments before a debate goes on, but mostly I like to hear it when it’s happening in front of a live audience,” said Patterson. “I like to be an audience member commenting on the show. I also don’t want to interrupt their flow.”
That go-with-the-flow method is not an act as audiences will see and hear when Patterson makes his way to theatres on the western leg of his new solo stand-up tour, This is Not Debatable. It hits these shores with a stop at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Sunday.
It’s his winning off-the-cuff and observant style that has endeared Patterson to audiences and garnered him his second Male Stand-Up Comedian of the Year nod from the 2013 Canadian Comedy Awards held last month.
It also means Patterson gets noticed a lot more these days, especially while travelling.
Part of that has to do with the televised version of The Debaters, which aired briefly last year and was recently axed by the CBC. (Don’t worry, the radio show lives on.)
“We taped these episodes in Vancouver and they ended up being played on Air Canada flights,” said Patterson. “You know you’ve made it when you are sitting in economy class with your fellow Canadians and you get the slow head turn in your direction and the polite ‘hey.’”
Then there are those polite Canadians who love to tell comedians their own jokes — sometimes while the comic is in the middle of his or her act. Patterson takes it all in stride.
“I like people to actually participate in my show, admittedly in a rather less disparaging way. I don’t really get hecklers, most of the feedback I get is positive.”
As someone who knows just about every comedian in this country, Patterson attributes that tendency to be funny to the fact that we can laugh at ourselves. Just look at what’s happening right now in Toronto with a certain mayor and a couple of senators in Ottawa — it’s fodder for comedians everywhere, he says.
“It’s a great time to be a comic, but it’s the best and worst times in this country,” said Patterson, comparing the Canadian sense of humour to that of Ireland and Australia. “We are OK with self-deprecating humour. We know it’s a joke and what makes it funny, unless you are someone who can’t take a joke… When I’ve toured the U.K. or the States, they are OK with making fun of themselves, but if you are from another country making fun of them, well it doesn’t go down as well.”
That’s where it helps to improvise and read your audience, says Patterson who looks to Scottish comic Billy Connolly as someone who is master of the riff.
“He starts with a premise, then goes to wherever in the middle, then gets back to the point,” said Patterson. “I am not a good actor. I talk about the things I find funny, but after the apparent stuff, there’s a few jokes that come from how the flow is going or what I feel. I don’t fake emotions or events in my life. I like the freedom to go wherever I can, and not have it all planned out.”
That reflects in Patterson’s tendency to break into song while doing a set. (Yes, the host of those master debaters sings.) Although he is not touring with a band at the moment, Patterson says audiences should expect a few tunes of the satirical kind to blend into the evening.
“I like music and can carry a tune even though no one else in my family is musical,” he said. “I don’t do parodies much anymore. I think as comedians, we appreciate originality, but it can be hard to come up an original song. However, I do get the audience singing or clapping along.”
Patterson’s This is Not Debatable takes the stage at the Performing Arts Centre Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $45.50 at the Ticket Seller box office, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.