From Mom’s the Word to Bill Cosby’s Fatherhood, to Louis C.K.’s questionable parenting advice, there’s no shortage of funny women and men who have turned dirty diapers, late night feedings and temper tantrums into comedy gold.
One such comedian is about to arrive at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Oct. 3, but his show delves a little deeper into the psyche and fears of becoming a parent.
British-born comic Chris Gibbs describes his latest stand-up show, Like Father, Like Son? Sorry, as something most new parents can relate to – the fear of passing on your recessive genes on to an innocent newborn.
But seriously, “It’s about someone who didn’t think he would be a good father, learning that in some ways it’s not true, in some ways it doesn’t matter, and in some ways you just won’t know what to do,” said Gibbs.
In his show, Gibbs relates the funny stories about the birth of his son and the many things he worried about and still worries about.
“When you have a child, there’s plenty that excites you, and plenty that makes you afraid. For example, my son looks nothing like me. I’m short and have brown hair. My son is tall and has blond hair and blue eyes. I think, ‘Good for him, he looks just like his mother,’ but it’s kind of disheartening to realize that every gene in my body is recessive.”
Before becoming a dad or a full-time comedian/writer, Gibbs had a few interesting occupations in his native England, including working as an “overweight” acrobat, a private school English teacher, whose only qualification was his British accent, and as a Titanic museum re-enactor who was fired after one day for “adding a few things.”
“They hired a few of us to be specific people on the Titanic in the Titanic exhibit. I can, and do, perform more serious work, but find it more difficult especially if improvising to not do the thing I’ve always done and lighten the mood. They had these areas roped off, and I explained in a very deadpan way that many of the casualties were due to the ropes in this room. I may have done the same thing with some of the glass cases and told people that the reason that the artefacts in the exhibit were so well preserved was because of the cases. Obviously it was a joke, but I feel like some people walked away thinking that people actually died because of the hazard the ropes presented,” he said.
Gibbs says his real entry into comedy came the day after his 21st birthday when he became a street performer in London’s Covent Garden.
“I think I got into making people laugh because I thought I was destined for computers. I thought I was a scientist as a kid. It (street performing) was the first proper decision I ever made. I wanted to be an actor but I ended up going into street comedy and became a comedian. As a street performer it’s always good to be funny. Some of the best advice I got was that street performance was always your excuse to be on stage. I was an acrobat, and realized it was better to be a funny acrobat than just an acrobat.”
After becoming “a legal alien” (actually the name of one of his solo shows) in Canada in 1995, Gibbs starting honing his stand-up act and his character-based performances in two award-winning, one-man shows.
Performed at Fringe Festivals and stages around the country, including in Vernon, 2003’s The Power of Ignorance, written with Canadian writer/performer/director TJ Dawe, saw Gibbs playing a mock motivational speaker, whose method of achieving success and happiness basically involved twisted logic and motivational nonsense. His other show, Antoine Feval, which spawned a sequel, followed an ex-street-performing comedian attempting to do a one-man comedy play about Victorian London’s most overlooked detective.
(Other credits include appearing at Just For Laughs in Montreal, twice at CBC’s Winnipeg Comedy Festival and on the NBC comedy show, Howie Do It with Howie Mandel. Gibbs also starred in the indie Canadian feature film, Run Robot Run.)
With his knack for telling a story, it was inevitable that Gibbs would eventually do a show about becoming a new dad.
“When I decided to do it I always had a bunch of stories ready to go. I’ve been in stand-up for a long time so I was able to find the root of it,” he said. “Basically the process is to throw a bunch of stories together in a way that makes sense and tell the overall story of the journey that I was going on and that I’m assuming all fathers go on: ‘I’m a dad now, how am I not going to mess up tomorrow?’”
Some of those stories – with tangents attached – follow what happened when Gibbs learned about childbirth. Some, as mentioned, are about his fears. But mostly, it’s a genial, self-effacing presentation of Gibbs speaking his thoughts out loud.
“When you explain your fears and worries to an audience, it’s something that can be helpful,” he said, adding, “It’s very easy to get trapped in what the performance is about, but it’s really just a stand-up comedy show. However, if you’re a generally angry person who just likes to sit there and not laugh then this probably isn’t for you.”
Tickets for Like Father, Like Son? Sorry are $30 for adults, $27 for seniors, and $25 for students. Call the Ticket Seller box office at 250-549-SHOW (7469) or visit www.ticketseller.ca for tickets and more information.