The apples have been picked and the eastern maples will soon be tapped for their sweet sap. Then there’s the whiff of that delicious stinky cheese from nearby Oka.
It’s hard to think of life being any more idealistic than that in the little town located along the Ottawa River just west of Montreal where comedian Lorne Elliott calls home.
But like many other communities across Canada, Hudson, Que. has experienced a cooler climate, and we’re not just talking about the weather.
Known as the town where late NDP leader Jack Layton was raised, as well as the first Canadian municipality to ban the use of pesticides, Hudson has seen its share of economic ups and downs.
Farmland in nearby Vaudreuil-Dorion that had been turned into condominiums and commercial property has, in a twist of irony, experienced a slow selling real estate market.
But Elliott also sees his community thriving with the upsurge of agri-businesses. And it’s this positivity that has sparked his new one-man show.
So what exactly is the Upside of the Downturn, you may ask?
“It’s a benefit concert for Lorne,” jokes the wild-haired comic, musician, playwright and writer, who is returning to the Okanagan next week and brings his one-man show to Armstrong and Vernon.
Whether it’s in his hometown of Hudson, or observing those same familiar farm-turned-developed lands of the Okanagan, the Upside of the Downturn is a reflection of what Elliott has seen on his travels across the country.
His current tour features 15 shows in B.C.
“I’ll be spending more time touring this year. I think I have three in a row. I’ll be travelling around a bit so I’ll be collecting a lot of material for my writing. I also have a few new songs,” he said.
“Having a good spirit about you is healthy and if you don’t have a sense of humour, you’re toast. My show is still all about making people laugh.”
Elliott actually started his stage career as a musician in Canada’s hub of hilarity, Newfoundland. He and some fellow musicians got together to form a band called Free Beer, which, as you can imagine, went down well in St. John’s pub scene.
Deciding to branch out on his own as a stand-up comedian and musician had its ups and downs at first, but Elliott persevered getting a hosting gig on CBC Radio’s Madly Off in all Directions and appearing on just about every comedy club and festival stage in Canada and the U.S.
However, it was after one grueling tour that saw Elliott do more than 300 shows in one year that he started to change things up his material –– making it more personal.
“I think it was in Golden, a reviewer said that it looked like I was reading it,” he said. “You can get into a rut… Before it was appalling, but then you’d get on that stage, then boom, you’d get that first laugh. You’ve got five minutes of an audience’s attention when you get up there, so you better make it worthwhile.”
It was through the pen where Elliott found solace — writing down his observations of the wacky world around him. He continues to churn out fiction, songs, monologues, plays and one-liners, and it’s on stage where he can have a real connection to test out that material.
Elliott, who just wrapped up a show in Charlottetown he called Lorne of Green Gables, says there’s been a lot of stories that don’t stick, but it’s the ones that do that help him keep going.
“I actually do a fair bit of writing on the stage… Being onstage is like jazz, there’s a lot of directing and arranging going on. I used to balk at that improv, but now I love being up there and seeing what happens,” he said. “I am also always reading the papers. I have stories that are unedited that need to be edited. I’m sure politicians find it the same way, to use that same zeitgeist.”
Presented by Ken Smedley, Elliott brings The Upside of the Downturn to Armstrong’s Centennial Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 25 and Okanagan College’s Kalamalka campus lecture theatre Oct. 27. Both shows start at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $20, available for the Armstrong show at the Brown Derby (250-546-8221) or Chocoliro (250-546-2886) and at the BookNook (250-558-0668) for the Vernon show.
A percentage of the proceeds will be put towards the annual George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in B.C. Writing and Publishing to be awarded in the spring of 2013.