When comedian Jonathan Baum was an accountant he travelled a lot — and it was a pretty sweet gig.
"When you travel as a chartered accountant, it may not sound glamorous, but you choose your own flights and if you want to pay extra to not have a layover, the company covers it. You've got great per diems, you're put up in nice hotels, renting nice cars (and they'll pay for it)," he says.
"In comedy, I'm literally calling up rideshares to get from one place to another, staying on people's couches. Getting paid next to nothing... You spend the day talking to nobody and then you get up and talk to 200 people. The shows are super fun, but after, everyone goes home.
"Accounting had more glamour than comedy somehow."
Baum tries to figure out what keeps him at it.
"Maybe it's some kind of deep-seated need for attention. I started performing when I was really young," he says.
At the age of 11 in Ottawa, he was part of a clown act with two girls, doing tricks on a trampoline. He was able to perform across Canada and as far away as Japan.
"We'd do busker festivals, fringe festivals and corporate gigs. Those were my summers as a kid. It gave me a really good foundation for standup and an understanding of crowds."
And Baum clearly loves making people laugh. He performs often in Vancouver, primarily at Yuk Yuk's; he recently moved to Pemberton so it means a fair amount of driving up and down the Sea to Sky Highway.
"It's a lot of trips to the city," he says.
His goal is to create a self-supporting comedy scene in Pemberton and Whistler. To this end, he has brought in three standups for sold-out performances at the Whistler Brewing Company in Function Junction.
Montrealer Derek Seguin is the latest. A very busy comic, Seguin frequently appears on CBC and the Nasty Show during the Just For Laughs comedy festival.
Seguin and Baum perform at the Prospect Pub in Pemberton on Wednesday, June 17, doors at 7:30 p.m., and at the Whistler Brewing Company on Thursday, June 18, doors at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 in Pemberton, $12 in Whistler and available at the venues.
"I worked with him a couple of times while I was on my tour and he is a comic who blows me away. Every show I did with him he would do different material and read the crowd. He killed every show," Baum says,
"I decided that if he was ever on the West Coast I would have to bring him here. I checked his schedule and found out he was coming to Vancouver. I saw that he had two free dates and tried to find bars that were available."
Seguin is a happy comic.
"He's got this great, positive disposition," Baum says.
"At the Just For Laughs gala he did this 10-minute story. It's pretty crude and all that, but what makes it so great is that he describes everything with this child-like wonder. So he's got this really positive, relatable disposition."
Baum thinks professional comedy could be sustained in Whistler.
"I'd like to see a more established scene than we've had in the past," he says.
"That's my dream for Whistler. Tourists ski or bike all day, so they're probably tired, they want to go out and make the best of their vacation, but they don't necessarily want to go dancing all night because they want to wake up early. Comedy is a great alternative."
Baum's book, My Impaired Moral Compass, was published earlier this year. He says he spent 12 years writing the vignettes that appear in it.
"The book was the product of doing stupid things that everyone does, but I happened to write them down. Then I had this compilation of funny stories."
With story titles like "Alpha Roomate" and "Achy Breaky Heart" you get the idea that they are snapshots of his 20s.So how's Baum's moral compass these days? Did he learn anything?
"It was definitely a learning experience in terms of the publishing world," he says.
Uh-uh. I meant about life.
"About myself? I think it's good to write these stories down and reflect on your actions. If you explore deeply you hopefully learn something from it. I don't think I've learned anything."
That's followed by a smiling "heh-heh" from Baum.
"My main goal with the book was for it to be readable and funny," he says.
"Comedy is very self-deprecating. Whenever you explore something self-deprecating, it's dangerous. Almost like cutting yourself. You want to dig deeply because that's what works and that is how you feel but get a great reaction."
My Impaired Moral Compass is available from www.jonathanbaum.com, Armchair Books in Whistler Village or Chapters on Broadway in Vancouver.
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