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MacDonald still a stand-up guy for Canadians

WHAT: Comedy Night WHO: Mike MacDonald WHERE: Buffalo Bill’s WHEN: Tuesday, Aug. 7 "My mantra is ‘don’t trust anyone who can’t take a shot to the ribs’," says Mike MacDonald, touted as Canada’s Comedy King.

WHAT: Comedy Night

WHO: Mike MacDonald

WHERE: Buffalo Bill’s

WHEN: Tuesday, Aug. 7

"My mantra is ‘don’t trust anyone who can’t take a shot to the ribs’," says Mike MacDonald, touted as Canada’s Comedy King.

During the fast and furious days of his career, MacDonald worked nearly 300 days a year, appearing on such top bills as Arsenio Hall, Just for Laughs, the Montreal Comedy Festival and hosting the Gemini Awards. Ironically, the nation’s Ottawa-raised "King" now calls LA home, and doesn’t take that title too seriously.

"I’d rather just be the funniest comedian in my price range," he says earnestly.

And it was in his home south of the border where he developed his "shot to the ribs" theory. Americans, according to MacDonald, don’t seem to have the same sense of humour about themselves as we crazy Canucks. Although he admits his show is well received in the south, MacDonald has found the rest of America a little harder to impress.

"I enjoy the fact that I come out and make fun of the Americans, because they need to be made fun of. Especially in Los Angeles, because LA is like the end of the yellow brick road. So if you make fun of LA they get really uptight.

"I’ve now stopped working stand-up in the States as a result of an incident in North Carolina. A club owner took me aside after my second show and said ‘Your problem is you make the audience think too much.’ And I thought ‘Oh my god, if I make them think too much, there are a lot of other guys out there who would make them have an aneurysm.’ I consider myself pretty user friendly."

MacDonald also became a little disillusioned with the stand-up circuit after reaching what is the pinnacle for many in his field: the David Letterman Show. Seems the late night funny man wasn’t appreciative of a little Canadian courtesy.

"I was still living in Toronto at the time, and it’s just the regular mentality up here to bring something to a party – chips, dip, whatever. It’s just the Canadian way. So I brought a dozen $25 Cuban cigars and everyone on the show loved it except Dave. I passed them out backstage and the producer was like ‘Wow, nobody ever brings us anything.’ And I asked if he would pass along a couple to Dave. When I finished my stand up script and sat down, we went to commercial, and Dave leans over to me and says ‘You don’t have to bring presents when you come on my show.’ And I knew that we weren’t going to get along. The fact that he thought that I was stupid enough to believe I could buy my way onto his show was extremely insulting. I’ve never pursued being on the show again, and if I were ever at a point where they would ask me, I would take great pleasure in saying no."

But that’s not to say that MacDonald has given up on the U.S. entirely. He’s just taking a different approach. He’s currently writing his third film script with American comedians Wylie Roberts and D. Militant. MacDonald’s "perfect" career would be as a writer/producer, the puppet master pulling the strings to tickle the world’s funny bone.

"I just want to put a film out there that when people saw my name and my partners’ names attached to it, they would run out and see it because they knew it was going to be funny and they’d get their money’s worth."

Ironically, the current film project is aimed primarily at black audiences. For some reason, MacDonald is largely recognized only by black Americans. He recalls receiving handshakes and pats on the back from many black comedians, yet can step on a U.S. stage as an indiscernible face. He theorizes that perhaps they identify with his raw humour about growing up in a family where he was often hit for misbehaving.

"I think they can relate to that, because in their culture, black fathers still believe in smacking their kids when they’re bad. I’ve thought about it a lot. I just don’t know."

MacDonald and partners are still in the process of finding investors, a few doctors and dentists who want to go Hollywood. With a little cash to back them, MacDonald is confident they could be more than just one hit wonders.

And of course he’ll always have Canada. Where the Montreal Comedy festival will welcome MacDonald back for his 18 th performance. Where stand up is always entertaining. Where we enjoy humour that makes us think. And we laugh at ourselves.