Paul Haywood: Comedy Rumpelstiltskin Spinning Everyday Gold

Paul Haywood: Comedy Rumpelstiltskin Spinning Everyday Gold

By David DeRocco

If there’s one bane of existence for a stand-up comic it’s the impaired heckler. But given the way alcohol can help an uptight crowd relax, is there a certain level of impairment a comic would like to see in an audience?  

“It depends on the mood,” laughs veteran stand-up Paul Haywood, who headlines the next Laugh Out Loud Comedy Fest event October 20th at Seneca Queen Theatre. “When I’m feeling dark and moodier, I like those late night shows in Barrie or Ajax or wherever. It’s just a zoo, but it’s also fun to work like that sometimes, in total chaos. It opens you as a performer and knocks you out of the pocket. You have to adapt right now. Those moments help you grow.”

Haywood has certainly grown into a popular headliner on Canada’s comedy scene since winning the Toronto New Comic Search in 1998.  Inspired to pursue a comedy career by the early recordings of Bill Cosby and George Carlin,  Haywood  has since earned national recognition through his own one-hour special on Comedy Now! and show-stopping appearances at such prestigious comedy events at CBC’s Halifax Comedy Festival.  On stage he takes the persona of a comic Rumpelstiltskin, spinning scenes from everyday life into comedy gold. Now that he's married that shaft of gold is much easier to mine. 

“I’m a lanky, energetic sarcastic guy, I’m clean and dirty, like life” said Haywood, who joins Mark Matthews and Ian Sirota on the October 20th bill. “After I got married, I felt kind of hacky, doing jokes about my wife and marriage. But then I thought, screw it. I include lots of everyday life in my set, it’s the best stuff. You can’t write stuff like that, the things that happen every day. And you can deliver that material with the same emotion you were in at that moment. It’s about the ridiculousness of life and celebrating that.”

With Donald Trump masquerading as POTUS, stand-up comics have plenty to celebrate given the ridiculousness of his behaviour. However, deciding on whether these are dark times or funny times depends on your view of the world, and Haywood is not quite sure what side of the fence the issue has him on.

“It’s a little of both, because you still need humour relief during times like this, but we’ve never been bombarded like this before. This Trump guy has a serious gaff every single day. It brings (comics) who wouldn’t normally be writing political stuff, now you’re writing political stuff. But really, everything has become so political these days that it’s really become the pop culture. It’s just a political time.”

Do the politics of the day require comics to be more aware of their content? Haywood suggests that awareness doesn’t necessarily translate into self-censorship.

“For me it has always been if I know I have an idea on the dicey side I’m going to run with it anyway. I always smooth it out with something afterwards. That is one of the good things with (Yuk Yuk’s founder) Mark Breslin. He didn’t censor anyone at the time. We were all reared on that kind of comedy freedom. If anything I think more people are just accepting that opinions are opinions, get over it. If you’re a free thinking individual you’ll enjoy the show.”

With digital platforms providing more opportunity for artists to self-promote, comedians of all ilk are turning to YouTube to showcase their material. However, Haywood suggests that going to a comedy club based on a short clip you’ve seen of a comic’s best material doesn’t always mean you’re going to see the best comics.  

“With today’s digital attention span guys are getting booked after 48 seconds of killer video. But that’s not how comedy works. A good comic’s routine can run over an hour and it’s a painting, with lots of different textures throughout. On the flip side, that comic could rip it up for seven minutes but hit a wall at 12. You don’t see that moment when there’s only short clips on line. It’s the era of the seven minute headliner I guess.”

As for the gender of audience he would prefer if he had to choose between working an an all-male or all-female audience, Haywood says he’s an equal opportunity offender.

“Initially I would think ‘women’ because I’ve got a good chunk of marriage material. My wife makes several appearance in my act and it would definitely go over with women. But it doesn’t really matter. I can make the marriage stuff slant either way.”

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