Stage & Screen

Ron James: Canada's Comedy Laureate Back Where He Belongs!

Ron James: Canada's Comedy Laureate Back Where He Belongs!

By David DeRocco                   

It’s about speaking truth to power while at the same time giving people opportunity to make sense of it all in the language of laughs.”

So says award-winning comedian RON JAMES in describing his new post-COVID comedy tour, “Back Where I Belong.” To those who know comedy, James is definitely a stand-out amongst ‘stand-ups;’ he’s been selling out theatres, producing acclaimed television comedy specials, and hosting five years of The Ron James Show over the better part of the last three decades. However, there was no sudden epiphany for James during the lockdown as to where he truly belonged; as Canada’s comedy laureate, James has always known that the road was his second home.

“This is an acceptance of the truth I’ve always been a road warrior,” said James, who began his long love-affair with the transient life of a comic back in 1995. “Mind you, I had a great deal of joy shooting my one-hour specials and working in the writing room with my team building my Ron James show. But the road is bereft of network politics and the Machiavellian power plays everyone is at the mercy of when you’re at the CBC or even TV for that matter. You don’t have to answer to a gaggle of censorious lawyers who get to vet your satire. It’s pure and it’s real. It’s you, a stool, a glass of water, and an audience who’ve come to laugh their worries away.”

An absence of opportunity to enjoy such live connections with audiences during the pandemic lockdown inspired the kinetically creative James to set pen to paper in the creation of his newly published work, All Over the Map: Rambles and Ruminations from the Canadian Road. The book reads like a journal of observations and experiences meticulously detailed from his years on the road. Is there one defining characteristic of life on the road in Canada that differs from his forays into the U.S. market?

“I would have to say the affability and generosity of Canadians,” he said. “My book is a celebration of the virtues of people and place. It’s a celebration of the world that was, because the physical paradigm has shifted so dramatically over the last two years. I think the book is a reminder of how cool this country is and what windows I was given on a wider world of wonders with the things I’d seen, the places I’d been to, and the people I’ve met. Now if Indigo could just find me a shelf where everyone could see it we might be onto something.”

James is definitely back onto the road again, booked for 16 dates in 20 nights on a tour that brings him to the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre March 25th. And while he acknowledges the challenges involved in generating laughs when standing in front of an audience suffering mass societal PTSD, the comedy veteran knows that there’s always space for the healing power of comedy.

“I think it’s a comedian’s job to lighten the load and not add another brick to it. It’s also imperative that a comedian strike a balance between artistic needs and audience expectations. Having honed my comedic voice in stand-up clubs and, prior to that, 10 years in the Second City organization, I know how important it is to have a little bit of content for everybody. Everyone is so exhausted trying to process the trauma of COVID and the tectonic shift in the geo-political power thanks to that bargain basement steroid-soaked mutant in Russia. We don’t know where we’re going now. My first show is in Ottawa, and my opening line is, ‘Jesus, who knew that the light at tend of the tunnel would be an 18-wheeler parked in your driveaway.’”

That’s doesn’t mean James is going to shy away from reflecting the reality of the last two years. With his comedian’s eye for satire and his mastery of the language, James will be cutting a wide swath through contemporary culture with his unique take on the world emerging from COVID

“We were just on a white-knuckle ride in a Corona-coaster through a dystopian netherworld where we’d sell our soul for a hug or a haircut. And here we are on the other side of it, getting ready to deal with the next thing. I think the resilience of human beings is to be celebrated at this point. And I know there’s been some abhorrent events that have occurred but come on, spring is coming. I’m back on stage covering everything from mid-life aches and pains to processing the COVID incarceration we’ve had for the last two years, to try to find some route through the chaos. Comedy comes from chaos, and there’s never a shortage of that.”

Given the existential crisis in the comedy world driven by the woke warriors of the cancel culture brigade, is James ready to face the easily-triggered masses who are now rewriting the boundaries of acceptance?

“Boy, that’s a big question, a really big question. I don’t know. I think you have to negotiate that minefield with care and compassion. I hit the stage a month after 9-11. Nobody wanted to touch 9-ll. I found a way through it. I’ve got strong opinions on things. However, I have to tall you, it’s tougher for Canadian comedians than it is for American ones because we don’t have the population base.

“There are 375 million people down there. There’s 37 million in Canada. You can pick a side in America, Republican or Democrat, have either side hate you, and still have almost seven times the population of Canada still buying tickets to your show. I don’t think it’s going to be as difficult as people would assume with cancel culture. I have daughters 33 and 27 years old. Very intelligent young women who walk the talk. They educate me. I’m a 64-year-old white haired dude. There’s a great deal of things they say that make sense, and a great deal of things I say that makes sense. I think with this generational chasm between the woke culture and the Boomer culture, you can find a humorous path through that. I always have. If people are less than pleased with some points of view, that’s a chance a comedian has to take too. You have to strike a balance. I’m never there to lose the room. If someone paid $60 to see my show I have to make them laugh. I’m not more important that the audience and the audience isn’t more important than the story. You have to find the balance. I never want to forget the reason I’m on stage.”


Tour Schedule:

March 17 - Ottawa Meridian Theatres @ Centrepointe - Box Office: 613 580-2700

March 18 - Brockville Arts Centre - Box Office: 613 342-7122

March 19 - Kingston Grand Theatre - Box Office: 613 530-2050

March 20 - Orillia Opera House - Box Office: 705 326-8011

March 24 - Belleville Empire Theatre - Box Office: 613-969-0099

March 25 - St. Catharines Partridge Hall, FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre - Box Office: 905 688-0722

March 26 - Owen Sound Roxy Theatre - Box Office: 519 371-2833

March 27 - Oshawa Regent Theatre - Box Office: 905 721-3399 Ext. 2

March 28 - Burlington Performing Arts Centre - Box Office: 905 681-6000

March 30 - London Grand Theatre - Box Office: 519 672-8800                            

March 31 - Guelph River Run Centre - Main Stage - Box Office: 519 763-3000

April 1 - Newmarket  NewRoads Performing Arts Centre - Box Office: 905 953-5122 or -5313

April 2 - Lindsay Academy Theatre - Box Office: 705 324-9111

April 3 - Peterborough Showplace Performance Centre - Box Office: 705 742-7469

April 5 - Sarnia Imperial Theatre - Box Office: 519 344-7469

April 6 - Brantford Sanderson Centre - Box Office: 519 758-8090


Terry McRae, Shantero Productions Inc., phone 613 346-2622;        


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