Monday September 01, 2014

Stand up comedian headed to city

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Leland Klassen

It’s not easy being a stand-up comic, but for Leland Klassen it is the career that he was drawn too.

“Comedians are a strange mix of guys with huge egos, but yet horribly insecure,” said Klassen, who grew up in Prince Albert. “That shamefully can be used to describe me too, I suppose. I wanted to do comedy though because I really liked making people laugh, it felt like a good thing to do.”

While living in Vancouver the past 12 years, Klassen has is comic roots in Saskatchewan.

“I started doing comedy in Saskatoon and just got on stage every chance I could,” he said. “There weren’t a ton of opportunities back then, but there were enough to develop my skills and start touring.”

In terms of influences Klassen, who will operform in Yorkton March 13/14, said his contemporaries include Brian Regan and Jim Gaffigan.

“When I first started out I was influenced by Bill Cosby, Garry Shandling and Jim Carrey,” he said.

So far his decision to become a comedian has proven a good one.

“I’ve done some arena tours down south which included the Ryman Auditorium -- where they used to do the Grand Old Opry -- in Nashville,” said Klassen. “The Just For Laughs festival in Montreal is always an honour and any time you get to perform in front of 6-7,000 people it’s pretty cool. I prefer more intimate 1,000 seat auditoriums where with the balcony’s they are pretty much sitting on top of you however.”

The key of course to success for a comedian is making the audience laugh, and that means having good material.

“I can’t speak for other comedian’s writing process, but for myself I need to be in a constant state of recognizing the potential in everyday life,” offered Klassen.

“I love to write on stage as well. I love taking a rough piece that just isn’t ready and then talking about it on stage and just letting the audience dictate where I go with the joke.

“I usually work alone now, but if there is ever another comedian, it’s really fun to riff back and forth or just get feedback from him. It’s another perspective on a bit that really helps you to mine the gold out of it sometimes.”

Klassen said life is a mine from which good comedians draw their gems.

“I get my material -- I prefer that to ‘jokes’ -- from everyday things that are going on in my life,” he said. “The delivery comes from years of experience, but ultimately it’s the audience that tells me in a hurry where a bits working or not.”

Even with lots to draw upon, a stage show takes time to bring together.

“It took me years to put together material,” said Klassen. “I was doing it five-minutes at a time. Now that I’ve been doing it for 17-years it takes less time to build new material but I know that I constantly have to be pushing myself to create more new stuff and keep it fresh.”

Leland Klassen’s Citizenship Comedy Tour stop in Yorkton will be at the Prairie Harvest Christian Life Centre.

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