We recently got the chance to interview Montréal comedian Joey Laflamme to find out more about his comedy style, influences, and where he goes to discover new comics. If you love comedy, be sure to follow this local comic and check out one of their shows.
How would you describe your comedy style?
I’m still learning the ropes, so I’m trying to just go with what I think is funny and don’t get too caught up in styles.
At first, I thought I was doing bits, but as it turns out, I was only writing jokes with horribly long premises and setups all punctuated by a weak punchline. So I’ve figured that I might want to learn to do one-liner jokes instead of trying to tell anecdotes or go off on rants. At the same time, I wanted to challenge my writing skills with difficult topics. So my writing became way darker than when I first picked up a pen and paper to write jokes. So for a moment, I was some sort of a dollar store version of Anthony Jeselnik. Like somebody made me notice: the problem with my set (at the time) is when everybody gets killed or raped (or both) at the end of my jokes, it kind of ruins the surprise after a while.
So now I’m trying to trust my guts a bit more instead of overthinking in terms of writing. I mostly do observation comedy. It is something that I feel comes naturally to me to just pick apart ideas, not because I don’t like them, more because I enjoy breaking down ideas, concepts or things we’ve come to take for granted or normal. At the office or at school I was always trying to find a loophole, not necessarily because I hate rules, more like I’m trying to screw with the person that came up with those. Until now it kind of feels comfortable as a style. But like I said, I’m just getting started, so I’m planning to use the time that nobody expects anything from me to experiment with styles and ideas.
Who are some of your influences?
So, being French I was watching a lot of stand up from Quebec. Back in the 90’s French comedy was mostly characters. But there were some exceptions: Mike Ward, Laurent Paquin, Maxim Martin, Sylvain Laroque. SO watching these guys work I thought that if I wasn’t funny naturally I couldn’t do it.
Mike Ward French podcast helped to demystify comedy for me. The way that the guests and him talked about it, I figured then that it was mostly trial and mistake.
And then I watched sticks and stones. I was totally amazed, when I was done watching it for the first time I was like: ‘’This shit is awesome, I want to that!’’ So I obsessed over watching everything I can from Dave Chappelle. Interviews included.
And then when I figured that the jokes I was writing were way too long, somebody also told me I could cut 20% of the useless crap from each of my jokes, at that time I wanted to learn the correct method to write thigh jokes. I’ve taken a joke-writing course online from a guy named Greg Dean. Jeselnik got trained by this guy. Learning that, I was like he might know what he is talking about. When I figured that it was only liners I got a bit disappointed until I figured that maybe I want to start there before I go writing bits. So I obsessed over one-liner comics: Hedberg, Joe Maci, Jimmy Carr, Rodney Dangerfield. During the time I was doing only non-sequiturs, people thought I was spending my days listening to Jeselnik. But in fact, I was spending a hell of a lot of time studying Hedberg. That was around that time I was obsessed with writing. Something would happen in the news and I’d have my pen and paper and I would try to write a joke about it (that’s as far the Jeselnik influence goes I think. Looking back, I guess I understand why everybody just assumed I was a massive Jeselnik fan)
And then the second confinement hits. I’ve watched Beerhallpusht from Doug Stanhope. Then I’ve got a massive awakening in terms of what dark comedy can be. So I got in my head the idea that my last five were pretty lame (at this point that’s the second time I’m rewriting my 5 minutes and thrown almost all my jokes in the trash). You know when somebody gives you advice, you don’t think much of it until you actually see somebody do it and then it makes sense? Well, that’s what happened just there. That’s then that the sentence: ‘’You realize that not all your jokes need to finish with rape and murder right?’’ started making a lot of sense. So I went on to watch as many things as I could from Stanhope.
Then quite recently, three things happened so I got interested in doing observational comedy. First, as a French guy from Baie-Comeau, Seinfeld is not something I grew up with. It is something that I started watching on Netflix (feels like I’m catching up with anglo comics right now in terms of references.) And I’ve got hooked on the idea that you can find comedy in mundane observations or stuff that people do without thinking too much about it. Also, that got me motivated to just trust my thoughts and my guts a little bit more. The second thing is I’ve started reading everything I could from Hunter S Thompson. If you can read his article about the Kentucky Derby without laughing you have no souls. The third thing is I’ve seen an interview from Louis Ck that explained that he used to write lame jokes about planes until he heard George Carlin say that every year he was writing an hour and then he threw everything out, when the year was finished, to start over again from zero. He continued saying: ‘’When you’re done with those plane jokes you’re forced to look inward’’. So inward I went. Even a boring anecdote can be funny, told with your spin on it. Turns out, when I write I don’t have much of a writing block anymore.
Who was your favourite comedian growing up?
Mike Ward. I would get in trouble at school repeating some of his lines. My father was pretty liberal with the type of things he would let me watch.
Who is your favourite comedian now?
That changes a lot, but right now I’m studying old Seinfeld stuff. But when a new Dave Chappelle drops, I stop everything I do to watch it. So I guess Dave Chappelle.
What is your pre-show ritual?
I don’t think I have one. I write a setlist and figure out a way to make my jokes fit together. Oh, I repeat to myself I don’t like the crowd and start roasting them in my head. Like that, I don’t get too nervous, or disappointed when things don’t work out.
What is your favourite place you have performed? Why?
Tough to say… if I have to choose I’d say that’s pretty much an equal part of Stoggies and McKibbins on Bishops. Josh Shapiro and Ben Cardili really created a fun atmosphere to do stand up. I’ve done both of those shows twice already and each time I had a fun time.
What is your favourite medium for listening or finding new comics/comedians?
Youtube and Spotify. Going to gigs still remains the best way to listen to as much comedy as humanly possible. But when it comes to comics from outside of Montreal that I’ve never heard of, Youtube and Spotify still remain some of the best options to discover new stuff. There are many comics that are not on Netflix or Amazon Prime, so a lot of comics nowadays just upload their special on Spotify or Youtube.
Do you have anything to promote right now?
I’m on the Dirty Four podcast, we have a lot of episodes to catch up with plus many side things while we were waiting for the plague to be over. But that’s a pretty cool project. It’s Claudio Capri, Peter Bowen, Victoria Blair and me just shooting the shit for 2 hours. It’s a fun time and a fun little writing exercise.
Where can we follow you?
www.joeylaflamme.ca, everything is on my website.
Tell us a joke.
I’m currently unemployed. I thought about becoming a barista. Seems to me the best way to fail with style.
PAY IT FORWARD: Who is another local comic/comedian we should know about?
None of them I’m the only one worth knowing… Kidding… Kris Dulgar has been nothing but nice to me ever since I’ve met him at Peroni. Watching him on stage I’ve learned a lot. How to slow things down a bit when things are not going my way, how to be at ease with silences (that seems obvious from the seats, but for a comic fully aware that people are watching him, not so much). He was the first to point out that maybe all my jokes don’t need to end all the time with death and misery. And off stage, a good guy that really cares about comedians starting out. I’m happy to count him as a friend.