Madly off in our direction

Lorne Elliott at Centre 64 in Kimberley, April 13.

Lorne Elliott had them in stitches at Centre 64 last Sunday.

Lorne Elliott had them in stitches at Centre 64 last Sunday.

Mike Redfern

Sunday night in the theatre at Centre 64, 100 expectant people in the audience, house lights dim, stage lights illuminating a tall figure at the microphone, baggy black slacks and loose, open-necked white shirt, sleeves rolled up to his elbows, shaggy grey hair like a mane, a wry expression on his mobile features and a small guitar clutched in one hand.

He looked at us and we looked at him and anticipation heightened even before he spoke. And then for the next two hours, interrupted only by a 20 minute intermission, Lorne Elliott held us in convulsions of laughter.

Currently on tour through small towns in the B.C. Interior, comedian, songwriter, and novelist Lorne Elliott made a stop in Kimberley and reminded us of why we hung onto his every word for a decade or more during his weekly CBC Radio show, ‘Madly Off In All Directions’. And he made us realize how much of his humour we had missed back then by only hearing him, for in person, larger than life on stage, his physical humour and facial expressions proved to be a delight in themselves.

On Sunday night, as he illustrated the difficulty of trying to hold his socks up with a bungy cord threaded through holes in his trouser pockets, well, you had to see the body language to truly appreciate the farcical nature of the story.

There seem to be few aspects of life that Lorne Elliott cannot find humour in. From the prime minister’s smile to death by carnivorous wild animals, from polygamists in Creston to Bavarian ideologists in Kimberley, Elliott slyly mocked everyone and everything, much to the delight of his audience.

And when he picked up his guitar and sang us some of his songs, his lyrics were as funny as his patter. I’ll never look at an orca the same way again after hearing his killer whale song. And as for his moose call song, well, you just had to be there, I suppose, to see those honks and brays emerge from the moose-like contortions of his elastic mouth.

Often seeming to lose track of where he was going with a subject, he called on members of the audience to remind him and the interactions that sometimes followed became a comedy routine in themselves. “He was very clever,” commented one audience member. “Intentionally ‘getting lost’ and asking for help gave him scope to wander but to always make a fresh start when brought back.”

Looking back on his performance I am both awed and bemused by the way in which this brilliant comedian held our attention and kept us laughing for so long by just standing on stage in a relaxed manner, prattling on about this and that in conversational mode, making off-hand observations about the things that people say and do seem extraordinarily funny. It was all in the delivery which, I suppose, is why most of us are not comedians.

“I prefer his relaxed, somewhat dry delivery to a loudmouth, slapstick approach (to comedy),” commented an audience member. A preference shared by 99 others on Sunday night, it appeared, judging from the continuous laughter.

Coming next to the Theatre at Centre 64 are Indian tabla musicians, The Mishras, returning for a third or fourth appearance here on May 24. They will be followed on May 31 by boogie-woogie blues pianist Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne who will perform in a cabaret-style evening in the dance studio at Centre 64. Tickets for both events are available at Centre 64 and on line at www.kimberleyarts.com.