“Okay, here’s one I’d like to do: Whereas it is a naturally-evolved trait that can spur hard work and creativity, be it resolved that anxiety is a good thing. And then I’d argue against that.” ~ Charles Demers commenting on CBC’s The Debaters for SCENE Online, Winnipeg, 2013
A crowd of 400 fans erupt into waves of applause as Charles Demers acclimates to his podium and microphone. Stage left, an unrelenting camera zooms in and frames him up. It’s a tight, profile shot meant to deliver a solid sense of authority, probably. But this is Charles Demers, which means the ostensible power shot is dashed by Demers’ bemused demeanour and a refusal to take himself all that seriously.
Demers is performing his stand-up routine for CBC’s DNTO in studio 40. The theatre is dark, intimate, and imbued with the soft glow of dozens of cyan and magenta pin lights dotting a decorative pillar stage-right. Downstage, mid-apron, Demers himself is assaulted by an excess of blazing ceiling lights.
The applause dies down just as Demers raises his hands as if to say: “Buckle up, folks!” And so begins a chorus of signature handwringing and emphatic gesticulation suggesting a coursing of nervous energy going totally coo-coo bananas within our man. Demers’ voice, however – his cadence – is irrepressibly confident and buoyant. He regales his audience with incisive, self-deprecating anecdotes about the effects of Asian designed miniature, extra-large apparel on his less than chiseled pecs – gifts he received from his Chinese in-laws as a way of assuring him the only “fit” that matters is his sense of fit within their family. Never mind collateral sausage chest, it’s not about dignity.
Demers was born and raised in Vancouver, and has often said that west coast living has had a positive effect on his comedic sensibilities: “Vancouver, which is in some ways so far from the centres of industry decision-making, has always had that outskirts-of-the-empire sense of freedom and experimentation. […] There’s a real I’ve-got-a-barn-let’s-put-on-a-show-before-the-barn-turns-into-condos ethos out here that I really love”, he tells Peter Darbyshire of The Province in 2014.
At the age of 25, Demers was the judges’ choice for “Vancouver’s Funniest New Comic”, but there’s more to this jaunty jokester than a natural ability to entertain. Demers is an equally impassioned writer, political activist, and Creative Writing Instructor at both the University of British Columbia, and Simon Fraser University. He was declared “truly one of the smartest comics out there” by CBC radio one – a title Demers’ 2014 performance on the “6 Love Letters To Russia” YouTube video affirms in four minutes flat.
Now 35-years-old, Demers is the author of 2 books: The Prescription Errors, (Insomniac Press, 2009) and,Vancouver Special, a collection of essays shortlisted for the Hubert Evans BC Book Prize for Non-Fiction, (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2009.) Other projects include a hit, 5-part web series called “Will Power”, and “Leftovers”, a show he recently performed to high acclaim at The Winnipeg Comedy Festival and The Shadbolt Centre. “Leftovers” is scheduled to run again at the PUSH International Performing Arts Festival at his favourite Vancouver venue, The Cultch, in January 2016.
Back in 2010, during an interview with Graham Clark from Vancouverisawesome.com, Demers confessed that it would be okay if not all his income came from the things he liked doing. “What I want is to write and perform, and for the people who write and perform, or who enjoy writing and performing, to like me and respect my work. Also, two drinks is the perfect amount for me, so I’d like to keep doing shows at places where you get two drink-tickets.”
Cheers to you, Charlie Demers! Here’s to your continued success, a lifetime of two drink-ticket gigs, and a closet full of appropriately tailored shirts.