Saint John — It seems like everyone and their dog is doing their darndest to become a standup comedian these days, and that’s the raison d’être behind a new boot camp that will shoot potential comics down before they get started.
“New Brunswick is overrun with wannabe standup comedians. We’re trying to thin the herd a bit. If you think you can make people laugh, come to our boot camp and we’ll prove you wrong!” exclaimed boot camp host and successful Saint John-based comedian James Mullinger.
“Your friends are too nice to tell you that you suck and should keep your job at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, but we aren’t!”
The British comedian has assembled a team of judges and instructors to help him run the camp. Most of his team are not otherwise involved in comedy, but Mullinger insists that’s what will make it a success.
“It’s not other comics going to comedy shows — it’s regular people looking for something to do on a Thursday night,” he said. “If ordinary folks agree that you’re not funny, you’re probably not funny!”
The boot camp will basically just entail Mullinger and his team sitting silently as the comics perform, or heckling them until they run off-stage. The goal is to force would-be comics to consider other life paths — or to go home and actually put some effort into improving their act.
Beth Davidson of Fredericton has agreed to help out with the boot camp.
“You can’t get lunch at Subway without the sandwich artist inviting you to an open mic night they’re headlining; you can’t get your car washed without the attendant telling you about a cool Netflix comedy special they loved…and then handing you a flier for an amateur standup night with a $30 cover,” she said. “That’s why I wanted to take part…I’m sick of it.”
“New Brunswick is a fairly insular little community, and that can lead people to think they’re better than they are, and that their gross-out jokes or prop gags are actually great material,” said Bradley Price, another boot camp instructor. “You can’t just take tired jokes from Reddit and read them onstage and call it an act. That’s something a lot of people don’t seem to realize.”
Local comedians are insulted by the camp’s existence, but also can’t resist attending, because it has standup comedy in the title.
“I know I’m probably not the next George Carlin or Bill Burr,” we overheard aspiring comedian Liam Smith, 20, tell the judges as he signed up, “but I think I’m pretty funny…”
“NO, you’re not!” Mullinger interjected, waving his arms around like a maniac. “Stay in school, kid!”
Smith then burst into tears and ran home to post a scathing public review of the boot camp on his comedy Facebook page, which boasts 51 likes.
The $200 event starts June 1 and will run yearly as needed.