Comedy album cover via Joe Fuda.
Canada has established itself as a breeding ground for bold, unusual, and decidedly bizarre comics in the last few years—many of them from the comedy collective Laugh Sabbath. Look no further than Comedy Central’s biggest star of this decade, Nathan Fielder, or his best friend, noted surrealist comedy weirdo Chris Locke.
Another standout oddball comic from the Laugh Sabbath crew is Toronto’s Tim Gilbert (who Nathan recently referred to as "the funniest guy he knows"). Gilbert has risen to the top of the comedy heap through his cuttingly acerbic and fearless style. His targets range from high school bullies, adults seeking to tap into their late-stage creative genes, to mimicking the craven hackiness of comedians.
Tim’s incisive comedy voice earned him a gig writing for This Hour Has 22 Minutes and a spot as a key sketch player on MTV’s short-lived Showtown, where he excelled by interviewing people with a clearly defined no-bullshit attitude that stood out on what was typically trite television.
The best of Tim’s vicious standup act is collected in a fantastic new album, Please Help Me I Am Very Sick, a pay-what-you-want 30-minute comedy album that’s alternatively dark, absurdist, and downright fucking goofy. With that in mind, we met up with Tim in a bar in downtown Toronto to discuss the time he and Nathan Fielder horrified an audience with the aid of DVDs, a dog, and a woman, interviewing the Ikea Monkey lady at the height of her microfame, and the time he may or may not have made an ass out of himself in front of Louis C.K.
VICE: Tell me about your comedy troupe Laugh Sabbath, you guys used to shoot a lot of videos, right?
Tim Gilbert: We used to make videos all of the time—some high concept, some dumb. It was a big deal at the time. It seemed like every comedian in Toronto was making videos. Once Nathan left, he took his camera and his editing ability, and everybody just stopped.
What kind of videos did you make?
Well, we had this… I don’t even know if I should talk about this… there was a show called the Wet N’ Sticky Show, where the theme was you came up with the grossest thing you could think of. One week, Nathan and I made a video of us, where he’s at his computer and I’m at mine, and someone comes in and is like, “What are you doing?” And I’m like, “Oh, nothing.” We found this dog porn online of this dog fucking a woman—like really fucking her from behind… and there’s a guy shooting it and they were speaking German. It was horrific—like really gross. So we just took that footage and intercut it with us watching, like that’s what I was watching. It was like five minutes long and we watched the whole thing. There was no ending, we just looked at each other and played it again.
How did people react to it?
People were screaming. That show was at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. People were freaking out. It was so fucking gross and awful. We destroyed the DVD right then and there so we never had to see it again.
You like to skewer other comedians and their styles. When and why did you start doing that?
Doesn’t comedy annoy you? I get annoyed by lame comedy and people doing the same thing over and over again. I remember even when I first started writing jokes—a lot of it was making fun of comedy. Maybe it’s too inside and the act appeals to comedians too much, but I still do it. If you go to comedy shows every night, see comedy constantly, you eventually start getting annoyed, like, Come on, what the fuck are you doing?
As a Canadian comic, you’ve done a lot of weird road gigs. What’s like the weirdest one you’ve done recently?
I’ll tell you the worst show I ever did. The worst show I ever had was in the town I was born in: St. Thomas, Ontario. I had been working on This Hour Has 22 Minutes for the past month and a half, and I hadn’t done any standup at all since then. It was my first show since I stopped working there. Two seasoned comics booked me on the show. It was in the meeting room of a fucking hockey arena. It was just this giant, white room with tables and chairs set up for 40 or 50 people.
I guess the people booking the show saw that I was on the roster of Yuk Yuks, and they thought: “Oh, we want Tim. He’s from here!” So I was like Great, let’s do it. I’m sure it’s going to be fine. My parents were there. There are girls that I grew up with that I had crushes on as a kid who were there with their new husbands who looked tougher than me. I was like OK, OK, this will be OK. So I go up and I just fucking eat it. I tanked so bad because they’re hyping me up being like, “The local kid is back to grace us with his presence, our hometown boy has finally returned!” And I walk up and just shit the bed so badly. It was packed with people there because it’s a fucking comedy show at the hockey arena in the meeting room. I did like, half the time I was supposed to do.
So I just sucked that whole time in my hometown. When you do a show at a bar in Toronto, you can leave, you can go sit in the dark and drink by yourself, or go to a bar next door. This is a hockey arena in central St. Thomas, Ontario, and my parents were still there, so I just had to sit at the back of this very brightly lit, white room and watch people as they would get up, go to the bar and get drinks, see me, and not make eye contact. It was one of the most horrific, painful experiences of my life.
As soon as we got in the car, my parents and I… I was just like, “Oh, God. This sucks.” And they were like, “Maybe it’s time to write some new material.” [Laughs]
You mentioned writing for This Hour Has 22 Minutes. You’ve also appeared on MTV and MuchMusic. How did Canadian broadcast media treat you?
It was great. The guy who got me that was Graham Chittenden, who hosted this show called Showtown. They brought on me and Chris Locke. I would go in once a week, they’d be like, “What do you want to do?” I’d be like, “I don’t know, what do you guys want to do?” And if there was some news thing, we could do something about that. They would let me interview people, like I got to interview the Ikea Monkey Lady...
She was majorly crazy. She had a very nice outfit—she was dressed head-to-toe in white and her husband was dressed head-to-toe in black with like a leather, black cowboy hat. They were so fucked and so weird. And that was the first thing I ever did with like an interview.
You goaded her into an emotional plea at the end.
She was so fucking insane. I don’t even know, but she took us on a tour of their house and showed us all of her other animals and shit. They had a huge tarp over their backyard so they could let their birds out and fly around, but not go away out of the net. They were just so fucking weird. And they obviously adopted a monkey and shit, which is pretty weird.
Since JFL42 is going on, can you tell me about the time you made an ass out of yourself in front of Louis C.K.?
I did not make an ass out of myself in front of Louis C.K. Here’s what happened: I was at Comedy Bar. There’s a little green room right beside the stage—so this was, I don’t remember, last year or the year before, maybe two years ago—I had been doing a lot of these shows, I was at Andy Kindler’s alternative show and he had been so nice to me and booked me on all of these shows. It was at his show and I was done for the night. I knew I was done for the night. So I’m here at Comedy Bar, it’s Just For Laughs, I’m getting all these free drink tickets, I ended up drinking a lot, and getting pretty drunk.
The show’s about to be over and I think the last person’s on stage. I just walk into the green room and there’s a bunch of people there hanging out talking and I’m like, “Hey everybody!” Then I see this guy over here that I think is somebody I know. He’s wearing black shirt and jeans and one of those stupid baseball caps with the leather strap. So seeing somebody in a baseball cap with a leather strap, you’re not instantly thinking I need to respect this person, you know what I mean? I thought he was a guy I knew.
So I’m talking to my friends that are there and all of the sudden, the guy in the stupid hat turns around and it’s Louis C.K. and he’s like, “Hey, man, you’ve got to keep it down. Somebody’s on stage.” And remember, I’m very, very drunk. So instead of turning apologetic, I turn defensive, thinking like I’m here all the time, I know how I can talk in the green room and not have it heard on stage. I’m not going to ruin somebody’s set. I don’t care if you’re Louis C.K. So he turns around and is like, “Hey, you’ve got to be quiet.” And I was like, [exaggerated baby voice] “I’m sorry, I’ve never been here before! I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” to Louis C.K. In front of everybody. There was dead silence. And then Andy was like, “This is Tim, he’s been on the show.” And I was like, “Yeah, hi, I’m Tim.” And he’s like, “Oh, hi.”
[Laughs] Solid first impression. Talk to me about your album.
It’s an accumulation of the last nine years of my career. The thing is only like a half-hour long, so it’s easily digestible and it has the best stuff from my career.
What’s your favourite joke on there?
I have this joke about the adult improv class I like a lot. It’s like a crushing blow to your senses because I drag it out. I really make it painful so people believe maybe I am really that big of an idiot.
People are showing you a lot of love for the album already. Nathan Fielder tweeted it and called you “the funniest guy he knows” and Judd Apatow hollered at you.
Yeah, right? I don’t know if Judd listened to it, but…
Your response to him was great.
I didn’t know if I should say that to him or not. Then I was like, ‘Why not?’
That attitude seems to power a lot of your career. What’s your end goal?
I just want to be able to drink beer with my friends every night and make some money.
I think so, too.
If you're in Toronto, you can catch Tim perform as a part of JFL42 at the Rivoli on Monday, September 22 at 9, at the Bad Dog Theatre on Wednesday, September 24 at 9, and at Comedy Bar on Thursday, September 25 at 8. To listen to Tim's comedy album, Please Help Me I Am Very Sick, click here.