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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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Turning 50 gave Calgary comedian ‘lots of material’

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Danny Freedman

TORONTO — Danny Freedman began performing standup comedy one day before his 46th birthday and he’s never looked back.

Now 50, the comedian has told jokes at clubs across the country and most recently co-produced an act called Two Jews… Two Muslims and A Redneck… A Comedy Show.

On March 31, he debuted his show at the Comedy Bar in downtown Toronto with his partner, Mike Collins, a comic from Sydenham, Ont.

“Mike and I discussed the idea of having comedians with different cultures or even different nationalities. The show isn’t so much about Jews and Muslims, but rather those are the faiths of the comics who will be performing in the show,” he said.

Collins, the redneck, was the host for the evening and Freedman was the opening act. Ali Hassan and Faisal Butt, both Muslims, were the next to perform, and Simon Rakoff, who’s Jewish and has been a professional comedian for more than 25 years, was the show’s headliner.

Freedman said he got his start in comedy in Calgary, where he was living at the time. “I literally just woke up one morning and decided that I wanted to try performing comedy. I had never before considered performing of any kind, so I can only presume that I had a dream that night about performing.”

He went online and requested a spot on an amateur night at a local comedy club and in June found himself performing in front of 130 people. He has since performed about 30 times at Absolute Comedy in Ottawa, which he said is considered to be “one of the finest, if not the finest, comedy club in all of North America.”

He performs regularly at Absolute Comedy in Toronto and has also taken the stage at Yuk Yuks in Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary, and at the House of Comedy in Niagara Falls, Ont. Last month, Freedman went to Florida to visit his mother and was added to the lineup at the Fort Lauderdale Comedy Club.

“I enjoy being a comedian because making people laugh makes me happy,” he said. “I also am an avid writer, and it gives me great pleasure to write a joke and then to try that joke in front of an audience. Sometimes the new joke will work the first time, but often it needs to be tweaked.”

Freedman went to a comedy seminar where the instructor told the group that “comedy is medicine.” As people age and face some of the harsh realities of growing old, listening to comedy is “a fantastic escape from reality,” he said.

Most of the material that Freedman has written recently is about turning 50, including dating at 50, emotional and physical changes, and having parents that are also obviously aging.

“I was taught by a professional comedian that the best comedy comes from within – what is happening in my life and in my mind – and also from daily living and daily events. Turning 50 years of age was a real shock to me, and it has provided me with lots of great comedy material,” he said.

At this point in his career, Freedman is still considered an amateur comedian. He’s had some paid gigs, but the majority have been volunteer acts. “Comedy, like most career choices, is a very competitive endeavour. There’s an incredible amount of very funny and talented comedians out there. I do hope one day that my writing and joke telling will lead to full-time work,” he said.

Freedman currently sells life insurance to make a living. “It is a great career for a comedian as, since I am my own boss, it allows me the freedom and flexibility to travel to great out-of-town gigs.”

Freedman said there are many struggles he’s faced since he began performing. “One struggle certainly would be my age. Many of the other comics that I perform with and spend time with at shows are in their early 20s. I know that a lot of them like me and respect me for beginning my comedy career at a rather advanced age, but I also many times feel like a bit of an outcast because of my age. I have a comedian friend who is about 20 years younger than me, and she refers to me as her fake dad.”

He said another major obstacle is that he’s always been a numbers person. “I studied business in university. I always enjoyed a good mathematical problem, where if you worked it out correctly, there would always be an answer. Comedy is very subjective. I can perform in front of a crowd, and some of the crowd will love my comedy and others won’t like it at all.”

Freedman said his love of writing and performing is what keeps him motivated to be a comedian. “If one day I do become a professional comic, that would be wonderful, but if I don’t, I will always consider these years and all the laughs that I’ve had and the wonderful friends that I’ve made to be lasting memories.”

His advice for new comics is to “practise, practise, practise. It is essential to get as much stage time as you possibly can. There are open mics available in Toronto seven nights a week for up-and-coming comics to work on their material and their delivery.”

Over the past six months, Freedman said he’s pushed himself to perform as often as he can. “I plan on performing even more in the upcoming future. I also plan to continue promoting shows as often as I can. Comedy has become such a passion for me. I can’t ever see the day when I will stop performing.”

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