“I’m a weirdo,” explains Edmonton based comedian Jon Mick. “I have weird thoughts running through my head every day.”
Luckily for alternative comedy fans, Mick is able to translate his weird thoughts into a steady stream of gut-busting material. The 29-year-old stand-up comedian is about to record his third independent comedy album live at Edmonton’s Wunderbar this Sunday, Feb. 3.
“I try to write something new every time I’m on stage,” he explains over the phone on a balmy Friday afternoon in Edmonton (while this writer was freezing in Winnipeg). “I’m performing twice a week, so by the end of a year you’ve got another hour or 40 minutes of material that you feel is strong enough to record and put out there for the world to see.”
Bits about depression, bad dates, cat masturbation (a.k.a. “catsturbation”), sexual harassment by way of dog sitting and things far stranger are all discussed on Mick’s first two records. In that way, 2011’s Who Knew? and 2012’s Beard Milk – both released independently and available online for download – are impressive pieces of outsider comedy, especially considering that Jon only started performing three years ago.
“I had a friend of mine who knew a dude who ran an alternative comedy room here in Edmonton called Hang Time,” he tells me. “My friend signed me up without my knowledge, said ‘You’re doing this night in a couple weeks. Get five minutes ready.’”
“It just so happened it was on April 20th, 4-20, so I think the crowd was a little more accepting of me than they normally would have been,” Mick says with a laugh. “I just found a passion for it. I rarely feel passionate about anything in my life, so I figured I may as well harness this one and try to make a go of it.”
Make a go of it he has. Doing regular gigs in Edmonton, Mick is a prolific writer who makes good use of Twitter to connect with fans outside of Edmonton, and to test run and remember the weird ideas that come to him over the course of a day.
“So much of what you put on Twitter is spur of the moment,” @jongolias tells me. “So often you lose those off-the-cuff thoughts and jokes and whatever you make with friends. I use it as a notepad […] I’ll always have my notepad on me, but I never have a pen. So it’s either draw some blood or just throw it on Twitter. I choose the less morbid of the two.”
With a year’s worth of his off-brand material stock piled and ready to commit to tape, Mick is once again taking the do-it-yourself approach to recording and releasing his next stand-up album. “I mean, I pay a guy,” he clarifies with a laugh. “I have a guy come out and record me and we have a rig set up and then we go into the studio and edit it, so I mean it’s not just me putting it on my pocket recorder then releasing it.”
This DIY approach is one that most musicians are familiar with, but makes Mick a bit of an anomaly in the comedy scene. “I used to play drums in a band, and putting out an EP, putting out a physical manifestation of what you’re doing just seemed like a logical step in performance,” Mick tells me. “It makes it easier for people to book you, to know what you’re all about or what you’re trying to say I guess as a mission statement. For me it was super logical to do, but I guess a lot of comedians aren’t doing DIY comedy albums.”
Why that might be is up for debate. What’s certain is that Mick’s past efforts have lead to plenty of local action and out of town gigs in Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, and Toronto. This next album is planned to spur a new comedy tour in the spring – and to force a good friend of Jon’s to take his own stand-up more seriously.
“It’s going to be a split album actually with the owner of Wunderbar and fellow comedian Craig Martel,” he explains. “I kind of forced him into stand-up comedy about a year ago. He’s been impressing audiences, so I said, ‘Hey, we should do a tour this spring. We’ll record something for you so we can show people what you’re all about.’ We’re going to release it as a split called Beef Dip/Tuna Melt, like kind of OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, but about sandwiches.”
Such community spirit and cooperation is a part of Edmonton’s supportive arts scene that Mick highlights during our conversation. “Every night of the week there’s something going on,” he says fondly of both the underground and mainstream comedy scenes in the City of Champions. “We love our comedians, the same way we love our hockey or our football or our musicians and whatnot.”
Speaking of hockey, I ask Mick about the Oilers’ chances this season now that the hated lockout has ended.
“Playoffs or bust, baby,” he answers immediately. “Playoffs or bust. Are you kidding me?”
Proud son of Edmonton and certified weirdo Jon Mick will be recording his half of Beef Dip / Tune Melt Sunday February 3rd at the Wunderbar in the City of Champions, and hitting the road across the prairies in the spring. Check him out.
Sheldon Birnie is a Winnipeg based writer & editor with a keen interest in crokinole, hockey, and partying. Follow him on Twitter @badguybirnie