By about the halfway point it was clear that the winner was going to be a Mark. I say “about” because Mark Little didn’t take the stage May 3 at the Great Canadian Laugh-Off until shortly after what will be — when the final night of the Yuk Yuks joke-off eventually makes it to TV — the second or third commercial break.
But after Little’s set it was clear — at least to the two of us in the media corner — that the oversized $25,000 cheque would be hoisted by either the Halifax sketch-and-standup hyphenate or local lad Mark Forward, who came on strong early in the show, getting big laughs from the Sunday night crowd with his raspy delivery and rewarding, risky bits about the cold-blooded murder of imaginary wildlife.
But in the end the judges gave Forward second place, won over by Little’s gawky charm and recollections of being bullied while at home school, though it was probably his “hype man” routine that clinched the win. Taking a page from Flava Flav’s book, the bit sees Little bring an audience member on stage to tell a few of his jokes, while he does the “Yeah boy-eee” thing. It is, at heart, a “white guy acting black” gag, though Little’s writing and forceful delivery make it into something more.
“Oh no you d’n't!” he yelped after the young woman had delivered an intentionally lame gag. “That joke’s so sick it needs some Gravol and plenty of rest!”
It is not one of his regular bits. “I don’t know why I don’t why I don’t do it more often,” he said later, in the Yuks green room, noting that he barely “scraped through” the preliminary rounds of the month-long contest. “I realized either I was going to take a huge risk and just go for it or not and come in some middling position.”
Back home, the 26 year-old comic is also part of the noted sketch troupe Picnicface, and last year had a job writing for This Hour Has 22 Minutes. He says stand up comes as a “huge relief” compared to the complications of being in an eight-member troupe, “but if I had to choose between making it in sketch and stand up I’d choose sketch.”
“Stand up feels just a bit lonely,” he said, even as people filed through the room, glad-handing and heaping praise. “I love the other people I perform with and there’s something really satisfying when you accomplish something in that group… Comedy is always fun when you’re with your friends.”
Little remarked on stage that he’d use the winnings to justify his decision to drop out of grad school (your loss, Dalhousie) to his parents, though in truth he’s not sure what sure what to do with it, apart from keeping a roof over his head while he writes.
“Every year I get one good job that lasts a couple of months,” he said, like writing for 22 Minutes, “and I can live off that for the rest of the year and just sort of be a comedy writer. This year I’ve got this huge thing,” he gestured in the direction of the emptying club, “so I don’t know. I didn’t think I’d win.”