Interview with Jokes Please! host and comedian Ross Dauk
In an always-changing economic landscape like Vancouver’s, five years of a modest grassroots comedy show is a pretty big feat.
But comedy series Jokes Please! has done just that.
Every Thursday night, comedy lovers and newbies alike can walk into the Little Mountain Gallery on East 26 Ave. and Main St., pay a $7 cover, buy a $4 beer, and get treated to a laugh-out-loud show.
Many comedians have walked through Little Mountain Gallery’s doors. Locals like Graham Clark, Charlie Demers and Jane Stanton are regular favourites. Beth Stelling and Michelle Buteau, who have successful Netflix specials, have recently made appearances. And Canadian comedy great Brent Butt has dropped in for sets more than once.
A typical Jokes Please! show usually works like this:
Host Ross Dauk comes out and rants hilariously for a bit, making conversation with the audience, and pulling out jokes about growing up in a prairie province, the housing situation in Vancouver, or funny little everyday observations.
Dauk then introduces roughly five or six comedians. These can be fresh faces, Vancouver favourites, or famous faces. Whether the performer’s jokes hit or not, Jokes Please! is always a good time.
“When a new joke really clicks, the comedian is pumped, the audience is pumped. It’s the best thing for most people involved,” Dauk told Vancouver Weekly.
Dauk has been with Jokes Please! since the beginning. Three very funny co-hosts have come and gone, but Dauk is at Little Mountain for the long-haul.
“I have been producing shows since I started comedy, and I have never bailed on a show.”
Jokes Please! tends to pack what Dauk calls a “comedy-astute audience” every week.
“They can tell what’s funny and what’s baloney,” he says.
Because of this, Jokes Please! has built a reputation as being a good place for comedians to try out new material.
“[The audience] knows they’re going to see a great show. But the biggest comedians in Vancouver and the most most hilarious comedians in the world aren’t known by the wide population necessary,” says Dauk.
“At Jokes Please!, when you see the funniest comedian in Vancouver next to a person who has the best Netflix special of the last couple years, the audience just sees two hilarious comedians. They can’t tell who is the celebrity comedian, and who is not. And that’s always been one of my favourite parts.”
Every comedian has the same amount of time for jokes during a show. There is no real headliner. Dauk pitches the event to comedians like this: You don’t have to worry about putting on a big show. Just say what you think it funniest, mess around and have a good time.
Over the show’s five years on the Vancouver comedy scene, people have gone to Jokes Please! because they know they like the show, not because they’re going to see a specific comedian like they would a movie, says Dauk.
This makes the atmosphere at Little Mountain Gallery different from comedy venue heavy-weights like the Comedy Mix or Yuk Yuks. Most of the comedians at Jokes Please! perform at those venues too, but Little Mountain gives them a more laid-back environment.
“What I like is magic,” says Doak. “Funny people should do whatever they think is funny. Because the room is good and has a real audience where you can get real feedback, the newer comedians often do their best stuff and try to knock it out of the park and learn what their best jokes are.”
While flyers for the show can be spotted around Vancouver, and the Facebook account is pretty active, Jokes Please! is shared primarily through word-of-mouth.
“I think that it’s great that in this day and age when so much is online, when someone says ‘you have to see this thing live!’ and you follow through with that … I think that’s rare,” says Dauk.
Now, five years in, the show has decided to up their social media game with an Instagram account. And a Jokes Please! podcast is in future, according to Dauk. But long-time fans of the show can expect more of the same. And newcomers can expect consist hilarious sets and hosting bits every single week.
“Week to week it’s very fun and exciting. I’ve felt proud to be a part of it,” says Dauk. “There has been a lot of funny comedians on-stage. It feels amazing to work with them that long and it takes a lot of personal dedication for a show to go on.”