Laugh Track: An interview with comedian Kevin Banner

Get to know the folks behind the laughter, as The Peak explores the burgeoning Vancouver comedy scene with our recurring column, Laugh Track. From podcast hosts and improv royalty to monthly showrunners and people just being funny weirdos, there’s never a shortage in this comedic goldmine called Vancouver.

Interviewing comic Kevin Banner provides a sense of closure that I didn’t even know I needed.

Back in 2014, I saw Banner perform an opening set at the Comedy Mix in Vancouver, and while I remember the headliner getting a few good laughs from the crowd, Banner undoubtedly stole the show. Fast-forward a year and a half, and I’m messaging that same stand-up comedian to apologize about being late to our arranged interview at Starbucks.

Thankfully, Banner is as easy-going to talk to as he is a joy to watch perform, as we dig into conversations about his comedic stylings, along with the main reason behind the interview: Banner’s upcoming debut comedy album Dreamboat.

The Peak: “Self-deprecating” and “dark” are a few ways I’ve read you describe your humour. What makes this a useful angle from which to tell jokes?

Kevin Banner: Because it’s real, it’s genuine. That’s me. I’m a little bit dark, and I’m definitely self-deprecating. I always feel stupid when I get into these conversations, where I’m picking apart comedy, because I’ll say stuff that sounds great in the moment, but when I read it back later, I think, “Is that true?”

A lot of my favourite comedians are pretty close to themselves onstage, but they’re very genuine for what they’re doing. That’s my favourite kind of comedy, so that’s what I want to do. You’ll see young comics starting out, and they’ll be really self-deprecating when they’re onstage, but when they get off stage they’re living the life; they have abs and they’re having fun.

But it gets to be too much onstage, with the self-deprecating, because they’re really trying to push that they’re this dark character. But if you’re not, it shows, and it’s harder to connect with that as an audience member.

P: You’re about to record your first comedy album. At what point does a comic see doing a live album as the next step?

KB: When you feel like you’ve got a set that you want to commit to permanency. I know there are plenty of comics who don’t think you should ever record a special or an album, and you should just keep your act, but there are definitely some jokes that I’ve told for a long time. Some of them I don’t really want to get rid of yet, but they fit with where I’m at right now, so they’ll fit on the album.

That’s the thing about stand-up that really appeals to me: there are no real rules to it. There are etiquette things, but it’s not like, “OK, you’ve done this, this, and this, now you record an album.” I did the two shows with Bill Burr in January and I was approached by 604 Records and asked if I’d be interested in doing an album, and it was something that I’d thought of before.

P: What makes the Comedy Mix, where the recorded shows will be, a good venue to record a comedy album at?

KB: It’s the best club in, if not Western Canada, the entire country. I know a lot of other comics who’ve recorded their albums there. It’s a great room, and you know it’s going to have people in it. You don’t have to worry about drawing people in. I don’t have a fanbase that comes out to see me, and definitely not enough to record an album in front of. The Comedy Mix also tends to bring out good crowds, for the most part.

P: What are some behind-the-scenes things most people wouldn’t even think of that are really important in organizing something like recording a comedy album?

KB: I feel like there are people out there that think every time they see a comedian, they’re seeing them come up with those thoughts on the spot, until the people see them again and think, “Oh, I’ve heard these jokes.” The answer to that question is probably a lot, because I don’t think the average person knows or cares to know about the inner workings of stand-up comedy. It’s just the diehard fans and the comics themselves. I’m sure there’s a lot of stuff that the average person doesn’t know about, but to me it doesn’t stand out as something because it’s just natural to the people who do it. There’s a lot of logistical stuff that’s just falling to the record label, though; I just have to show up and tell the jokes.

P: Was the album’s name always going to be Dreamboat or were there any other titles you considered?

KB: Ultimately, the name Dreamboat doesn’t mean a lot to me. I just like the flow of it, and it’s not a name that I’m going to regret. There are people who put out an album and they give it a wacky title, and I feel like they’ll hate it eventually. Dreamboat is baby food. It’s nothing, it doesn’t matter, so it’s not going to bother me years down the road. It just sounds nice.

P: I’ve just purchased a vinyl copy of Kevin Banner’s Dreamboat; I place the album onto the record player, and I slip on my headphones. What’s one thought you want me to have while listening to your comedy album?

KB: “This is fun.” I just want an album that I’m proud of, and I want people who buy it to not feel ripped off. So if somebody buys my album, I just want them to enjoy it. I’m pretty meat-and-potatoes, so I just want you to dig it.

Be a part of the magic when Banner records his first comedy album, Dreamboat, at the Comedy Mix over three evenings: one show on July 7, and two shows on both July 8 and 9.