Q&A with SFU stand-up comedian Sam Gorick

We chat with Sam about bad experiences, self-deprecation, and the joke climate

Adam Madojemu / The Peak

By: Natasha Tar, Arts Editor

Sam Gorick, a fourth-year communications student, does stand-up comedy as a hobby. The following is our conversation with him.

The Peak: How did you get into stand-up?

Sam Gorick: It was a dare. I was dared by a guy, I think he was running for the SFSS, and I told a joke to him as he was going around promoting and he just said, “My friend owns a bar, why don’t you give it a shot, we have open mics there on Thursdays.” And I went for it. I wrote down some things I put on Facebook and gave it a shot.

     It was this really weird musky bar in Yaletown, and there were people playing pinball, right beside me, loudly. I don’t think anyone heard me, so that was great ‘cause I think I was pretty terrible that night.

P: How would you describe your style of stand-up?

SG: Poor. I don’t think it’s very good. But I do it, and it’s fun. It’s very self-deprecating because a lot of people think that comedy needs a target and some people will go up there and they’ll just trash talk politicians, they’ll trash talk whoever’s in the news that week, but I feel like if you start with a little something about yourself, and you just dig in, everyone gets on your side and then you can open up.

     Last night, I noticed I was breaking out so I went up onstage and I just immediately called it out. I know I kinda dress dorky so I went up there and just said, “Hey I know I look like I listen to Weezer.” And that was all [I] needed.

P: What has been your best experience with stand-up?

SG: We had about 130 people in the room and I made them laugh, but I don’t know. I’ve never really had the self-esteem to say that I’ve done good, but I keep getting asked to come back so that’s a good sign [laughs].

P: What has been your worst experience with stand-up?

SG: My worst experience was pretty recently. [. . .] I’m practicing [because] the big Yuk-Off is coming, and it’s the Vancouver competition were everyone goes up and they all try their best material. The winner gets like five grand. So it’s kind of a big deal to do well on those nights.

     I went up the other night to practice, and it was already a tough crowd. The comics before me were in the back, just bickering and figuring out what to do, and I knew as soon as I went up there, I told one of my tame jokes and the audience was already kinda turning on me. By that point I realized, “OK, I’m not going to come out of this good so I might as well just sink it.” It was still fun, but I didn’t really get the feedback I needed that night.

P: In your opinion, what’s the “joke climate” like right now in terms of taboo subjects, popular jokes, and jokes that are worn out?

SG: The joke climate is kind of bipolar, I’d say. There’s some nights I go up there and I tell jokes that I think are pretty tame, but they just immediately get “oooh.” And then you feel it. But other nights it’s fine, it gets laughs, it’s A-OK.

     It really depends on the room, everyone’s different. But I think the main climate right now [is] it’s better to be clean than vulgar. And I find a lot of comics are cashing in on American politics whereas other comics are realizing that there’s already a big bubble there. Something new, I think, needs to come in because it’s getting a little too stale talking about you-know-who.

P: Which comedians inspire you?

SG: [One of] my favourite comedians of all time [has] always been Steve Martin. I think he changed the game when he showed up. He made the not-funny funny. [. . . ] [I]nstead of just going in and being like, “Oh, my wife” or “Oh, this thing,” he would go up there and act like a goof and it was hilarious to see. I think he really changed the game before he just vanished completely to go do movies and books and now he does banjo music [laughs].

     My other favourite would be Norm Macdonald. Whenever he goes on talk shows he has this technique where he’ll play dead like a possum and be this fool, and it’s hilarious watching the interviewers that don’t know who he is go for the bait. Then it turns out he’s always the smartest guy in the room; he cleans the floor with his comedy, he is hilarious.

P: How does SFU help or hinder your practice?

SG: How does SFU help or hinder is kind of a weird one to say because optimistically, they help 100%, they’re very supportive. But pessimistically, they also don’t really do anything at all.

     When the pub was open, there used to be a stand-up comedy night. There’s still open mics at Club Ilia, but they’re more musical-focused, and I remember one time I did it and the person before me did a loving tribute to a loved one that had passed on. And then of course I go up and I tell jokes about how I wasn’t cool in high school and . . . [it was a] different tone that night. [ . . .] I know there’s the SFU improv club. They’re starting to get their feedback. They kinda had a rough patch there, but it looks like they’re starting to take off.

     But I mean, you can find this with any interest that isn’t a sport [at SFU]: you have to start your own club or find it off-mountain, sadly.

P: Are there any classes at SFU that encourage any kind of stand-up or comedy that you’re interested in or have taken?

SG: I know there’s a really good English course. The prof has been on leave for a while [and] I haven’t seen it [or] looked into it, but it was all about the study of words in comedy.

     Communications is really good at letting you put your own touch on papers, so I always try to make it my own a bit. Other than that, SFU lets you be you, but you are SFU, remember?

P: What’s one of your favourite bits/jokes?

SG: I always love the jokes that you leave feeling angry, the jokes where it’s something so simple and obvious that you don’t even laugh at it, you just sit there like “why did I not think of that, oh my God.”

     I have musician friends who do that too where it’s such a simple riff, why didn’t I think of that, how is this a thing? And all the time, I’ll watch stand-up and it’ll be the most obvious [thing] like Seinfeld. It’s infuriating how funny [Jerry Seinfeld] made everyday life with nothing.

P: Do you have any advice for someone who wants to get into stand-up?

SG: It’s not as scary as it looks. On Facebook, there’s a very great Vancouver stand-up comedy forum. They’re open to anyone joining and they have a post that lists all the shows that are open throughout the night. [. . .] They’re a very welcoming community. There’s a couple bad eggs in there, but you can get around them really easily and find your way.

     I started doing Yuk Yuk’s, Thursday nights, and the crew there is so nice and friendly and welcoming. It’s a really great place to be. It’s a fun time once you finally figure out your footing. It’s fun.

P: Is there anything you’d like to add?

SG: I think if you think you’re funny, I think if you’ve come into Starbucks and you’ve heard me tell a joke and you go, “Oh, I’m better than that,” [. . .] you should do it. I think a lot of people look at [stand-up] and say, “I can never do that.” But once you’re up there and the lights are on you, you can’t even really see anyone. Just write down something that happens, give it a shot. [. . . ] Just try it. You gotta try it, it’s a lot of fun.

Want to learn more about Sam? See our video interview.