Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sorry, God's gotta go

Victoria comedian and his cross-dressing deity can't hang around for entire fringe festival

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Victoria comedian Mike Delamont, AKA God is a Scottish Drag Queen, is cutting short his run at next month's Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival so he can appear in a televised Just for Laughs gala in Montreal next month.

"It's not something I wanted to do," says Delamont. "But for a comedian in Canada, you can't turn down a televised gala at the world's largest comedy festival. I didn't think it would ever happen."

That means city fringe-goers will have only three opportunities to see Delamont dress in a floral power suit and a black bob wig for his sequel God is a Scottish Drag Queen II: The Second Coming at the RMTC Warehouse starting July 17 before the just-turned 30-year-old entertainer heads to Montreal.

Cancelling those four shows will cost him about $8,000 is box-office revenue, he estimates. He sold out the Warehouse last summer and again for a three-show run in March, so he was confident there was a large Winnipeg audience for his followup.

"It's a huge break," says the six-foot six Delamont. "I grew up watching those gala performances on TV. I became a comedian because of them. So to be on one is overwhelming. Even if nothing comes of it, it is a nice circle."

He knows talent scouts from Los Angeles will be in the audience to see his standup act, which he has developed over the last 31/2 years alongside his lucrative fringe festival touring. A few years ago, standup generated about 10 per cent of his income, but now its 50-50.

Delamont was just in Montreal for that city's fringe festival, cracking wise as the Scottish-accented deity. His venue was a downtown cabaret where, during a concert the week before his run, a 23-year-old man was shot to death and a 21-year-old woman was sent to hospital with multiple gunshot wounds. He shared his tech time on stage with police detectives.

"It was so weird to be worrying about a light for my show while the people around me are investigating a murder literally 10 feet from me," says the comic, who is getting married this fall.

Being a comedy god doesn't necessarily mean Delamont is all-knowing. He couldn't help himself during his first show and committed the mortal sin of attempting to earn cheap laughs at the expense of the victim. He told patrons they were lucky they were able to get a ticket given how people were dying to get in the place.

"It was a tasteless, joke," he says. "It went 'thud' and I totally lost the audience. It was a mistake, but it made me laugh."

Delamont developed his chops with the Victoria sketch comedy troupe Atomic Vaudeville, best known for its road show Ride the Cyclone, which was a Warehouse hit in March 2013. It was with Atomic Vaudeville that he developed the God is a Scottish Drag Queen character. God was always a man wearing a dress -- for no particular reason -- but began his stage life with a bright red wig, oversized Lady Gaga glasses and a British accent.

"The first night didn't go well," he recalls. "The character needs a wink quality and has to be in on the joke. The British accent made God come off as more of a stern headmaster than I wanted it to be."

He went home and resurrected his God as a Scottish cross-dresser with a borrowed wig that made Delamont appear more matronly.

As his show evolved, Delamont struggled with what to call it, eventually giving in to a simple description. He knows the title irks some people who stay away from such perceived blasphemy. That's not a bad thing, he says.

"It scares off some of the right people, as well," says Delamont. "No one is showing up who is going to be offended. If you've made it past the title, you're going to be fine, so I've never wanted to change the title."

His God, he says, is someone we all hope God would be like, normal with a good sense of humour. His first commandment is not to preach.

"We talk about things you are not supposed to talk about in public," he says. "The show is a way to laugh at ourselves and the Bible."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2014 C6

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