There's comedy, and then there's comedy. And for a standup comic, landing a gig on Saturday Night Live can be something of a mixed blessing.
Being part of the long-running NBC comedy franchise affords a performer a level of exposure and inevitable popularity that would be difficult to otherwise achieve, but for a standup, becoming famous for a sketch-driven show might make life after SNL a bit tricky.
Just ask Jim Breuer, who started doing standup comedy in the late '80s, did three seasons on SNL (1995-98) and has spent the years since fending off shouted-out audience requests for him to "Do Goat Boy!" during his shows.
"I think it definitely put a label on me," says Breuer, 45, who will be in Winnipeg this week as headliner of the Just For Laughs Comedy Tour: Relationship Edition.
"It used to bother me, but I don't get frustrated by it anymore. If they shout something out -- and they usually do, like 'Do Goat Boy!' or 'Do Joe Pesci!' -- I'll just say, 'Don't worry, I'll get to it,' and then I'll go ahead and do the stuff that I want to do. And then I'll end the show by saying, 'Did anyone come here just dying to see something in particular?' And they can shout out whatever they want, and I'll usually give it to them."
On this tour, however, Breuer's focus will be on relationships -- marriage, kids, and the complications that come with being a grown-up male in 21st-century society. You probably won't hear much from Goat Boy, and you definitely won't hear Breuer delve deep comedically into the silly political season that just ended in his home country.
"I'm not that interested in politics (for comedic purposes)," he says. "To me, since the beginning of time, politics is just professional wrestling on a darker level. I get so sad at this time of year, watching what's going on in our country."
Joining Breuer on the tour are second-season Last Comic Standing winner John Heffron, Just For Laughs tour veteran Godfrey and Canadian comedy favourite Debra DiGiovanni.
For New York-born Breuer, this 20-city cross-Canada jaunt -- which began Oct. 30 in St. John's, N.L., and will conclude Nov. 25 in Kelowna, B.C. -- represents something of an unexpected reunion tour.
"Two years ago, Deb and I hung out at the Montreal comedy festival," he recalls, "and when I left, I couldn't remember her name, but I remember thinking, 'Man, I've got to connect with that girl, and I've got to see her standup.' She and I laughed so hard, for hours, and I really wanted to meet up with her again.
"I've worked with John Heffron before, and we get along great, and Godfrey is on my radio show all the time and is one of my favourites. So it's great, but it's completely unintentional -- it wasn't until I was signed to do the tour that I realized that all these great people were on it, too."
Breuer says having that kind of camaraderie among performers can only enhance what happens onstage.
"I think it helps the shows when you have a nucleus where everyone is a fan of one another," he says. "Don't get me wrong -- I'm a fan of all of them, but I'm also out to destroy everyone, too. I want (the audience) to be talking about me when the show's over, and if John and Godfrey and Deb say they don't feel the same way, they're full of baloney."
Breuer explains that it was his performance at this year's Just For Laughs festival in Montreal that convinced him, after passing on a couple of earlier tour offers, that it was time to showcase his comedy for the rest of the country.
"This last Montreal festival was, hands down, my favourite," he says. "I got to play in a theatre on St. Catherine (Street) every day, and I absolutely mutilated at every single show. It boosted my confidence so much; I thought, if I can kill in Montreal, then I can take on the rest of Canada."
Since then, Breuer has been impressed with what he's experienced on his north-of-the-border odyssey.
"I think the audiences here are a lot more universal (than in the U.S.)," he explains. "Americans are a bit more small minded, but up here, people are a lot more open-minded. They're great."
You can sample Jim Breuer's standup comedy here: http://wfp.to/r19
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @BradOswald
Just For Laughs Comedy Tour: The Relationship Edition
Featuring Jim Breuer, Debra DiGiovanni, John Heffron and Godfrey
Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
Pantages Playhouse Theatre
Tickets $48.25 and $54.25 at Ticketmaster