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Opinion

Majumder surprisingly frank -- and funny -- in HBO special

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/4/2012 (2367 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

One of the great pleasures of writing about television is reviewing a show that appears, at first glance, to be one rather-predictable thing but then turns out to be something unexpectedly and wonderfully else altogether.

Such is the case with the new HBO Canada special Shaun Majumder, Every Word Is Absolutely True -- what was expected was yet another comedian-on-tour standup-performance special, but what was delivered was one part comedy special, one part Canadian-showbiz travelogue and three parts bold, revealing and emotionally raw examination of the inner workings of a popular performer's heart and mind.

In this 90-minute film, which premieres Monday at 8:30 p.m. on HBO Canada, a camera crew follows Majumder as he embarks on last year's This Tour Has 22 Cities jaunt, which stopped in Winnipeg last May. In an interview promoting that show, the Newfoundland-born actor/comedian described the effort to film the tour as "sort of a concert DVD/road-trip documentary all in one," but it's clear that the plan changed as the journey progressed and circumstances evolved.

There are still plenty of clips of Majumder onstage, cracking wise about a variety of topics that ranges from Maritime family values to racism, but Every Word veers away from the comedy road trip to delve deep into Majumder's roots, influences and aspirations.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/4/2012 (2367 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

One of the great pleasures of writing about television is reviewing a show that appears, at first glance, to be one rather-predictable thing but then turns out to be something unexpectedly and wonderfully else altogether.

Such is the case with the new HBO Canada special Shaun Majumder, Every Word Is Absolutely True — what was expected was yet another comedian-on-tour standup-performance special, but what was delivered was one part comedy special, one part Canadian-showbiz travelogue and three parts bold, revealing and emotionally raw examination of the inner workings of a popular performer's heart and mind.

In this 90-minute film, which premieres Monday at 8:30 p.m. on HBO Canada, a camera crew follows Majumder as he embarks on last year's This Tour Has 22 Cities jaunt, which stopped in Winnipeg last May. In an interview promoting that show, the Newfoundland-born actor/comedian described the effort to film the tour as "sort of a concert DVD/road-trip documentary all in one," but it's clear that the plan changed as the journey progressed and circumstances evolved.

There are still plenty of clips of Majumder onstage, cracking wise about a variety of topics that ranges from Maritime family values to racism, but Every Word veers away from the comedy road trip to delve deep into Majumder's roots, influences and aspirations.

What's predictable is a familiar bit from Majumder's act: "My dad is from India, and my mom is from Newfoundland — the two most ridiculed groups of people on the planet, and I get them both ('Paki' plus 'Newfie'). I'm a Poofie, if you think about it."

What's unexpected is Majumder's frank discussion of his parents' split, back when he was a kid, and the way in which his mother's selfless care left young Shaun and sister Rani blissfully unaware of the desperate poverty in which they lived.

He describes his limitless affection for his mom, and recalls how he and fiancée Shelby Fenner took her along on exotic vacations — including one to Guatemala and Mexico a few years back, during which Marian Majumder suffered a massive heart attack and died.

The film closes with a montage of video clips in which Majumder is seen sprinkling small amounts of his mother's ashes in such far-flung locales as London, Paris, India, Jamaica, Morocco, the Swiss Alps and the B.C. rainforest.\

Every Word also examines Majumder's deep connection to his Newfoundland roots and how, partly in tribute to his mother, his current passion project is establishing an upscale eco-friendly hotel on the site of the shuttered school he attended in his hometown of Burlington.

Much of Majumder's career has been focused on acting — from youth-oriented YTV shows to the comedy of CBC's This Hour Has 22 Minutes to gritty dramatic roles in such U.S.-network series as Detroit 1-8-7 and The Firm — but the performer seeks to make it clear that he maintains an abiding interest in developing his standup-comedy skills.

"I think standup, of all the crafts and skills out there in the entertainment world, is the hardest of all, hands down, to do at the highest level and to be transcendent, to be great," he offers.

To prove his point, Majumder includes footage of his very first foray onto a comedy stage — at Toronto's Yuk Yuk's club in 1994 (where he's introduced by a version of Mike Bullard that has a full head of hair). He is, quite frankly, terrible.

But he's persistent — as comedy colleagues like Bullard and former Winnipegger Kenny Robinson gladly attest, Majumder was and is a guy who has the will and energy to work tirelessly at his craft.

Footage of Majumder from last year's 22 Cities tour shows a guy who's confident, comical and fully in control of his talents.

He's impressively funny. But what makes Every Word Is Absolutely True such an engaging and worthwhile Canadian-showbiz profile is that Shaun Majumder reveals himself to be ever so much more than just that.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca

Brad Oswald

Brad Oswald
Perspectives Editor

After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.

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