Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Ron James Rings In The New Year
Memo to the entire federal government: Ron James is on the comical warpath so look out !
His New Year's Eve special this time out is filled with cunning political invective, the type James once told me he'd leave to CBC's RCAF.
"But now it's different," James is saying on the phone from his Toronto office.
"Now I'm mad, like really mad."
Catch The Ron James Show: New Year's Eve Edition Monday Dec. 31 at 9 p.m. (repeated at midnight) to see how comically angry he can become. He gets belly laughs when he starts criticizing the crazy policies of Tea Party Tories currently controlling Parliament.
"They're not the conservatives of Bob Stanfield or John Diefenbaker," he is saying.
"So I think it's about time I gave them a little push for all the strange things they've been doing."
In James's case he's fighting fire with tough talking comical lines that may zing and even hurt just a bit.
"They've got it coming, they really have."
James's New Year's Eve show also rings in another season of his special brand of comedy.
I tell him I've never seen a stand up specialist so adapt himself to the rigors of comedy sketch playing.
And as soon as I said it I remembered first spotting James at Toronto's Second City doing perfectly realized characters in dozens of skits.
I also remember him on NBC's Sisters in a drama outing. And what about his part on Made In Canada that carried such a wallop.
"Been doing it all along," he says. "But in the one man shows it's a different kind of atmosphere."
"For long periods especially in L.A. I made my living as a character guy."
James goes back to his comedic roots in a brilliantly executed sketch on the two survivors of the Franklin Expedition --it's so well presented I never noticed the other guy was Patrick McKenna until I saw the credits.
Then there's Ron in drag as Aunt Vivien in her annual message to the Queen --it's suitably hilarious on the subject of Prince Harry losing his clothes in Vegas but James notes the sketch was taped in November well before we knew Princess Kate was pregnant.
And James is even better as radio radio talk show and tea partyist Buell Crawford. Canadian radio really does have such nut bars.
And in a crazy confrontation Linda Kash shines as a government official determined to make James record his New Year's Eve resolution --failure to do so could result in a stiff penalty.
In Cape Breton all the friends of a family are suddenly turning Tory --is it due to a comet landing nearby? The title is "Night Of The Young Conservatives"!
The skits are working better than ever, James agrees, because they are taped in advance in a filmic style and out on actual locations.
"The first year I did them in the studio in sequence before an audience. You never saw a guy as rushed, getting the costumer on and off, rushing to get back to the stage. Now we do them in a leisurely fashion and that makes for a pleasant atmosphere. And more jokes."
I asked James about the difference between CBC's treatment of him and the way Global treated him when he made the series Blackfly.
"No comparison. CBC is committed to Canadian programs. With Global they always said hurry up and finish."
About James's comical mood change: "We have a government spending millions to celebrate the War of 1812--Canada didn't exist at that time."
And what about the United Nations naysaying the federal treatment of aboriginals: "Go a hundred miles north of Calgary and you can visit the Third World.
"It isn't a time for politeness. I'm going to rock this apple cart. But with quips I think I can accomplish things. You saw the TV audience's response. I really think I'm onto something."
With taping concluded on Season Four (starting Monday Jan. 7 at 8:30 p.m.) James is planning a national tour.
"I call it being in the trenches. Finding out what makes Canadians tick. And I'll be tackling all the hot button issues."
THE RON JAMES SHOW: NEW YEAR'S EVE SPECIAL PREMIERES ON CBC-TV MONDAY DECEMBER 31 AT 9 P.M. (REPEATED AT MIDNIGHT).
MY RATING: ***1/2.