Trevor Thompson is an Ottawa-based comic who has a weekly Sunday show at Yuk Yuk’s. Like many area residents, he has been unable to work regularly since COVID-19 hit the city and forced many of us indoors.
With the realization that it may be a long time before large groups of people could gather for live entertainment, Trevor decided to take his comedy show to Facebook and do a nightly set at 9pm.
To gain insight into what it’s like to keep performing while in self-isolation, Apt613 recently connected with Trevor for a short conversation. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Apt613: Hi Trevor. I remember meeting you two years ago at the former James Street Pub.
Trevor Thompson: Yeah, it was at the OCRAPS (Ottawa Comedy Roast and Award Presentation Show). And the James Street Pub is now closed to make way for probably condominiums or something.
That night you said you were coming back from Toronto, but are you originally from here?
Yeah, I grew up in Metcalfe, just half an hour outside of here. I lived in Toronto for about four or five years, but I’ve lived most of my life pretty much in Ottawa.
How long have you been a stand-up comic?
I started about 14 or 15 years ago. I moved to Toronto about seven or so years ago because I bought into the idea that you gotta move to Toronto, so that’s what I did. I understand why people suggested that, because Toronto is the centre of the universe as far as Canadian entertainment goes.
Are you affiliated with either of the two comedy clubs in town?
Well, I used to be signed with Yuk Yuk’s when I was in Toronto, but I am not tied to either club now. Right now, I have a weekly show, or at least I used to have one, called Trevor’s Pad. It took place every Sunday at Yuk Yuk’s, but that’s obviously on hiatus given what’s been going on these days. At this point, it’s hard to even fathom what’s going to happen when they do decide to open up the clubs. They may reduce the capacity and have people sit more apart, but that’s all speculation at this point.
So was Trevor’s Pad the inspiration for your live show on Facebook?
Well, on St. Patrick’s Day, I posted on my Facebook page that I was thinking of doing a live show, seeing as we can’t go out and celebrate as usual. And a couple of friends volunteered to help out, like Tavis (Maplesden). I know you know Tavis through the comedy community, and he’s head writer for the show and is a super funny guy. And Mike (Tymofie) helped host the post-show and now Lorenzo (Patino) does it. And I never planned on it being a regular thing, but it ended up being a nightly thing. Now it’s a regular thing and an excuse for me to put on a suit every night in my apartment. It’s become a bit of a hub for the comedy community to get together online and talk shop and joke around. We even do some trivia during the post-show.
Well, at the start of the government’s recommendation to stay home to help stop the spread of COVID-19, many shows started popping up on Facebook, but not many lasted this long or even have been on every night. [Editor’s note: On April 22 Trevor announced on his Facebook page that he was scaling back to three shows a week.]
That’s true, we’ve been on pretty much every night, I think we’ve done 34 shows. Last Wednesday was the only day we didn’t do one, and I got so many messages complaining that I broke the streak! But I’m going to keep doing it because it’s a chance to keep working on material that I hope to be able to someday use on stage. I know that there’s going to be a glut of pandemic jokes when standup comedy does start back up again. It’s a labour of love for sure.
This year’s OCRAPS were supposed to take place on April 17, but were cancelled due to COVID-19 measures. But I heard you tried to do the roast portion of the awards on your show.
Yeah, since we can’t congregate together for the time being, we set up something during the post-show. We even had some comics call in and try to roast each other live on the air. We did kind of a makeshift roast night, but it’s not the same as being there in person, drinking, laughing, and coming up with jokes and roasts on the spot. A live audience is such an integral part of comedy, or any live show, for that matter.
Have you had to adjust the way you do comedy on your nightly Facebook show?
Oh yeah. On stage, I’m pretty animated and I like to walk around and talk to different people. And I keep catching myself doing that at home and I have to remind myself to stay pretty still and stare at the camera so the audience watching at home feels like I’m addressing them, kind of like how I do it on stage.
The one thing that’s been good was that, at my live shows, I decorate the stage with a bunch of my stuff. It’s called Trevor’s Pad, because it’s supposed to look like my apartment. That’s why I set it up with things like a table, food, some stuff on the wall. I try to make the audience feel like we’re at my place. But for my live show, it’s so much easier, because it’s actually in my apartment.
The hard part is that, when you’re performing on stage, you’re gauging your timing, seeking validation from the audience, waiting for them to laugh to help you with your timing and pacing, but for the live show on Facebook, there’s no laughter because you’re in your apartment.
How are you doing during these times of social distancing?
It’s not ideal, but you manage. Since I’m not able to perform on stage, I’ve had a significant portion of my wages cut. I can still get by, but like many others, some days are hard and money is tight. In some ways, since I normally live alone, I think I am hardwired for social distancing, so I may be doing better than others. I can only imagine how hard it would be to hold down a full-time job and have to take care of kids and find time to teach them all the stuff they would normally learn in school. But one nice thing about being a comic is trying to find the funny in life, even during these times.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me and good luck on your live Facebook show at the actual Trevor’s pad.
For sure. Thank you too.
You can watch Trevor’s Pad on Facebook, live at 9pm every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night.