He walked out onto the stage looking older than I remember, his hair white and quite long, but still sporting his trademark goatee and black T-shirt. He was also wearing the most amazing black and white stripey trousers and red platform boots. I approve. About 10% of the audience gave him a standing ovation as he walked on (something I have never quite understood), but he told them to sit and got the show rolling. He was on stage for about 15 minutes before explaining that his style would be somewhat haphazard. The way he goes on tangents, but somehow always manages to link back up to the original story is impressive. He started talking about how Ottawa is cold (just wait till February), which got him onto a story about Oslo (also cold), which took us from cigar shops, to a handsome, one-eyed, man in his pub, to his stuffed Scottish wildcat, to fishing, to sneezing with your eyes open, to childhood stories about his bitch of a school teacher and his gluttonous knitting auntie. It all made sense at the time, I swear. Interspersed with the brilliant anecdotes were a few angry sidenotes about ghost hunting programs and the church as well as some brilliant jokes. He even managed not to lose his train of thought when, about 2 hours in, his microphone cut out and he was left, in quite a large room, with only mime to entertain us for a few minutes while a techie ran to find a replacement battery. The show went on so many tangents that at some points I wasn’t sure if he’d completely lost the plot, but inevitably, a few minutes later, he’d get back to the original story. He described it as ADD, and I sort of have to agree. But every sudden change of subject kept the audience equally laughing and on our toes. It was 2 and a half hours of brilliance and he left us with my favourite story of the night, the last few minutes of the show I was in fits of laughter. Which made him all the more deserving of the standing ovation which he received at the end of the show (from all of us this time). After the ovation he did one last short joke, then while we were applauding, slowly collected his notes from the stool and meandered off the stage. Pure class.
I’ve meant to ask UK types before, but it seems in Canada we give a lot of standing ovations. From my experiences in Edinburgh, this is not something that is done in the UK. Feel free to fill me in on the comments. And in conclusion, the only disappointment of the night is that the National Arts Centre in Ottawa is a split-level building with about 9 sides and seemingly infinite possible exits. I had a wander round to look for the stage door, but found no group of people milling about. So I only have one photo from the evening. I’ll leave you with it.