Roxanne Tellier: The Best Medicine

rox lolas May 2014 3Here’s a shocker for you: sometimes life ain’t fair. Sometimes your best laid plans are not gonna work out, and all of your hard work will be ignored. Sometimes you’re the windshield, and sometimes you’re the bug.

I had one of those weeks, just last week.  A combination of disrespect, petty behaviour, chintziness and general meanspiritedness made what should have been a fun volunteer experience into something more akin to a shift at a Chinese iPhone factory. Ok, clearly not quite as gruelling, but I approached each of the three days with a similar feeling of dread and fear.

Still, I had a job to do, and I did it with the best spirit I could muster. Because life isn’t always fair, but the people I was helping were not to blame for my unhappiness.

When life goes sideways, I’m as hurt as the next person, but my tendency is to try and see the lighter side of life. I’m that person who goes down with the ship, cracking wise all the way.

Tina Fey Bossy PantsSo I got through the gig, thanks to a few likeminded, upbeat friends, and a copy of Tina Fey’s  book “Bossy Pants” to read en route. With limited computer time, I couldn’t indulge my usual escapism into britcoms and comedy routines. My sanity is generally kept semi-intact through the liberal use of funny audio and visual placebos. That, and the beer.

I’ve always loved a well-turned phrase, or a sly commentary on our foibles. Never been much of a one for the ol’ ‘pie in the face,’ slapsticky kind of humour, but I do love a naughty take on how seriously most of us take the world.

One of the first comedy pieces I still cannot get enough of is Victor Borge’s wonderful bit, “Phonetic Punctuation.” Borge was an amazing classical pianist – a genius, musically, linguistically, and comedically – but it was his ability to skewer a traditional pompous audience that appealed to me.

Some humour doesn’t survive the test of time. I used to howl at my mum’s copy of Vaughn Meader’s “The First Family,” but his brilliant vocal imitations of the Kennedy family in 1962 fell a little out of favour after the assassinations of first John, and then Robert. That was also a time when we would pore over an album cover, unaware that YouTube would be changing how we accessed media in the future.

“When your heart says yes, and your mind says no…. it’s the magical state of Yo.” The Smothers Brothers (Tommy and Dick) ruled prime time TV for a while in the 70s, until their strong and outspoken political views prompted the sponsors to have the show cancelled.  Their ongoing ‘feud’ referencing Tommy’s belief that “Mom always liked you best,” their commitment to quality musical guests, and this routine, endeared them to both the casual and hip viewer.

I first heard of Maclean and Maclean when I arrived in Toronto in the late 70’s. My new friends raved about the duo, but warned me that the boys were dirty, dirty, dirty. How dirty could they be, I wondered, expecting something akin to the Second City troupe or TV show? Very dirty indeed, as it turned out.  Thereafter, I’d only go to see them perform with my sister, so that we could indulge in hearty belly laughs without embarrassing ourselves in front of more prudish boyfriends.

Years later, Maclean and Maclean brought this character to radio. But their words were so raw that broadcaster Jake Edwards took over the role, successfully syndicating The Champ.

From wiki: “The basic premise of The Champ is that he was a boxer, and got into too many fights, and took a few-too-many blows to the head, and as such, he no longer has the normal patience of the average man. The character’s publicized life often involves him overhearing a conversation where he interprets some antagonist’s statement as a slight against his wife, Mrs. Champ. Reverting to his old boxing ways, he overreacts and “loses it,” unleashing a flurry of violence upon the unfortunate antagonist. Through his overreaction, The Champ remains the champ in his life”

Here’s the original M & M vocal demo:

The 80’s weren’t only about punk and new wave – the same spirit infested comedy, and the renewed interest in all things British offered Alexei Sayle a chance to bring his admittedly off-the-wall and anarchic style to a larger audience through his weekly show “Alexei Sayle’s Stuff.” Soon his catchphrases, “It’s a funny ol’ world,” “I like a laugh,” and “Didn’t you kill my brother?” were being repeated worldwide. And this song hit the charts in 1985.

In the 90’s, all the cool cats and kiddles were watching “In Living Color,” brought to us by the Wayan Brothers, and featuring a very young and criminally funny Jim Carrey. Oh, and their dancers, The Fly Girls, introduced us to another up and comer – Jennifer Lopez.  Recurring characters included the over-sexed Wanda, gay movie critics Men on Film, and this character … Homey the Clown.

In 2003, the comedy world rocked to Dave Chapelle’sChapelle’s Show.” For two years, audiences roared at Chapelle’s humour, but by the beginning of the proposed season 3, he was burned out, personally and ethically. He abruptly quit the show, and went to South Africa, where he tried to find peace and balance.

His most popular character was an imitation of Rick James, whom he impersonated frequently in a segment called “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories.” (Charlie Murphy is the younger brother of comedian Eddie Murphy.)

These days I’m a huge Tim Minchin fan. Tim’s a British-born Australian comedian, actor, musician and composer. He hit the big time when he brought his breakout show, “Dark Side“, to the 2005 Melbourne International Comedy Festival and the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The story of his meteoric rise from obscurity to celebrity is told in a documentary called “Rock n Roll Nerd,” that was filmed over the course of three years, fortuitously capturing his transformation in real time.

Looking like a slightly sexier BeetleJuice, Tim performs in bare feet. Like Victor Borge, he’s an accomplished pianist, but enjoys performing what he describes as a “funny cabaret show.” His sets consist largely of his comedic songs and poetry, with subjects ranging from social satire to inflatable dolls, sex fetishes, and his own failed rock star ambitions.   An atheist, with strong views on religion and science, he mocks those who take their own selves a little too seriously. Here’s his ode to his wife, his childhood sweetheart.

He is also the composer and lyricist of the Olivier Award winning and Tony Award winning show Matilda The Musical, based on the Roald Dahl book Matilda. He also has a background in theatre, and in 2013, played the role of rock star Atticus Fetch on Californication. Yes, I have a massive brain crush on the man.

In my constant search for a Tim Minchin fix, I came across this link to some of Tim’s rarer pieces, songs written for tv shows and rarely shown anywhere else. Here’s your bonus for reading this far. I particularly recommend “Woody Allen Jesus.” Enjoy!

= RT =

Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 

Contact us at

DBAWIS ButtonRoxanne Tellier has been singing since she was 10 months old … no, really. Not like she’s telling anyone else how to live their lives, because she’s not judgmental, and most 10 month olds need a little more time to figure out how to hold a microphone. After years of doing things she didn’t want to do, she’s found herself working with a bunch of crazy people who are as batshit crazy and devoted to music as she is, and so she can be found every Monday at Cherry Cola’s, completely unable to think of anything funny to say, as the co-host of Bob Segarini’s The Bobcast. Come and mock her. She’s good with that. And she laughs. A lot. But not at you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: