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Life on road takes comic to Korea

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Published : 2014-02-18 19:54
Updated : 2014-02-18 19:54

Offstage, Glenn Wool is more sedate than his aggressively enthusiastic performance persona would suggest.

Looking every inch the Canadian lumberjack in a flannel shirt and cap, it is difficult to believe that he has not lived in his home country for years. In fact, he has not lived in any country for years, and is more familiar with the inside of an airport than the inside of an apartment.

Since kicking off his stand-up career in Vancouver in 1995, Wool has been working the international comedy circuit performing everywhere from Australia to Arabia, presumably unconcerned about his carbon footprint. 

Glenn Wool. (Seth Olenick)
Wool’s show, “This Road Has Tolls,” draws on his globe-trotting experiences. His dry, observational humor does not pull any punches, especially when it comes to making self-deprecating jokes.

“I often find that I’m in the middle of something funny happening and I can suddenly predict how it’s going to turn out,” he said. “It’s quite sad because a lot of my humor is based on pathos, and I can have this really terrible thing happening to me and suddenly I’m thinking about how to get it into my act.”

It is not surprising, then, that Wool doesn’t believe in drawing a line in the comedic sand. Nor does he subscribe to the idea that only certain subjects can be funny.

“There’s a lot of talk in comedy about subject matter, with people talking about ‘appropriate subject matter,’” he said.

“They say that no one can tell a joke about cancer or this or that. The people who make those rules don’t write good jokes about those sensitive subjects. If they did, they’d get around it.”

It is this ability to put material together and tell jokes well that singles comedians out from ordinary folk. Although Wool asserts that many comedians are not very funny when they’re not performing, he firmly believes that most of their work is done offstage.

“It’s a common myth among comedians that we only work an hour an night. If you’re not really thinking about it you might be, but it’s not going to get you anywhere.”

Wool doesn’t have any advice on an easy way to become a comedian. While stand-up is partly about inspiration, he said it was mostly about hard work.

“You do wait for funny things to happen, but you have to do (other) things along the way. You keep yourself relatively well-read. Keep interests up that keep your mind going. Get enough rest. A lot of comics don’t, and it’s a really big aspect of writing your material.”

For all his Spartan tendencies, Wool freely admits to episodes of indulgence between shows. His latest escapade came during his tour of Cambodia, where he enjoyed $1 beers and topped up B-52 cocktails with codeine syrup.

Even after all his years of traveling, Wool is hesitant to say which country has the best sense of humor.

“I don’t know whether it’s a nationality thing, or the way you were raised. It’s a tricky question. It’s like you’re asking who’s the smartest. The places with a long tradition of stand-up or live shows seem to enjoy themselves the most.”

Wool will have plenty of opportunities to test his theories in the coming months, as he embarks on tours across Australia, Europe and the U.K. before performing a very special show in September.

“I’ll be going to Mount Everest with Stuart Francis, Craig Campbell, Terry Alderton, Simon Evans and Rhys Darby. We’re all going to perform the first stand-up comedy show at the base camp.”

With an itinerary like this, it’s easy to see why Wool finds it difficult to settle down, but it seems he’s coming to the end of his journey with “This Road has Tolls.”

“I do need to settle down. I’m getting a little road-worn.”

Wool has finished his Seoul shows, but will be shaking up audiences at Travelers in Daejeon on Friday, Ol’55 in Busan on Saturday and Tilt Bar in Pohang on Sunday.

Tickets can be purchased at the door at each venue.

By Kate Bolster (kbolster@heraldcorp.com)

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