Canadian Comic Gerry Dee was not a funny kid.
He claims there were no signs he would be a full time funny man growing up in Scarborough, Ont.
“I went to an all-boys school and there were just a bunch of crazy boys there so I didn’t stand out more than anyone else,” he says.
Dee came to comedy late in life, only hitting the stand up stage for the first time after his 30th birthday.
“I just did the university thing. I was excited to get my teaching career going … the comedy didn’t click until I was in my late 20s,” he says.
Although he got his start late in the game, he didn’t let it deter him. “To me, age was not an issue. It was something I wanted to try, literally before I died. I’m very thankful I did.”
Dee spent 10 years as a high school teacher before making the switch to comedy and acting in 2003.
In 1999, he won Toronto’s Funniest New Comic competition, had his own half hour Comedy Now special on CTV and The Comedy Network in 2001 and appeared at a variety of comedy festivals, including the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival.
In 2007, he appeared on Season 5 of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, which featured comics from around the world competing alongside Americans. Dee finished third. In 2008, he won Best Comic in Canada at the 2008 Canadian Comedy Awards.
But in the beginning: “It was terrible and terrifying. I was terrible and terrifying. I had no idea what I was doing. But I kept going back. Deep down, I just wanted to be able to say I was a stand up comic.”
Trying to find his voice as a comedian took years, he says. Years of writing, re-writing and hitting the stage.
“I think I’ve seen a couple of comics on their first night where I’ve said ‘wow’ but most of us say we suck when we go up for the first time,” he says. “I did.”
He tried yelling, more physical comedy, but now he says, “I’m just myself. I found my own delivery style.”
On stage, Dee has a low key, almost deadpan style. “I’m not a big drinker but I’ve had people say I look drunk – not as much now as earlier, about six or seven years ago when I was on the Last Comic Standing. People would say they thought I was drunk, I kind of had this staggered stance. It was just me not knowing what I was doing. Not being aware.”
In 2012, Dee’s sitcom Mr. D, which he created, writes and stars in, premiered on CBC as one of the highest rated shows for the network in seven years. Based on his experiences as a high school teacher, the show has found a loyal audience. Dee considers himself very lucky to have a hit with season 4 premiering on Jan. 20.
“I was very lucky the network liked the idea and flushed it out into a show. There’s luck involved in anything, but as they say you have to be lucky to be good and good to be lucky – it’s a bit of both. … I’m surrounded by a tremendous crew and a tremendous cast, great writers. There’s more voices in the show and more people to bring the laughter.”
Season 4 includes two new characters. “It’s a great cast, I think this is our best season. It just gets better as we go,” he says.
Mr. D allows him to be on the road less often, his tour to Victoria, Vancouver and Prince George at the end of January has him away from his wife Heather and three kids for just four days.
“Once we started having kids, I try not to be away. Your kids are only young once. … I try to take in as much as I can. I can pick my spots, I’m lucky I’m in a place where I can do that.”
His stand up act still includes shout outs to his fellow teachers and focuses on family life.
“Before I had kids my act was squeaky clean. Now there’s a little more angry moments – but in a friendly way. Life changes with three kids, the way we perceive things changes. Now I just want 10 minutes alone – don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, but (if) you’re a parent, you know.”
Gerry Dee performs at the McPherson Playhouse Jan. 28.
of Mr. D