Press

HUFFINGTON POST September 18, 2015

Posted by Liberty Forrest

Comedian Simon Rakoff: Making Ugly Truths Palatable

2015-09-16-1442378542-8592820-019__S7W9995-thumb(Photo of Simon Rakoff courtesy of Alex Urosevic)

Like so many other people on the planet, I grew up in an environment that was loaded with abuse and alcoholism. Home was a frightening place, and it was not conducive to having friends visit.

That was easy; I didn’t have many of them. I was painfully shy, afraid anyone would discover the ugly secrets I tried so desperately to hide.

But when I was 13, I learned a new way to cope with feeling like a screwed up outsider who would never belong. I became the class clown, and always had a witty come-back for the teachers I didn’t like.

Comedy became my mask, something behind which I could hide so no one would see the awful secrets I was hiding. And once I began doing stand-up, I did what so many comedians do – the late, great Robin Williams, for example – I turned some of the most traumatic events of my life into jokes.

But there are other comics who have simply always been jokesters, and for some of them, far from being a cover, comedy reveals the truth of their thoughts. It is used to safely convey opinions and views of the world and its many foibles that most people would not dare share with anyone other than their friends.

Yet when marinated and served in a good dose of humour, such opinions and views become not only palatable but applauded.

Simon Rakoff is one such comedian. For him, comedy is not a cover for emotional pain but rather, it is a vehicle to discuss social issues and injustices in a way that is simultaneously frighteningly honest and warmly welcomed by audiences. In this way, comics can almost be seen as ambassadors or advocates for the underdog, speaking on behalf of those who are unable to speak for themselves, or who may fear the repercussions.

“I talk about what I want to talk about,” says Rakoff, “and I want to talk about things that have some substance. I don’t talk about pop culture. I talk about things that real people talk about in the real world, my thoughts and feelings and opinions on things. My worries about the world and how dumb [people can be].”

Rakoff is particularly bothered by hypocrisy. “Like right-wing Christians who turn out to be gay or cheating or perverts or molesters,” he suggests. “They cry, ‘Oh, I’ve let everyone down!’ But if they hadn’t got caught, they’d still be doing it. There’s no self-reflection.”

Tearing into the subject of injustice, Rakoff dives into a list of problematic politicians, loose laws, and societal slides that leave him shaking his head. “America claims to be a nation of laws but they’re not laws because they don’t apply equally,” he asserts. “The rich and powerful can get away with stealing everything but the poor are not going to accept that that’s a law when the cops come down hard on them for looting a grocery store but they don’t arrest people who are stealing billions. A law is…the same for everybody. Gravity is a law. You can’t collect enough money so you can float.”

He adds, “It’s one thing to be a guy who’s stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family versus people with privilege and opportunity who…are sociopaths, happy to do whatever they need to get where they want to be.”

Rakoff says, “We’re lucky here. If I lived in Brazil and had to dig through the trash to get enough calories to get through the day, I’d understand if I was corrupt and doing shitty things just to get by. But how many people are just shitty, doing all kinds of shitty stuff all the time and it’s like, ‘For what, man? You’ve got enough!'”

Although Rakoff’s comedic gifts are not borne of an emotionally painful or abused life, like so many other comics he has dealt with depression for as long as he can remember. “As a kid life was good, but I’ve always had this tendency to sort of be a little sad and inside myself. I’ve always been a big joker. My family’s very funny…[but depression] is always there in your chemistry; like it’s in your DNA.”

Black and white Simon_RTJ_7269(Photo of Simon Rakoff courtesy of Rob Trick)

Growing up with a psychiatrist for a father and a GP for a mother, intellectual pursuits were important in the Rakoff home. “There was a lot of very interesting talk in my family. We were discussers of real issues all the time, even as kids…My folks were very cultured and introduced us to all kinds of stuff, Chaplin, Marx Brothers, Fred Astaire, and we would go to the museum, science center – everything. [My parents are] very smart people.”

Rakoff adds, “There was always tremendous emphasis on ‘What are you giving?’ It was more important than what you’re getting. Gifts are nice, like intelligence, humour and whatever else you get but…gifts are different than choices. People often make the mistake of admiring gifts and ignoring the bad choices people make. Like all these pro athletes who beat up their women. They’re gifted with speed and strength and drive and ambition but they’re awful people.”

He’s right. There’s a lot of rottenness in the world. And sometimes the only way to make people understand or pay attention to it is through comedy. “It’s a way of expressing frustration in a powerful way,” he suggests. “It gives you a little bit of perspective on the things that are making you angry. It’s the power of the powerless; it’s a way of making things that you can’t control somehow less scary, less frustrating, less angering…and it gets the anger out of me.”

He acknowledges that occasionally, he writes “…the funniest stuff out of the dark energy, dealing with the hard things, like the way the court jester could mock the king. He was the only one who could speak the truth and not get in trouble.”

Keep speaking the truth, my friend. We need to hear it.

SHOWBIZMONKEYS April 4, 2015

Posted by Paul Little

Black and white Simon_RTJ_7269

Simon Rakoff loves his job. Now to be fair, most stand-up comics who are able to make it their career don’t take for granted how great a gig it is. But very few veteran comics approach stand-up comedy with the excitement and joy of someone new to the business. Rakoff, over 35 years into his career, is still incredibly excited about what he gets to do on stage for a living.

First hitting the stage in the late 70s, Rakoff has carved out a very successful and long-lasting career — something even he admits is difficult to do while choosing to stay in Canada. During a recent chat ahead of his upcoming appearances at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, Rakoff and I spoke about why humour is important in day-to-day life, his growth as a comedian during his incredible career, the state of the Canadian comedy world, and of course his past experiences at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival. (Not mentioned in the interview was the extremely rare dual bill alongside his brother, the late humourist David Rakoff, at the 2006 festival.)

Take a read below, and if you find yourself in Winnipeg next week, be sure to check out Simon Rakoff and the many other great performers at the 14th annual Winnipeg Comedy Festival.

Paul Little: You’ve talked in the past about how you and your family would use humour when you were growing up to sometimes get through certain things. Do you find your own family doing the same thing these days?

Simon Rakoff: Oh, absolutely! And in fact, now that I have a child, my daughter and I are like a comedy team. So much of our interaction is comedy. I mean, she’s hilariously funny — she’s 14 now, but she’s always been funny. This is just how we interact.

PL: Do you think, in general, it’s important to use humour to deal with issues people have in their lives?

SR: Well, it works for me! I mean, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I think it’s a good way to show people points of view and build a bridge to a point of view they’d maybe not considered before. But getting a joke is like understand a point.

PL: Do you use those situations in your everyday life to get your material?

SR: Well that’s where it comes from. I always say, comedy’s not a job, it’s a personality disorder — it’s a way of looking at everything. I mean, the world is funny. Things that don’t even mean to be funny are very funny to me. I always think about when I’m on hold, and they say, “your call is important to us,” that recording. And I just think to myself, you’ve actually bothered to record, “your call is important to us,” but you don’t have a person picking up the call! I find that ironic and funny.

PL: You’ve been in the business quite a long time — since 1978, I think?

SR: Yep, it’ll be 37 years (this month).

PL: That’s incredible! Through that time, you’ve managed to stay fresh, and it doesn’t feel like you’ve been in the business that long and doing the same thing.

SR: Yeah, I had way fewer ex-wife jokes at 17!

PL: *Laughs* Besides the obvious, how have you felt things have changed in your act over the years, and how has the development of jokes changed over that time?

SR: I think like any artist, as you work at it and as you change and grow, you become a little bit more (of an) expert at what works and doesn’t work. So more to the point… If you think of a singer/songwriter, which I guess is the closest art form to a stand-up comic — in that you write it and you do it — you change a lot over your lifetime, so what you’re expressing changes. The Beatles started with, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” but by the end they were expressing much deeper and more complex thoughts, because that’s what happens to your brain as you get older.

PL: You’ve toured Canada and beyond, but you’ve stayed in Toronto and around the Toronto scene, and had an opportunity to see a lot of comics come through that scene. Over the last little while, have you noticed any comics come up through the scene that have caught your eye?

SR: Oh, there’s so many funny people. It’s one of these things when I’m always attending a show and going, “Wow, that was fun! That was such a funny show. Everybody was so good.” For instance, Arthur Simeon had a CD launch, and he’s hilarious. And Dave Merheje was on, and he’s hilarious. These are all guys who started long after I did, but are such funny, funny guys. Sandra Battalini is a woman who’s just, you know, always really funny. There’s so many people who I think are great in the scene. I mean, there’s obviously a lot of lousy comics out there, too, but there’s really some very funny people working.

PL: Even after working at it this long, do you find seeing people of that calibre around you helps to re-invigorate the passion for comedy in you?

SR: Well I never have a problem in terms of my enjoyment of comedy. I’m not one of these people who feels either burned out or jaded or disenchanted. I mean, I love it. I think it’s the most interesting kind of though process, is coming up with a new joke. Especially since people are so used to it, that there’s still new jokes. ‘Cause you know, the thing about comedy is you’re sort of tricking people’s brain into laughing. There’s a surprise element that makes a laugh, and it’s still possible to do it, no matter how much they know about comedy. I still find it constantly challenging and fun.

PL: Many comics have talked about it — most recently, Mark Forward and Steve Patterson have been more vocal about it — but there’s a lack of support for Canadian comedy within Canada, specifically. Sometimes comics can go off to L.A. and get success there. But despite having some amazing comics continuing to work here, what are your thoughts on the lack of a Canadian “star system” for lack of a better term.

SR: Well, it’s kind of ridiculous, but it’s kind of the way it’s always been, too. People have always had to leave this country if they want to make it in any ambitious way as celebrities or make real money at this. I’ve never been ambitious, personally, so it doesn’t hurt me as badly as it does most. I mean, it’s frustrating — you would think there would be a little more respect for those of us who actually know what we’re doing getting laughs. It’s not as though I’m particularly surprised by it, but yeah, of course it’s annoying.

In the real world of show business — America, Britain — you get a million laughs and then they let you make a show. Where as here, you go the the CBC, and it’s like a government institution — you may as well be in the building where you go to have your license renewed, as far as it feeling like show business. I mean, it feels more like a government office. And the people who run comedy tend to be people who have worked at CBC for a long time and move up in the ranks, as opposed to people who have ever actually made people laugh in their life. It’s a bit of a backward way of doing things, but it’s not a huge surprise either that it runs that way.

I mean, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover with very few people in Canada, so it creates a very different kind of situation. Except that now that the world is smaller, in the sense that you don’t really need broadcasters in the way you used to. I mean, you’re at ShowbizMonkeys.com — you can be found from anywhere in the world that allows internet access. So all those old gatekeepers don’t really have the same impact that they used to. I mean, if I chose to, I could put my act on the internet and be seen anywhere.

PL: Yeah, for sure. Are we perhaps then hitting the age — especially with the rise of popularity of podcasting and things like that — that we may finally level the playing field in terms of Canadian comedians?

SR: Absolutely! I think that’s certainly something that’s available in terms of getting the work out there. I’m not an expert in terms of how you get people to pay attention — that’s never been my thing, and I’ve never cared much. I do my thing, and hope that people who do see it enjoy it. Again, I would probably be doing better if I did care more about that, but at the same time I’m not going crazy because I’m frustrated.

PL: *Laughs* True. Can you talk about your experiences on your previous visits to the Winnipeg Comedy Festival?

SR: It’s great. It’s fun. The crowds are terrific, the venues are nice, the shows are always good. The whole organization of it is fantastic. You know, I’ve done a number of different festivals, and I’d say this is probably the most fun to do. You’re really treated nicely, everyone’s having a good time, it’s well-organized, you’re not standing around waiting to get to somewhere for an hour while they try to arrange the van to come pick you up — which I’ve had with other festivals, where you just spend a lot of time waiting around wondering where you’re supposed to be. And everyone’s very friendly and the volunteers are happy to involved. And I’ve known Al Rae, who runs it, for a million years. I worked with Al a thousand times, back when he was an act with his buddy George. We’re old friends, and that makes it nice, too. I’m really glad I’m going back this year.

PL: Can you talk a bit about the shows you’re doing this festival — I know you’re doing Rumor’s Comedy Club with Mark Forward.

SR: That’ll be fun. It’s nice to go the club — I’ve actually never played Rumor’s. I think I dropped in maybe to do a guest set once, but I’ve never been booked there, so this is a good chance to show them what I can do and maybe come out to Winnipeg when it’s not the festival sometime. I believe I’m doing a roast of our buddy John Wing, who’s been to (every Winnipeg Comedy Festival). I’ve known John forever — I actually introduced him his first time ever being on stage. So I’ve him literally since his first-ever performance. And I’m going to be doing a gala for the internet about being middle-aged, so that’ll be good.

PL: And then you’re going to be hosting the inaugural awards ceremony — The Mics.

SR: Oh good, so they’re giving out awards, and I’ll be the host of that. That sounds fun. Good! I’ve always wanted to host an awards show.

PL: It’ll be fun!

SR: I’m glad you were here to tell me what I’m up to!

PL: *Laughs* I’m glad. So I’m curious what’s on the horizon for you. You mentioned you’re not overly ambitious —

SR: Well, old age and death. *Laughs* Or you meant more in my career?

PL: Yeah, maybe not that far ahead. Just the next little while — where might people reading this who aren’t in Winnipeg find you in the next few months?

SR: Well I’m going to Calgary in May — I’m going to be playing a place called the Comedy Cave, which I’ve never been to but should be fun. I have a website, SimonRakoff.com, so people can look there. And I’m also encouraging people to buy my album. It’s something I recorded just this year, and I’m very proud of. It’s a very funny album, sort of in the old style of comedy albums. That was a nice achievement for me, because like I say, I’m not very — I’m not driven. So for me to actually get it together to make something like that, it’s good, and I was very happy with how it turned out.

The Winnipeg Comedy Festival is keeping Simon Rakoff busy this year. He’s appearing Wednesday, April 8 at Rumor’s Comedy Club alongside Sean Emeny and Mark Forward, Saturday, April 11 at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre as part of the Saturday Evening Gala, and Sunday, April 12 at the brand new Club Regent Event Centre hosting The Mics and roasting John Wing. Tickets are still available for all 3 shows.

TO Lifestyle   November 11, 2014

Who makes you laugh?<br /> So much talent it’s hard to narrow down but I always enjoy Sandra Battaglini, Graham Kay, Boyd Banks, Debra DiGiovanni, Derek Edwards and tons of other fantastic Canadian comics.<br /> What&#8217;s the most overdone premise these days in comedy?<br /> Men and women are different - but I think I overdo it the best.<br /> Which city has the funniest people?<br /> St. John’s, Newfoundland. Doing a show there is like taking ice to Nunavut. they appreciate the gesture but they could easily do it themselves.<br /> Who in your life provides the most material?<br /> My 13 year old daughter. So funny my hand hurts from writing.<br /> What&#8217;s the funniest TV show or podcast out there?<br /> South Park maintains the standard for the most and freshest laughs but Stewart and Colbert really nail the ruling class.<br /> What&#8217;s next for yourself?<br /> I’m doing a Very Merry Happy holiday special with the brilliant John Wing for CBC Radio 1.<br /> __________________________<br /> Check out Simon Rakoff&#8217;s new album “Surrounded By Idiots” available at www.simonrakoff.com and CDbaby.com

Who makes you laugh?

So much talent it’s hard to narrow down but I always enjoy Sandra Battaglini, Graham Kay, Boyd Banks, Debra DiGiovanni, Derek Edwards and tons of other fantastic Canadian comics.

What’s the most overdone premise these days in comedy?

Men and women are different – but I think I overdo it the best.

Which city has the funniest people?

St. John’s, Newfoundland. Doing a show there is like taking ice to Nunavut. they appreciate the gesture but they could easily do it themselves.

Who in your life provides the most material?

My 13 year old daughter. So funny my hand hurts from writing.

What’s the funniest TV show or podcast out there?

South Park maintains the standard for the most and freshest laughs but Stewart and Colbert really nail the ruling class.

What’s next for yourself?

I’m doing a Very Merry Happy holiday special with the brilliant John Wing for CBC Radio 1.

__________________________

Check out Simon Rakoff’s new album “Surrounded By Idiots” available at www.simonrakoff.com and CDbaby.com

 

Canadian Jewish News   September 2 2014

Comedy veteran releases indie album

Simon Rakoff likes to challenge stereotypes about Jews.

For over 36 years, comedian Simon Rakoff has entertained audiences with his distinctive take on society, technology, religion and relationships. Now, with the launch of his first independently released CD, Surrounded By Idiots, fans of this funny man can enjoy his humour anytime, anywhere.

“The world has changed,” says Rakoff, 54, who began performing stand-up at 17. “The democratization of the technology has made it possible for anybody to put stuff out now, because distribution is automatic. The most expensive part was actually printing CDs, but those are to sell when I’m performing live to make a little extra money on the road.”

Rakoff’s original idea was to do an edited album based on a number of shows that he recorded in Ottawa. Although the live shows went well, he wasn’t entirely happy with the recording, so he booked the Dominion on Queen in Toronto and hired a local producer.

“I invited a crowd down so I wouldn’t be under the pressure to entertain a paying audience,” he says. “I set up a live venue almost like a studio and then recorded it in one shot.”

He recorded the CD in a style reminiscent of 1961 Grammy-winning album, The Button-Down Mind Of Bob Newhart, in that he asked his audience to respond with applause and laughter only, and not with whoops and whistles.

Rakoff says he comes from a creative family. Born in South Africa to parents who are both doctors, Rakoff moved to Montreal when he was just six months old, and later to Toronto when he was seven years old. His brother David also made a living in comedy, and became known for his autobiographical essays, many of which he read on CBC’s WireTap and WBEZ’s This American Life, until he died of cancer in 2012.

Rakoff has one daughter named Zoe, 13, whom he describes as hilarious.

“I enjoy being with interesting people because comedians value original thought and expression,” he says, referring to his family.

As far as content, Rakoff describes his act as a reflection of himself. When it comes to including Jewish humour, he says he has one joke about how when he’s in remote areas of the country, there’s always a large and close-knit non-Jewish community.

“[That] always gets a laugh because only Jews think of the world as Jewish or not Jewish, but really, mostly it’s not Jewish,” he says. “So, I’m aware, when I do my act in these towns, that I might be the only Jewish person they have really ever seen or heard talking about being Jewish.”

He says he likes to challenge the stereotypes people have about Jews. For example, he’ll tell them “that we are responsible for many of the great advances of the world and not just all the wars, and running the banks and the media… which is a popular and inaccurate assessment.”

Although technology has changed the industry to make solitary listening easy, Rakoff says comedy albums still have social listening potential, where after listening to it, you play it for friends.

“I made the album… as if you were watching a show in a club,” he says. “My hope is that an album is a way to get to people I can’t physically get to, and it’s a nice souvenir, if you do enjoy my work.”

And, he adds, it’s also a good way to share his jokes, “because it would be expensive to hire me to come to your house and do it for your friends.”

Simon Rakoff’s CD Surrounded By Idiots is available at simonrakoff.com.

Comedy veteran releases indie album

Tags: Arts Simon Rakoff Surrounded by Idiots

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Simon Rakoff likes to challenge stereotypes about Jews.

For over 36 years, comedian Simon Rakoff has entertained audiences with his distinctive take on society, technology, religion and relationships. Now, with the launch of his first independently released CD, Surrounded By Idiots, fans of this funny man can enjoy his humour anytime, anywhere.

“The world has changed,” says Rakoff, 54, who began performing stand-up at 17. “The democratization of the technology has made it possible for anybody to put stuff out now, because distribution is automatic. The most expensive part was actually printing CDs, but those are to sell when I’m performing live to make a little extra money on the road.”

Rakoff’s original idea was to do an edited album based on a number of shows that he recorded in Ottawa. Although the live shows went well, he wasn’t entirely happy with the recording, so he booked the Dominion on Queen in Toronto and hired a local producer.

“I invited a crowd down so I wouldn’t be under the pressure to entertain a paying audience,” he says. “I set up a live venue almost like a studio and then recorded it in one shot.”

He recorded the CD in a style reminiscent of 1961 Grammy-winning album, The Button-Down Mind Of Bob Newhart, in that he asked his audience to respond with applause and laughter only, and not with whoops and whistles.

Rakoff says he comes from a creative family. Born in South Africa to parents who are both doctors, Rakoff moved to Montreal when he was just six months old, and later to Toronto when he was seven years old. His brother David also made a living in comedy, and became known for his autobiographical essays, many of which he read on CBC’s WireTap and WBEZ’s This American Life, until he died of cancer in 2012.

Rakoff has one daughter named Zoe, 13, whom he describes as hilarious.

“I enjoy being with interesting people because comedians value original thought and expression,” he says, referring to his family.

As far as content, Rakoff describes his act as a reflection of himself. When it comes to including Jewish humour, he says he has one joke about how when he’s in remote areas of the country, there’s always a large and close-knit non-Jewish community.

“[That] always gets a laugh because only Jews think of the world as Jewish or not Jewish, but really, mostly it’s not Jewish,” he says. “So, I’m aware, when I do my act in these towns, that I might be the only Jewish person they have really ever seen or heard talking about being Jewish.”

He says he likes to challenge the stereotypes people have about Jews. For example, he’ll tell them “that we are responsible for many of the great advances of the world and not just all the wars, and running the banks and the media… which is a popular and inaccurate assessment.”

Although technology has changed the industry to make solitary listening easy, Rakoff says comedy albums still have social listening potential, where after listening to it, you play it for friends.

“I made the album… as if you were watching a show in a club,” he says. “My hope is that an album is a way to get to people I can’t physically get to, and it’s a nice souvenir, if you do enjoy my work.”

And, he adds, it’s also a good way to share his jokes, “because it would be expensive to hire me to come to your house and do it for your friends.”

Simon Rakoff’s CD Surrounded By Idiots is available at simonrakoff.com.

– See more at: file:///Users/simonrakoff/Desktop/Comedy%20veteran%20releases%20indie%20album%20%7C%20The%20Canadian%20Jewish%20News.html#sthash.nfOjGNf7.dpuf

Comedy veteran releases indie album

Tags: Arts Simon Rakoff Surrounded by Idiots

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Simon Rakoff likes to challenge stereotypes about Jews.

For over 36 years, comedian Simon Rakoff has entertained audiences with his distinctive take on society, technology, religion and relationships. Now, with the launch of his first independently released CD, Surrounded By Idiots, fans of this funny man can enjoy his humour anytime, anywhere.

“The world has changed,” says Rakoff, 54, who began performing stand-up at 17. “The democratization of the technology has made it possible for anybody to put stuff out now, because distribution is automatic. The most expensive part was actually printing CDs, but those are to sell when I’m performing live to make a little extra money on the road.”

Rakoff’s original idea was to do an edited album based on a number of shows that he recorded in Ottawa. Although the live shows went well, he wasn’t entirely happy with the recording, so he booked the Dominion on Queen in Toronto and hired a local producer.

“I invited a crowd down so I wouldn’t be under the pressure to entertain a paying audience,” he says. “I set up a live venue almost like a studio and then recorded it in one shot.”

He recorded the CD in a style reminiscent of 1961 Grammy-winning album, The Button-Down Mind Of Bob Newhart, in that he asked his audience to respond with applause and laughter only, and not with whoops and whistles.

Rakoff says he comes from a creative family. Born in South Africa to parents who are both doctors, Rakoff moved to Montreal when he was just six months old, and later to Toronto when he was seven years old. His brother David also made a living in comedy, and became known for his autobiographical essays, many of which he read on CBC’s WireTap and WBEZ’s This American Life, until he died of cancer in 2012.

Rakoff has one daughter named Zoe, 13, whom he describes as hilarious.

“I enjoy being with interesting people because comedians value original thought and expression,” he says, referring to his family.

As far as content, Rakoff describes his act as a reflection of himself. When it comes to including Jewish humour, he says he has one joke about how when he’s in remote areas of the country, there’s always a large and close-knit non-Jewish community.

“[That] always gets a laugh because only Jews think of the world as Jewish or not Jewish, but really, mostly it’s not Jewish,” he says. “So, I’m aware, when I do my act in these towns, that I might be the only Jewish person they have really ever seen or heard talking about being Jewish.”

He says he likes to challenge the stereotypes people have about Jews. For example, he’ll tell them “that we are responsible for many of the great advances of the world and not just all the wars, and running the banks and the media… which is a popular and inaccurate assessment.”

Although technology has changed the industry to make solitary listening easy, Rakoff says comedy albums still have social listening potential, where after listening to it, you play it for friends.

“I made the album… as if you were watching a show in a club,” he says. “My hope is that an album is a way to get to people I can’t physically get to, and it’s a nice souvenir, if you do enjoy my work.”

And, he adds, it’s also a good way to share his jokes, “because it would be expensive to hire me to come to your house and do it for your friends.”

Simon Rakoff’s CD Surrounded By Idiots is available at simonrakoff.com.

– See more at: file:///Users/simonrakoff/Desktop/Comedy%20veteran%20releases%20indie%20album%20|%20The%20Canadian%20Jewish%20News.html#sthash.daSp5viQ.dpuf

 

Now Magazine July 30, 2013

Riotous Rakoff

critic’s pick SIMON RAKOFF 

Surrounded By Idiots (independent)

Rating: NNNN

The cover of Simon Rakoff’s Surrounded By Idiots shows the comic in full face-palm mode. It and the title sum up his act very well. Rakoff’s the middle-aged Jewish guy who makes fun of the stupidity around him.

Turns out there’s a lot to satirize, starting with the entertainment industry. The opening bit about putting people in witness protection programs in Canadian showbiz so they’ll never be heard of again is razor sharp.

And thanks to his anti-sports rant, I’ll never hear ACC ticket-sellers’ cries of “Who needs Leafs’ tickets?” the same way again.

He’s got solid material about his Jewish heritage, including clever jokes about brises and alcohol, Jesus’ sarcasm and the particular syntax of first-generation Jewish immigrants that makes them sound like Yoda.

But his strongest stuff comes at the end, when he delineates the differences between men and women and showcases his character skills. An extended bit set in caveman times is the final word in Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus humour.

 

Windsor Star – November 8, 2013

Rakoff: Comedy isn’t hard, but life is

Simon RakoffSimon Rakoff

Ted Shaw

Simon Rakoff has a stock answer when people ask if he has trouble coming up with jokes.

“Comedy isn’t hard. What’s hard is getting up at seven every morning to go to a job you hate at nine.”

The 53-year-old Toronto comic, who is appearing at Windsor’s Comedy Quarry in Rockhead Pub, 1444 Ottawa St., through Saturday, has learned you either roll with the punches or succumb to them.

Both his younger siblings, David and Ruth, battled cancer. David Rakoff, a well-known New York-based essayist, died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma last year, while Ruth survived breast cancer and wrote a bestselling book about her experiences, When My World Was Very Small.

“Sure I think about it,” Rakoff said. “All the time. Cancer’s a pretty scary thing at any time but when it hit my family the way it did, I grew to be very fatalistic. You just don’t have any control over some of the most important things in life.”

A standup comedian since his teens, Rakoff is highly sought-after as an MC at business meetings and conventions. He is a veteran script writer for TV and radio, and a frequent guest commentator on CBC-Radio’s The Debaters and As It Happens. Rakoff is also a regular at Just For Laughs in Montreal and at the Toronto nightclub The Laugh Resort.

“Mortality is why we make jokes,” he said. “We know this is a contemporary condition, life, and humour is what makes the bad easier, the good sadder sometimes.”

Discussions around the Rakoff dinner table growing up were animated, he said. Both parents were professionals — his mother a psychotherapist and his father a psychiatrist.

“We were all writers so the conversation as you might expect would get pretty heated at times,” said Rakoff.

Having a sense of humour helped all members of his family to cope.

“You only need jokes because there are things that make you scared or uneasy or upset. My act is about relationship troubles, religion, stupidity, the modern condition. All the things that make us anxious.”

He knows he has touched a sensitive chord when he hear audience members walk away expressing relief.

“I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people leaving one of my shows say, God, I needed that.”

Winnipeg Free Press – April 14, 2008
Brad Oswald’s Comedy Fest Blog

Debaters the Second produced just as many funny fireworks as the radio-recorded effort’s first show did on Saturday. Sunday’s matchups included the much-anticipated chest-thump-off between Bruce Clark and Mel (Dan Licoppe) Silverback, the tuxedo-clad mountain-gorilla mouthpiece last seen swinging southward during 2007’s Last Comic Standing semi-finals. Their topic: whether zoos should be closed. Arguing for the proposed ban, more-or-less-upright-walking Elmwood product Clark: “Opponents would argue that zoos are artificial, and created only for the entertainment of humans. Well, so are Pamela Anderson’s breasts, and that doesn’t make THEM wrong.” Zoo-closure advocate Mel’s response: “Let me say, Mr. Clark, that if I had some feces right now, I would fling it at you.”

Mike Wilmot and Kate Davis argued about whether kids today receive too much praise. A cleaned-up-for-radio Wilmot, who actually might be as crusty as his trademark rasp makes him sound, offered this life-lesson nugget: “Try your best, or, at least, SAY you tried your best — then you can be a hero among stupid people … and that’s where the money is, anyway.”

Rick Currie, filling in for the absent A. Whitney Brown, took on fest A.D. Al Rae; the topic: whether lawns should be outlawed. Rae’s grim position: “Every drop of sprinkler water is a spit in the face of a starving child;” and “Lawns create unhealthy competition; your neighbour gets a leaf blower, you get a leaf blower; he gets a tractor mower, you get a tractor mower; pretty soon you have to nail his wife just to keep your dignity.” Currie’s approach was a bit more HANDS on: “I have the best-looking lawn on my block. It isn’t hard to achieve — all you have to do is water it in the morning, mow it in the evening, and then late at night, spread salt on your neighbours’ lawns.”

Simon Rakoff and Ray Hanania managed to wring some laughs out of the touchy subject of whether Canada should do more for Palestine; Sabrina Jalees and Erica Sigurdson found some funny wrinkles in the fashion industry, and in the main event, Wilmot and Derek Edwards traded shots like Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed in a shout-off over whether it’s big cities or small towns that are the heart and soul of Canada. All funny stuff, and it was also impressive that it was a sold-out house on a Sunday afternoon when the sun was shining outside and there was a whole lot going on, sports-wise, on the teevee. During a re-set between radio-taping setups, host Steve Patterson encouraged the crowd to keep its spirits up. “Are you guys still with me?” he asked. After the expected wave of cheers subsided, one lonely, let’s-wrap-it-up-inclined voice was heard from the back of the seating area: “We’re missing the curling final!”

Didn’t make it to Sunday night’s fest-finishing panel/Desi-Show combo, or to the waning-hours schmooze at the GST, as the sniffles had descended in full force and The Masters was on the tube. And as anyone knows, missing the first major of the televised golf season would NOT be funny.

So, that’s about it. Hope this was fun, despite that unexpected lull in the middle. Sorry the vid-clip thing didn’t work out as well as we’d hoped. Until next year, then…..

Globe and Mail – July 30th, 2006
COMEDY: JUST FOR LAUGHS CBC 8 PM

Next week, the mother corp bounces this series for clips of the 2006 Winnipeg Comedy Festival. The final episode features a handful of the usual wise guys, including Finesse Mitchell of Saturday Night Live, Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood of the improv series Whose Line is it Anyway?, the indefatigable Simon Rakoff, and Irish comic Dylan Moran, who ironically is best known to Canadian audiences as the straight man in the zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead.

Uptown Magazine – April 6, 2006
A Rare Pair By Sharilyn Johnson

Just how rare is it to see brothers Simon and David Rakoff on the same bill?

“The only time we ever worked together was at summer camp,” says Simon. “We once sang Cow Cow Boogie.”

The chances of seeing that number revived for Meet The Rakoffs at the Gas Station Theatre on Thursday night are slim to none — as entertaining as it would be — but it’s certain The Rakoff boys will have something similarly funny on offer.

Simon, older by four years, has been doing standup since 1978. He’s a self-proclaimed “grizzled veteran” according to his tongue-in-cheek username on a Toronto comedy messageboard. He doesn’t tour much, preferring to work in the Toronto area so he can spend time with his five-year-old daughter.

David is the author of two popular books: Fraud, a collection of very funny essays, and Don’t Get Too Comfortable, a commentary on American excess. He’s also a journalist, National Public Radio contributor, and actor. His name is attached the most intellectually hip projects: He’s in Capote and the upcoming Strangers With Candy movie, has directed and performed in plays by Amy and David Sedaris, and provided the voice of Thomas Jefferson in the audiobook version of the Daily Show’s America: The Book.

Their lives have a very different pace and style, which of course wasn’t always the case.

“We were close growing up,” David says.

“We were small. We were bookish,” says Simon. “We got along quite well as kids. We spent a lot of time together”.

Clearly, theirs wasn’t the stereotypical brother relationship, characterized by constant bullying.

“We weren’t like that. We were more likely to be putting on a play,” Simon says. He jokes that if anything, it would be the two of them plotting against their sister, Ruth, the middle child of the three.

Both Rakoff boys followed their creative callings in their late teens. Simon started doing standup while he was in high school, and David moved to New York.

“The truth is, we don’t know each other that well as adults. [David] left home at 17 to go to Columbia University and was gone from there,” says Simon. “And by the point he had left home, I had already left, certainly mentally, before then. I had left university and was pursuing my comedy career, which was not, as I say, in the family plan.”

That ‘family plan’ is a gently skirted issue. David rarely mentions his family in interviews or in his work. Simon characterizes his parents as being very funny and a likely source of his comedic inspiration, but as for his decision to be a comedian, Simon will only explain that it’s more acceptable to them now than it was initially.

“I think as time has passed, and I’ve done okay, and they’ve seen the relative unhappiness that can accompany a more secure but less rewarding job, they’ve come to accept, at least, what I do,” he says. “But I think it worries them still. It’s not financially secure, what I do. My brother has done extremely well, so I think that makes them relax and feel good.”

While being funny is a big part of David’s career, the comedy industry isn’t the world he lives in. He says he almost never watches standup, and hasn’t even seen Simon¹s act in many years.

Furthermore, anyone who’s read Fraud might be surprised to see David at a comedy festival. His essay The Best Medicine, about his experience at the US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, details his distaste for the self-absorbed nature of such affairs.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a community getting together to be with itself and toast itself. But it was the sense that one got that one was actually attending the League of Nations,” David says.

He doesn’t anticipate a similar level of ego-feeding in Winnipeg, though.

“It doesn’t strike me as being all that self-congratulatory a venue,” he says of our festival. “[Simon] says it’s about the nicest, most congenial atmosphere he¹s ever been in, with incredibly lovely people.”

Indeed, Simon cites his time at the 2004 festival as the most fun he’s ever had, and he¹s looking forward to catching up with colleagues with whom he doesn’t often work.

“For me it’s fun, because after 28 years [in comedy] there¹s a lot of people I know,” he says. “It’s always nice to run into old friends who you hardly ever get to see.”

Globe and Mail – July 28, 2005
Just for Laughs: What a riot! By Michael Posner

…Some Canadian comics also scored well, including the always reliable Jeremy Hotz, who has just struck a sitcom deal with the CBC, and the droll Simon Rakoff, who made the most of his first JFL appearance.

Now – May 30, 2002
Simon Rakoff: Comedy Q&A by Glenn Sumi

A good MC is the unsung hero of the comedy clubs, and Simon Rakoff — who’s been performing since the late 70s — is one of the best. The quick-on-his-feet stand-up always makes it look easy, engaging audiences with his conversational style and dead-on observations. He’s sold jokes to Jay Leno and has appeared on Open Mike With Mike Bullard more than any other comic, but he’s best known these days for his hosting duties at the Laugh Resort. This Saturday, he performs a must-see rare headline set there. See comedy listings, page 164, for details.

What’s the main difference between hosting and headlining?

The headliner is treated with reverence and awe. Oh, the main difference? $68.

You’re good at ad libbing. What does that really mean?

I’m too lazy to come up with any new material until I’m actually onstage.

What should we do with hecklers?

Grind them up and serve them as meatballs at a Just For Laughs gala.

If there were a Simon Rakoff pizza, what toppings would be on it?

All I know is there would be a bald spot in the middle.

Are the playoffs good for comedy clubs?

Sure, Leafs fans need cheering up.

Cheapest meal under $5? Pizza delivered late.

You’re the love child of two celebs — who are they?

Lenny Bruce and Julie Andrews.

Are you going to pay $145 to see Robin Williams?

I wouldn’t take $145 to see Robin Williams.

Patch Adams or Jumanji?

Jumanji, because his life is in danger throughout.

What does Cirque du Soleil mean in English?

“If you could bend like this, you wouldn’t need a girlfriend.”

What does it mean in Yiddish?

“Oy, my back!”

If there were a Simon Rakoff action figure, what would it do?

Mock GI Joe until he cried.

Winnipeg Free Press – April 6, 2006
Brad Oswald’s Comedy Fest Blog

Meanwhile, over at the Gas Station — where I ended up after beating a hasty Pantages retreat just past the midway point of the gala — the brothers Rakoff (author/radio commentator David and standup guy Simon) were having a lovely time with their first-ever combined show. Simon delivered standup, David offered readings from his prose, and at the end, the two took the stage together for an audience Q&A session that was probably the highlight of the night for both the performers and the audience. Someone asked if the sibling duo — David, of New York, and Simon, of Toronto — were planning to take the newly formed act on the road. “No,” deadpanned Simon. “We’re not going to tour. We’re never going to do this again, probably. You lucky Winnipeg people are the only ones who will see this.” Rest of the planet’s loss, I say.

Eye – March 8, 2001
LAUGH RESORT WILL HAVE LAST LAUGH by Simon Rakoff

As a 23-year veteran of Toronto’s stand-up comedy scene, I would like to comment on Andrew Clark’s piece on the Laugh Resort (Comedy, Mar. 1). There were a number of points with which I disagree.

First and most obviously, the name of the owner of the club is Ellen Wagner, not Klein (where did he get that?). More importantly, his assertion that comics are censored is patently untrue. I have worked at the Laugh Resort since its inception and have never been told what material to do or not do.

As in all venues, the audience decides what material is desirable. The more mature crowd that the Laugh Resort draws is less likely to respond to some of the harsher material that plays elsewhere. That does not mean that management tries to influence the talent, who are free to express our viewpoints in comedy as we see fit.

As far as the acts that have moved on to bigger and better things are concerned, they all have fond memories of the club and often drop in to do sets when they are visiting from Los Angeles or wherever their careers have taken them.

It is understandable that some acts choose to work with Yuk Yuk’s, whose multi-club chain can afford them more stage time and money. By the same token, those of us who choose to forsake that opportunity and work at the Laugh Resort in spite of Mark Breslin’s exclusivity policy do so because we appreciate the respectful treatment that we receive from Ellen Wagner. Comedians like myself, Tim Steeves, Miller Crosby, Barry Kennedy, Steve Levine, Harry Doupe, Fraser Young and numerous other top Canadian stand-up comics are proud to be associated with the Laugh Resort and trust that a discerning public will continue to support our brand of comedy.

— SIMON RAKOFF

Eye – July 17, 1997
Please Welcome Your Host For The Evening by Shane MacDougall

They are the unsung heroes. Willing to take a bullet for their comrades, these brave souls face down a potentially ugly death night after night. They are the unknown soldiers who MC comedy shows, a spot shunned by all who can avoid it (though almost every comic eventually gets nailed with the job).

To the average audience member, the MC’s job might seem pretty innocuous: just come out and introduce the acts. But there’s much more to it. As any comedian will tell you, the host can make or break a show. He or she has an unenviable task: to settle a rowdy audience, start them laughing and get them laughing again after a comic has just tanked.

“Your most important job is off the top, relaxing the audience and reassuring them that they’re going to have a good time,” says veteran host Simon Rakoff, arguably the best MC in the independent circuit. “People are dubious in a comedy club. They think everybody’s funny and it’s your job to set the tone and say, ‘Okay we’re really professionally funny.’ ”

It’s also a job that most comedians shun, since it forces them into a dialogue with the audience, which means abandoning scripted material and placing their set in the hands of fate.

“I don’t like emceeing because it forces you to break the fourth wall,” admits comic Tim Rykert, a regular host at the Laugh Resort. “If I want to break that wall, I want to do that by choice. But when you MC, it’s broken before you get up there.”

As important a role as it is, being the MC will not make a comic famous nor garner him or her accolades. Many audience members don’t even realize that the host is also a comic. “You were funny — you should try being a comedian too!” is a phrase that MCs hear often.

“You have to sublimate your ego for the good of the acts,” says Rakoff. “Your job’s to get the audience going and bring somebody on, not get them going and keep going and build and build your set.” But some MC’s are so accomplished, such as Mike Bullard, Mike Wilmot (both of Yuk Yuk’s) and Rakoff (of the Laugh Resort) that they are highly regarded as masters of the form.

In the U.S., however, the MC is viewed (often correctly) as a lower life form. He’s invariably an amateur and sometimes the club owner, dying to prove he’s truly a funny guy.

“It really just makes them sacrificial lambs,” says Rykert. “That hurts the show because the audience is really seeing an amateur show until the headliner hits the stage. A really good MC raises the level of a show from front to back.”

Eye – May 9, 1996
Take A Number By Shane MacDougall

Producer Joe Bodolai has begun doling out Comics! episodes. So far he has only 10 slots available to him from the CBC, and the confirmed recipients are Tim Steeves and Jamie Olivier (both doing their second episode), Craig Campbell and Simon Rakoff. Bodolai will undoubtedly be feeling the crunch as the dozens of deserving comedians jockey for the few precious slots.

Eye – May 2, 1996
SIMON SAYS By Shane MacDougall

Comedian Simon Rakoff once arrived at a gig in Calgary only to find that the marquee out front read, “Appearing This Week: Simon Rakoti.” When he asked about it, the manager replied “We needed the f’s for ‘buffet.’ ”

Too ucking much.

Rakoff, 35, has been involved in the Toronto comedy scene since he was 17, starting out at the then newly opened Yuk Yuk’s club on Bay St. The business has changed much, and Rakoff has been in on many of the changes. When stand-up began to boom in the early ’80s, for example, he organized his stablemates and demanded that they be paid. Later, Rakoff was hand-picked by Mike MacDonald to co-write (along with Harold Nemetz) the CBC sitcom Mosquito Lake. The show was supposed to have been the motherlode. Instead, it became the Corp’s most famous failure.

Not all his TV experience has left such a bad aftertaste. Rakoff wrote and appeared on Switchback with Eric Tunney (“I played all the negative characters”), and wrote for the second season of We Don’t Knock. Recently he got a call from CBC Radio’s Anton Leo (of Nip And Tuck fame) to develop a pilot for a comedy series. With any luck, he hopes to land a permanent gig , and hopefully a speaking role. “I’m ideal; I’ve got the delivery for comedy and a face for radio!”

Rakoff is once again at the centre of changes in the local comedy scene, this time as host of one of the most successful of the new independently run shows — at the trendy College St. restaurant Tasca (598 College St.).

The past few years have seen a watershed of comedy. With a glut of comedians and a shortage of stage time, the opportunity for established comics to try out new material has become minimal. Owners expect comics to kill. Don’t, and you may not be back for awhile. This has led to comics starting their own independent gigs where they can float as many new jokes as they wish — at places like The Oasis, The Pilot Tavern and of course, Tasca.

Rakoff has been hosting the free admission, open-mike comedy and music show there with musician Marion Law one Monday per month for the past six months. Tasca has become one of the most popular shows in the city, with some of the country’s top acts dropping in to do sets. Rakoff knew he had a successful show on his hands when comedians began calling him for spots: recent appearances include Lawrence Morgenstern, Chris Finn, Steve Shuster and one of the mainstays of Canadian comedy, Dave Broadfoot.

Confirmed acts for next week’s show (May 6) include a rare appearance from Paul Irving, Brad Lyons, and Second City alumnus Ron James. James is a character comic who resembles a Nova Scotian Robin Williams — his ultra-hyper act always seems to please. Lyons, 140 pounds soaking wet, uses his build to advantage throughout his act, and is producing consistently solid sets. Paul Irving is an industry favorite. On the few occasions he gigs, the room is filled with comedians.

As host, Rakoff relishes the spot most comedians dread. A regular at the Laugh Resort, he is also considered one of the city’s best MCs. “MCing gives me the sort of feeling a Marine must feel,” he says. “I mean, the infantry takes the beach once the mines and snipers have been cleared, but the Marines are the guys that get in there and clean the mines and snipers out.” (As many comics will tell you, weeding out hecklers and settling a rowdy crowd can be more dangerous than storming Iwo Jima.)

Rakoff uses his ability to spritz with ease; no audience has gotten the better of him. At a recent Easter weekend show, someone revealed that they worked for a greeting card company. Rakoff turned this information into a killer five-minute riff on how Hallmark cards were behind the crucifixion of Jesus, in order to move Easter cards. His onstage success is due also to the accessibility of his act. Rakoff covers everything from voicemail to religion.

“I’m Jewish,” one bit goes. “Such a tentative word, Jew, hyphen, ish. Think about it — ‘When’s dinner?’ ‘Eight-ish.’ ‘Are you a Jew?’ ‘Jew-ish.’ ”

There are few comedians as consistent as Rakoff. It’s absurd that he hasn’t yet had a Comics episode. But Rakoff isn’t too anxious about getting ‘the big break.’ His low-key approach is best reflected by one of his favorite jokes.

“The warnings on cigarette packages don’t have much effect on me. ‘Cigarette Smoking Reduces Life Expectancy.’ That’s OK. I never really expected that much from life to begin with.”

Eye – September 15, 1994
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO TORONTO COMEDY: Who’s Who And What They Do In The Toronto Comedy by Andrew Clark

Simon Rakoff – A seasoned veteran, (he began around 13 years ago) Rakoff delivers set-up/punchline humor in a disciplined and rewarding manner.

Eye – September 1, 1994

RESORTING TO RAKOFF By Andrew Clark

Simon Rakoff skipped town and flew to Los Angeles a year ago. The veteran stand-up is back and headlines The Laugh Resort Sept. 1-3. His biggest L.A. memories are being the token heterosexual at The Comedy Store’s Gay Night and being caught by the earthquake while playing Sega Golf at Mike MacDonald’s house: “And I was up by thousands of dollars — I’d birdied three holes in a row.” He says he’s also learned how to cook great chili rellenos (stuffed chili peppers).

The biggest difference between L.A. and Hogtown humor? “Down there they’re all concerned about their careers. Here, there isn’t much career, so people concentrate on their acts.”

Eye – August 13, 1992
FUNNY BY FAX Joke Pro Simon Rakoff Works The Wire By Andrew Clark

When I arrive at Simon Rakoff’s Bathurst & Eglinton flat for our 1 p.m. interview he’s glued to his television watching The Apartment, a classic Billy Wilder comedy starring Jack Lemmon, Fred MacMurray and Shirley Maclaine. “I just love seeing Fred MacMurray as a bad guy,” he says.

Normally, Rakoff, 32, a Toronto-based comedian, professional joke writer, and purveyor of fine scripts, would be in a creative uproar. But today he can relax because he and his partner Howard Nemetz write jokes for Jay Leno, and since The Tonight Show has been pre-empted for the Olympics, they have less work to do.

They’re not really Tonight Show writers — they write jokes and fax them to Jay Leno. Sometimes Jay likes them and does them on the show.

Rakoff and Nemetz “commute back and forth between Toronto and L.A.” Nemetz, 35, is the main L.A. connection. Rakoff spends most of his time here. They pass jokes back and forth by fax and phone until they’re happy with the product. Then Nemetz faxes them off to prospective buyers like the Tonight Show and Arsenio.

So far they’ve sold Jay three jokes in three weeks, which sounds pretty good until Rakoff mentions that Tonight pays $50 a joke. Then again, it’s the prestige, not the money, that really counts. I ask Rakoff to tell me one of his Leno lines.

“A cab driver in Denver — this is true — was shot in the face, but he survived because his dentures stopped the bullet. Wow, and I was impressed in that commercial when the woman could eat an apple.”

Rakoff, a stocky guy, tells me to make myself comfortable and leads me to his study. Stacks of scripts clutter the floor around his computer work station. “I don’t want to torture you,” he apologizes while handing me a stack of scripts a foot high. “On the other hand we’ve written a lot of stuff.” To Rakoff, good comedy is like judo. “It’s keeping people off balance. If they expect you to push, you pull.”

That’s how Rakoff runs his act. He’s a skilled stand-up (The Laugh Resort, Aug. 20-22) with an intelligent, pointed act. He finds humor in his everyday life, his wife’s panty-hose, his job, his Jewish heritage. Rakoff says Jewish holidays are odd: “Somebody tried to kill all the Jews. They were only able to kill a large number of Jews and so we celebrate.”

A few years back he and Nemetz, both former Yuk Yuk’s comics, decided to go on what’s sardonically known in comedy circles as the paper chase — the hot pursuit of that big television or film-writing gig.

“We realized that neither of us was going to be an important stand-up,” he candidly confesses. “We’re both good, we’re both professional, we make a living at it, but I think you recognize that certain guys have the power to be important stars and others will always be just OK.”

But Rakoff and Nemetz’s ship may yet come in. They’re currently completing work on the second draft of a movie in the Mel Brooks/Airplane mold and it’s managed to pique the interest of a number of producers. Rakoff won’t go into detail because he says he’s terrified someone might steal the idea.

The process of getting that big money gig is a strange one. The common route most comedy scribes take is writing dummy scripts for already successful television shows. Rakoff and Nemetz have written (but not yet sold) episodes of Roseanne, The Wonder Years, Murphy Brown, Coach and Brooklyn Bridge.

But the lack of really solid bites hasn’t discouraged Rakoff, who remains convinced that he’s got a good shot at success in the American market. One reason so many Canadians are successful Stateside, he says, is that “We’re close enough that we get the detail right but we’re far enough away that we don’t have a personal stake in the seriousness of their point of view. I mean, look at America. I always think of Hulk Hogan, you know the wrestler, as the perfect analogy. Here’s this huge guy beating up guys much smaller that him and he’s the hero. I mean, only in America could you see it that way.”