Windsor StarRakoff: Comedy isn’t hard, but life is by 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.”