Wes Borg just may be the hardest-working man in showbiz.
Victoria showbiz, that is. Since moving here from Edmonton in 2007, the 44-year-old seems to be, well ... everywhere: Fringe theatre shows, David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, Phillips comedy nights and comic soap operas. He's also about to start hosting weekend stand-up comedy shows at Hecklers Bar and Grill. And he just released his first solo comedy album, the very funny Better Than I Am. The winner of two M Awards for favourite comedy performer, Borg is a familiar and popular figure in this city.
On Sunday, the gingerhaired comedian (a former member of the semi-legendary Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie) launches a new venture at the Victoria Event Centre. Derwin Blanshard's Extremely Classy Sunday Evening Program is a faux-TV talk show happening monthly at the VEC. Borg plays the host, Derwin Blanshard, a martini-swilling, mustachioed, top-hatted "insane British guy."
Just as in any talk-variety show, Borg will have guests - both serious and not-so-serious. In the former category is Saanich South MLA Lana Popham, who joins him for Sunday's inaugural show. The guest list includes a magician, an opera singer and playwright Jacob Richmond (Legoland, Ride the Cyclone) who promises to "sing some negro spirituals."
The premise of Derwin Blanshard's Extremely Classy Sunday Evening Program is a bit like that of The Larry Sanders Show, one of the great television comedies of the 1990s. In that one, Garry Shandling played an egomaniacal TV host. Like The Larry Sanders Show, Borg's show will include "on air" and "off air" segments (although there are no TV cameras). When Derwin Blanshard's Extremely Classy Sunday Evening Program pretends to go to commercial, Derwin will go from being a nice guy to "his evil little self," just as Larry Sanders did.
And like Larry, who riffed off gormless sidekick Hank Kingsley, Borg has his own sidekick: Morgan Cranny. Kathryn Popham is another regular, playing Derwin's ex-wife and serving the guests drinks.
Karen Brelsford plays a dancing girl who holds up a "We'll be right back" sign during technical difficulties.
"She just tap-dances in a pretty dress whenever we need her," Borg said.
He's got big plans for Derwin Blanshard's Extremely Classy Sunday Evening Program. Borg intends to invite Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin as a guest. He'd even like to get Premier Christy Clark on the couch.
"I think she's quite right. She said there's no real people in Victoria. Most of the people I know in Victoria are imaginary, like this character," he said.
Borg's biggest shot at the big time, at least so far, has been Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie. Back in the late '80s and early '90s, the troupe was a top draw on the Canadian Fringe theatre festival circuit. Routines include Kevin Costner's Naked Butt and Skippy Gets a Boner.
In 1992 the Trolls got their big break. CBC television picked them up for five shows that aired nationally.
Yet somehow, what succeeded so well in live performance didn't translate to television. Borg once told me the Trolls lacked the budget enjoyed by their better-known cousins, The Kids in the Hall. At any rate, the show fizzled.
Borg is a highly skilled comic with a sharp sense of humour. His new comedy album, Better Than I Am, is worth picking up (it's available at live shows, deadtroll.com or cdbaby.com).
Highlights include Worse Than Hitler, skewering those who get a little too enthusiastic about composting and organic vegetables.
I also like Slam Poet: "I want to be a slam poet. I want to be cool, distant and detached, yet passionate and alive, like those kids you see on stage in vegan restaurants and alternative venues. ... I want my audience to be blown away from the mere fact I wrote some words down."
Borg's favourite comedy song from the recording, I Can't Stand You Anymore, is a duet with his teenage daughter, Anna Irwin-Borg, who's an aspiring actor.
"You're the apple of my eye, so why, oh why, oh why, oh why ... do you dress like such a slut," he sings fondly.
He says father and daughter performed I Can't Stand You Anymore 17 times in live performance. When he got to the punchline "the audience just recoiled, it was great," Borg said.
He's come a long way since arriving in this city five years ago. At first, the comedian briefly lived in a rusting old van (due to faulty wiring it subsequently burned up). Now Borg, who also teaches computer skills to mentally challenged adults at Lifetime Networks, finds himself almost too busy.
And the hardest working man in showbiz - well, Victoria showbiz - likes it that way.
"The plan wasn't to stay here in Victoria," Borg said. "But then again, why would you leave?"
© Copyright 2013