Where: Hecklers Bar & Grill, 123 Gorge Rd. E
When: Thursday, May 25, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25 from mycomedytickets.com
For decades, the road is where stand-up comedy legends were made. In the modern era, however, nothing moves the needle culturally — and economically — like a streaming special.
Hour-long sets on Netflix and HBO are revenue-generating beasts, especially when social media enters the equation. That’s where routines old and new get shoehorned into bite-sized TikTok videos and enjoy financially fulfilling second lives (just ask superstar Sebastian Maniscalco, whose riotous Netflix special, Aren’t You Embarrassed?, is more prominent today than when it was released in 2014 — all thanks to Instagram.)
Ivan Decker is keenly aware of such a scenario, having spent the past decade making his living as a comedian (including a special on Netflix, natch). But he’s not entirely sure this is the best long-term business model for comics such as himself. Decker’s comedy is a slow burn, one that benefits from care and attention.
“We live in a content-crazy society now,” Decker said. “The time in which you have to release something is getting shorter and shorter. Comedians are now having to release a new hour (of material) each year. That’s just not enough time. There was three years between Chris Rock’s Bring the Pain and Bigger & Blacker, and those are two of the best specials of all time.”
Still, he soldiers on. Decker is performing two shows tonight at Heckler’s Bar & Grill, a venue he knows intimately, having performed there for nearly a decade. Unless something goes “catastrophically wrong,” Decker is expecting a compilation of the two shows, which are being filmed in front of a live audience, to result in his next comedy special, landing spot and streaming service to be determined.
“It’s a gamble, whenever you film a special,” Decker said. “The choice of venue and audience is always something that you need to be careful about, which is one of the reasons why I picked Victoria. When I started doing stand-up in Vancouver, one of the first places I toured was the Island. Going over there has always been exciting for me. The crowds have always been great.”
The live tapings are a boon for Heckler’s and exciting for those in the audience, but the site will be irrelevant to viewers when it gets released at some point this year; few could tell you where Eddie Murphy’s Delirious was filmed, and that is arguably the most iconic stand-up special in history. For that reason, Decker felt emboldened choosing a comedy club in Victoria instead of a bigger city, given that his previous appearances on Netflix and CBC were filmed in comedy hubs such as Montreal and Winnipeg.
Good comedians can bring the funny in any club or city, he said.
“My goal is to not make a lot of money off this special, my main goal is exposure — getting my name out there and finding people who like the kind of comedy I do. I just want to perform live, and getting to do that in larger and larger venues for more and more people is the main idea.”
He’s well on his way in that regard.
With an observational approach not unlike Jerry Seinfeld or Jim Gaffigan, Decker entered the Canadian consciousness with appearances on Just For Laughs festivals and CBC’s The Debaters. He also won a Juno Award for comedy in 2018 for his debut album, I Wanted to be a Dinosaur.
Decker moved from Vancouver to Los Angeles in 2017, for the purpose of securing an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s talk show on TBS. The person who booked O’Brien’s show told Decker he could get him a showcase if he was legally permitted to work in the U.S., so Decker rented a place, secured a Green Card, and landed the gig.
He now splits his time between Vancouver and Los Angeles. He was forced to abandon the idea of living in Los Angeles full-time, due to travel restrictions that were put into place because of the pandemic. But operating out of two home bases is working well at the moment, Decker said, as dual-citizenship gives him the ability to pivot when needed.
Decker has been working out his new set during the past three months, tinkering with the routine over 20 performances on both sides of the border. He feels ready to officially deliver, and hopes the audiences assembled tonight help him hit a home run.
“I wanted to make sure the material is something that will work across all different environments. I’m very thankful for all the prep and rehearsals I’ve had. It’s like a baseball player working on their swing. You want to make sure that you hit as often as possible. ”