Debaters host Steve Patterson fears Trump has taken all the punchlines

ON STAGE

What: The Debaters Live on Tour Holiday Special
Where: Royal Theatre
When: Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $46.50-$72.75 from the Royal McPherson box office, online from rmts.bc.ca or by phone at 250-386-6121
Note: The Debaters also comes to The Port Theatre in Nanaimo on Nov. 18

U.S. President Donald Trump has made life difficult for comedians such as Steve Patterson.

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Patterson, who hosts CBC Radio’s The Debaters, says it’s hard to come up with jokes Trump hasn’t already unintentionally written.

“It has been so weird since Trump got elected because half of the headlines are punchlines,” Patterson said during a tour stop in Kamloops. “There’s nothing left for us to do. I’m more concerned that he’s taking our jobs. There’s such a thing as too easy. I like to work.”

Patterson makes his living moderating arguments before a live studio audience. Each edition of The Debaters, which debuted in 2006, features two debates on topics that are rarely serious — lakes versus rivers, for example — with a rotating cast of comedians as debaters.

“It has gotten to the point where our debates are actually more factual than many of the real politicians’ debates,” Patterson said with a laugh.

“We don’t just have talking points to stick to. Our debaters have done research. What I love about the process is whether the debate is cake versus pie, they put the same effort into the process. When I look out in the crowd, people are laughing, but they are also nodding their heads because a good point has been made.”

The Toronto-based comedian and writer will bring a scaled-down version of The Debaters to Victoria next week for seasonal-themed dates at the Royal Theatre and the Port Theatre in Nanaimo (the shows will not be live tapings, however, unlike previous local Debaters performances).

Graham Chittenden and DeAnne Smith have signed on for the Vancouver Island run and, like Patterson, will perform standup sets of their own during the evening.

Patterson loves that the touring version of The Debaters offers variety for members of the audience, which decides the winner of each debate.

Politics can wear down even the most dedicated news junkie, so having three sets of standup to go with two debates gives the program breadth. “When we go to Alberta, there’s a lot of problems there, and some people there feel ostracized,” Patterson said. “But they can still come out for a night of comedy and we can all leave thinking: ‘I might not agree with the stance you have taken, but I laughed.’ Finding something in common that makes people laugh, that’s what I’m proud of.”

When he travels the country for the touring version of The Debaters, Patterson pores over local media, hoping to find a regional topic. This tour has differed from previous runs, he said. Everyone across the country is talking about two things: Don Cherry and the recent federal election. Both topics will find their way into the Vancouver Island stops, Patterson said.

“The federal leaders’ debates were really something this year. I wish someone would have consulted me, because they were awful to watch. You couldn’t understand anything and no one had a chance to say anything. Then we had a guy who didn’t even win his own seat taking up space on the stage. At least we’re funny on purpose.”

When it comes to talking about what happens south of the border, Patterson said the pipeline of material is too rich and too regular to ignore. And with a U.S. election looming, one that will undoubtedly affect Canadians, audiences can expect to hear his thoughts on the matter.

“I think everyone is hoping to breathe a collective sigh of relief. But then you have the Democratic debates. I looked at it and wondered why they don’t pare it down a bit. When you go to see a movie, they don’t have everyone in it who auditioned for a role. Pare it down, before you put 1,000 people on the stage.

“There’s not even a selected rival yet to take down this evil overlord, and that’s a problem. Frankly, at this point, I don’t think what’s needed is another elderly white man, either.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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