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Online star hones raunchy favourites

Jon Lavoie strikes chord with youth, racking up millions of YouTube hits

ON STAGE

What: Jon Lajoie and guests

Where: McPherson Playhouse

When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $25 (tel. 250 386-6121)

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YouTube comedy star Jon Lajoie assures fans he'll perform his greatest video hits in Victoria.

"I couldn't show up somewhere and not play Show Me Your Genitals," he said. "I definitely do the ones people are really expecting me to do."

If you don't know Lajoie, a late-20s Montreal native, you need to spend more time on the Internet. The comic actor has had 100 million aggregate views for such scurrilous videos as Everyday Normal Guy, 2 Girls 1 Cup and High as F--k.

His most popular clip to date is Show Me Your Genitals. Added to YouTube only a year ago, it has attracted a whopping 22 million-plus views. The video lampoons sexist hip-hop tunes, with a doofus (Lajoie) in a red Hawaiian shirt offering such lines as: "Knock, knock. Who's there? It's me ... wondering why you're not naked," and "I want to see your bum, I don't care what you say/No I don't have feelings because feelings are gay."

The Hawaiian shirt is now a good-luck talisman for Lajoie, who bought it in a Montreal Village des Valeurs (Value Village) for $2.

"I can't find another one. So when I fly, I actually put it in my carry-on in case my luggage gets lost," he said from Los Angeles this week.

Lajoie's videos are often raunchy and over-the-top. At the same time, they reveal a skilled lampooner, versed in musical styles ranging from country to rap to Coldplay-style pop. Something about his gormless, deadpan delivery and absurdist style has struck a chord with North American youth, making Lajoie Canada's first YouTube comedy star.

His successes have included hot-ticket comedy shows (his Victoria gig is approaching sold out) and playing Taco, a stoned musician on The League, a TV sitcom on FX Network (the channel is not broadcast in Canada).

Lajoie is still more cult hero than household name. Nonetheless, his showbiz ascent is dizzying, especially considering he posted his first video, Everyday Normal Guy, only two years ago. Back then he had just parted ways with a rock band he had played in for four years. Lajoie was inspired by comedy videos posted by American comic Eugene Mirman, who also has an absurdist humour style.

"That's what really made me go, 'OK, let me give this a shot.' My first videos were me turning on the camera and kinda messing around."

Everyday Normal Guy is a hip-hop-style video delivered with laconic bravado. Only in this case, the narrator -- instead of being a chick-magnet with five Bentleys -- confesses he languishes in lines to get in clubs, has just $600 in the bank and a "sexual performance" that's merely average.

Lajoie posted the video in June of 2007. By November it had gone viral.

Born to a family of nine children, he has a background that perfectly prepared him for creating musical parodies. Lajoie graduated in theatre from Montreal's Dawson College. And years of playing in a band honed his musical skills. He was the primary songwriter in Fluid Rouge, a group influenced by classic rockers such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Kinks. By the time Fluid Rouge broke up, Lajoie was writing lyrics that increasingly embraced humour.

Growing up, his biggest comedy influence was the Kids in the Hall.

"That straight-faced absurdist stuff? I learned that from them. Especially Bruce McCulloch, up there singing about the Daves he knows and how terriers are his favourite breed."

He was drawn to performance as a child partly as a way to stand out in a large family. Some brothers and sisters were good at sports while others excelled academically. Lajoie found his niche acting in church plays.

"It was like, I can get attention doing this, instead of working out and being good at hockey."

Despite his abrupt show-biz ascent, Lajoie appeared down-to-earth and modest on the phone. He noted that some of the comics opening for him are "better" at standup. But Lajoie (who in his one-man show does standup and sketch comedy as well as musical parodies) sees himself as a multimedia comic actor rather than a standup comedian.

He says he's still surprised when he sells out theatres.

"I can't believe it. It's really surreal, all of these people coming to see me ... I can't think about it too much, or else it'll freak me out."

achamberlain@tc.canwest.com

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