Small Screen: Jon Dore’s Funny as Hell lives to laugh another day

Jon Dore has been funny as hell for years — although his TV show Funny as Hell did disappear in 2016.

Dore, the one-time Canadian Idol joker who has lived in Los Angeles since 2008, thought the standup comedy series was toast when it didn’t return to the airwaves last year.

But Funny as Hell got a new lease on life thanks to Seeso, a NBC Universal-owned digital service launched in the U.S. last year. Looking for proven standup content, Seeso teamed with Just for Laughs and Bell Media/HBO Canada to revive the series.

It’s back now with new episodes Fridays on HBO Canada.

Taped during the annual Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal, the series features Ottawa-native Dore as host. He welcomes an edgy and irreverent mix of comedy newcomers and veterans in this six-episode season including Aparna Nancherla (Late Night With Seth Meyers), Eugene Mirman (Bob’s Burgers, Janeane Garofalo (The Larry Sanders Show), Kurt Metzger (Inside Amy Schumer), Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe on 24), Sean Donnelly (My Dumb Friends podcast) and Thomas Dale (Chelsea Lately).

Dore was happy to jump back in as host — so long as the series didn’t interrupt his other plans last summer. Those plans primarily involved following Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip on their emotional farewell tour.

“I went to the Hip in Victoria, Toronto and Kingston,” says Dore, who admits he’s an obsessive Downie fan. “It was moving and very different, and also be
autiful to see what was going on on-stage.”

Seeking to avoid “burning” through his own new standup material, Dore sought to give this new season more of a sketch-show spin. To that end, he huddled with two writer/director pals, Adam Brodie and Dave Derewlany. They have Dore climbing ladders and doing various bits of business with the audience before introducing each act.

Brodie and Derewlany directed and helped write the comedian’s former series for The Comedy Network, The Jon Dore Television Show. There’s nothing better than working with friends, says Dore.

“Half the fun is just getting in the room together and laughing. It’s basically hanging out with your friends and making jokes all day.”

It’s a formula Dore has followed ever since he used to host murder mystery theatre events as a 22-year-old in Ottawa.

“We would do 28 shows in 25 days over Christmas,” he says. “Those were the most creative, fun, free things because nothing was at stake.”

Dore says he was a “pleaser” when he first started doing stand-up, always hoping to be liked by the audience.

“Then I slowly discovered TV shows like Mr. Show,” he says. The early HBO cable comedy, starring Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, showed him that “comedy didn’t have to come in threes; it could come in 11s. All of a sudden there were no rules and that was very exciting to me.”

Dore’s standup went from deliberately pleasing to edgy and improvisational. Some of his lines take a few seconds to sink in, including one rather cerebral Just for Laughs keeper: “You know what I just realized? I have never had an epiphany.”

Beyond Funny as Hell, the 41-year-old has spent the past several years working on sitcoms, sketch shows and pilot series close to home in Hollywood.

He’s been showcased on Conan, shot an episode of the ABC series Speechless and played an ex-boyfriend on Inside Amy Schumer.

“I know her from doing standup, just being in the States, touring around,” he says. “When she got the show and started blowing up, she invited all her friends on.”

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