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Mark Forward takes on the Canadian comedy industry

Mark Forward isn’t afraid to call people out. Whether it’s a journalist who interviewed him months ago and still hasn’t written a piece, or asking every Canadian comic to support each other, Forward will do it.

Forward–who has written for and appeared on Mr. D, The Jon Dore Television Show and most recently CTV Extend’s Joke or Choke–Bell Media announced Monday that Joke or Choke will debut on Comedy beginning Friday, Dec. 12 at 9 p.m. ET–took to Twitter this week to implore homegrown comedians to celebrate their fellow comics using #promotecanadiancomic.

“Canadian comics, pull your heads out of your asses,” he typed on Thursday. “Promote a comic. Make this hashtag grow. We can help each other.” By end of day the Ontario native had posted videos of favourites like Pat Thornton, Katie Crown, Chris Locke, Kyle Radke, Craig Brown, Inessa Frantowski, Graham Chitteneden and his former Mr. D co-star Mark Little to name a few. He also traded compliments with Eric Andrews, his co-star (and target for verbal abuse) on the pair’s Mark Forward podcast, an outlandish and hilarious weekly discussion about topics like sex, danger, injury, talent, inventions and wishes.

We asked him about the state of comedy in Canada, his podcast and whether he’s ever wanted to leave this country behind for the U.S. Forward is hosting a Christmas show at The Rivoli on Monday, Dec. 15.

What made you and Eric want to do the podcast in the first place?
I really wanted to do a podcast and I had only met Eric in passing. We’d always had a good back-and-forth and different look on things. I just thought it would work and thought I’d give it a try. I said, ‘As long as I’m having fun I’m going to keep doing it.’ I didn’t think anyone would listen, but people have and people are pretty loyal to it. So we keep doing it and we’ve become better friends over doing it. It’s been good.

As long as you have a couple of good microphones you can do this kind of stuff now.
Yeah, it makes the 10-year-old in me so jealous that all these kids have access to making movies through their phones and radio programs. I remember sitting in my closet recording stuff with a tape recorder. I would have killed to put it out … thank God it’s not out there. I remember Fisher Price was selling a black and white video camera that was in the price range that a kid might be able to buy. It was like, $200, and I remember wanting that so badly. And now these kids can make their own movie in a day. It’s unreal.

Is it easier to get your name out there now that there is Twitter and YouTube to help promote yourself?
I think it’s easier, but I think it’s also doing a bit of harm to stand-up because people are able to see finished product. They’re seeing top-quality stand-up so when they go to the club they’re expecting that and it’s not always there. It’s more of a farm system building up to that. I think also people see a comic online and then they just go and see the comic they want to see at the club. It’s hurting the farm system a bit.

So, an open-mike night may suffer.
Right. You already know who you like and what you like, so you just pay your money to see that person.

Let’s talk about Joke or Choke, which aired on CTV’s Extend channel. I heard you speaking to Humble & Fred and I got the feeling you wished Joke or Choke had been on at the very least The Comedy Network. Was I off base in thinking that?
No, you were totally on base. To me it’s a no-brainer. They have this great thing in The Comedy Network. Insight did a great job with Joke or Choke and portrayed us in a less stressful, more playful light and showcased Canadian talent. If that’s not what they’re going to put on that network, then I don’t know what they’re looking for. The way Comedy Central has gone, they’re making stuff whereas here we seem so afraid. Nobody wants to make a mistake.

I think it’s a great show and I hope they make more. If not, we’ll take it somewhere else. I understand that the odder stuff isn’t going to bring in the ratings they need to bring in here, but it would be great to see some risk taken. I find it frustrating and I get why people leave but I really, really want to stay. I’ll just keep pitching.

[Editor’s note: Bell Media announced Monday that Joke or Choke will debut on Comedy beginning Friday, Dec. 12 at 9 p.m. ET.]

You were on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson twice [here’s a link to his July appearance] and have had success in the U.S. Have you ever considered just picking up and moving there for pilot season?

I have thought about it. I’ve had more interest on American television than I have had here. I’ve done The Jon Dore Show and Mr. D and both those guys had to push for me. Nobody wanted me. Craig Ferguson, I’ve done John Oliver … they just want you. Here I find nobody does that. I don’t think Canadians on the whole know how to create a star system. I don’t know what it is about us. I’ll be at a show in the States and I’ll get flooded on Twitter, I’ll get emails asking where they can buy my albums but here people almost think, ‘Oh, he’ll be all right.’

Man, you’re frustrated. You’re making me frustrated. I’m frustrated on your behalf.
[Laughs.] The thing is, it’s a chosen frustration. I could go, but I like it here. There are possibilities here. But this whole thing is going to sound like one angry little guy. [Laughs.]

I’m fascinated with the creative process. Do you sit down and say, ‘OK, I’m going to write some stuff for a a couple of hours,’ or do ideas just come to you when you’re walking around?
I’ve never been able to sit down and write, unless I’m writing for someone else. Then I can sit down and write them. I’m always terrified–and I think all comics are terrified–that the last joke was my last joke, especially because you don’t really notice a joke growing or building. You only remember when it’s done and you wonder, ‘Where the hell did that come from?’ You kind of forget all the nights you tried it and worked it out. One of my longest bits about the chipmunk stuff, I was just feeding chipmunks. The next thing I know I have a 20-minute bit on domestic abuse. I don’t know where it comes from. I just know that comics never stop thinking.

Does that get tiring?
It’s exhausting. You’re always investigating what’s happening around you and mining it for something.

Greg David
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Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and partner at TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from countless programs. Survivor winners, Donald Trump, Jerry Bruckheimer ... he has interviewed (literally) hundreds of TV people over the course of his career. He is a past member of the Television Critics Association.
Greg David
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