Comedian Kathleen McGee loves pushing boundaries

Matt Gardner
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With a routine heavy on blue humour and sex jokes, comedian Kathleen McGee earned rave reviews at her last performance in Prince Albert.

Little of that material is suitable for print in a family newspaper -- but pushing boundaries is all in a day’s work for the rising comic.

“I guess I’m pretty dirty, but I just tell the truth,” McGee said by phone on Tuesday.

“I’m pretty truthful and I kind of say things that people are thinking but are too afraid to say.”

Following her successful show last May at Bailey’s Lounge in the Best Western Inn, McGee will return to Bailey’s for a performance this Thursday starting at 9 p.m.

As the Edmonton-based comic noted, Prince Albert has been a mainstay of her comedy career throughout, running the gamut from career lowlights to highlights.

“My very first on-tour show as a comedian ever, like when I was about a year and a half in, was in Prince Albert and it was probably one of the worst shows,” McGee recalled. “But then the last one I did was one of the best shows ever.”

Fellow comedian Kelly Taylor, who will be hosting the Thursday show, raved about McGee’s previous appearance at Bailey’s.

“We’ve been doing Bailey’s just over a year now and out of the whole year there were two comics that really stood out, and Kathleen McGee was one of them,” Taylor said.

“It was an incredible show … One of the best comedy shows I’ve ever seen. The other (comedian) was Gabriel Rutledge … another guy that just killed in Prince Albert, and we’ve been lucky enough to get them both back here this year.”

McGee originally met Taylor at a club near the start of her comedy career nine years ago.

Relating how she developed her interest in standup after starting to attend open mike night at the Edmonton Yuk Yuk’s, McGee noted the instant appeal that telling jokes onstage had for her.

“The first time I ever did it, I was like, ‘Well, I have to keep doing this, because that was amazing,’” she said.

Among the comedians who had the biggest impact on her “no holds barred” style were Bill Burr and Patrice O’Neal, though McGee also noted her appreciation for Sarah Silverman.

“All of my comic heroes are comics that pushed the boundaries a little bit, that talk about things that aren’t normal subject matter for people to talk about,” McGee said.

While her routine incorporates a fair amount of risqué subject matter, McGee also draws inspiration from her family, talking at length about subjects such as her experiences growing up or her mother, whom she noted “gives me a lot of material.”

Unlike many comedians, McGee rarely writes out her jokes, instead recalling many of her ideas from memory.

As a result, her routines tend to vary from show to show.

I kind of say things that people are thinking but are too afraid to say. Kathleen McGee

“I’m not one of those comics where you came to see me … do the exact same set,” McGee said. “My set’s always different. It’s still sometimes the same jokes, but I’ll put them in a different order or I’ll come up with a new line or something.”

The constant touring undertaken by comics can be an exhausting ordeal, with McGee having just finished a full tour of Canada that took her from the Atlantic provinces to Ontario to British Columbia.

Next month, she plans to cross the first northern territory off her list with a performance in Yellowknife.

McGee’s own enthusiasm for travel and life on the road helps overcome many of the emotional highs and lows that are part of the standup comedy lifestyle.

“You’re kind of in it for the long haul,” McGee said. “Nobody ever gets into standup thinking that they’re going to get rich and famous, and if you do, you’re just crazy … That happens to maybe one per cent of standup comedians.

“There’s a lot of ups and downs in standup that you have to get used to,” she added. “You have to get used to getting something amazing and getting to do an amazing show and then you have to get used to doing a horrible, horrible show.”

For McGee, it is the satisfaction of entertaining audiences that keeps her going, to the point where all she wants to do at this point in her career is tour.

“It sounds cheesy, but it’s a great feeling to make people laugh … when they come up to you after the show and they tell you that you were so funny and you really made them laugh,” she said.

“I’ve had a sh---y day job … I know what it’s like to just go to your job day in, day out, and some people just want a release, so I get to give that to them -- and I think that’s pretty cool.”

Aside from her Canadian touring, McGee is currently writing a pair of screenplays and attempting to organize a tour in Asia. She is also working on getting her visa in order to return for performances in the United States.

For the moment, she is looking forward to her upcoming performance at Bailey’s.

“I had such a great time last time that yeah, I’m looking forward to being back in Prince Albert … If people come out and see me again, hopefully I have some new jokes for them and it’s not all the same stuff,” McGee said with a chuckle. “But I’ve got some new stuff.”

Tickets for Thursday’s performance cost $10 and are available in advance at the Best Western Inn front desk or at the door on the night of the show.

Organizations: Prince Albert, Best Western Inn

Geographic location: Canada, Ontario, British Columbia Yellowknife Asia United States

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