Leland Klassen’s life feeds his stand-up routine
June 2, 2015
Stand-up comedian Leland Klassen is looking forward to performing at the Egyptian Theatre this weekend.
"I don’t know if I’ve ever done a show in Utah," Klassen said during a telephone interview from his home near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. "I’ve been looking deeply at the Egyptian Theatre and it looks like a cool place to perform."
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present two nights of stand-up comedy with Art Krug and Leland Klassen on Friday, June 5, and Saturday, June 6.
"It will also be nice to work with Art again," Klassen said. "I did some performances with him years ago here in Canada, but I don’t think he’ll even remember me."
Chances are, Krug will remember, because Klassen has been doing stand-up for nearly 20 years, and has performed at the Just For Laughs Festival for four years and was featured on the "Just for Laughs" TV show.
Klassen’s introduction to comedy came when he was a boy.
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"On a real basic level, I enjoyed making people laugh, but I think I was probably more drawn to the attention I got and that morphed into what I do now," he said. "It’s funny, when I started doing stand-up, my favorite comics were the ones who did the set-up, punchline and tag and I wasn’t into storytellers. However, the more I got into comedy, the more I became a storyteller, albeit, a very high-energy storyteller."
Klassen’s material is culled from his personal experiences.
"It’s all stories about my crazy life and if stand-up comics are measured on different levels, I would be the most narcissistic one of all of them," he giggled. "I talk about myself and it can be observational, especially when I talk about myself in different environments."
No topic or situation is off limits when it comes to sharing his life with his audience, according to Klassen.
"I don’t have any skeletons in my closet, so I don’t think I’m in danger of going too deep," he said. "There are certainly some very embarrassing events in my life, but for me, if it’s entertaining the crowd and getting me the attention, then so be it."
Before he dove fully into comedy, Klassen graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a degree in anthropology, and that has helped him developed an insight when it comes to his performances.
"What it does is gives me an awareness of the cultural context that I’m in," he explained. "I studied ethnology, which is the study of cultures, and I’m very aware that, while laughter may be universal, the comedy itself is cultural."
That means the comedian has to change certain things in order to relate to the audience.
"For example, when I talk about a washroom, it gives an American audience a pause before they realize I’m speaking about a restroom," Klassen said. "Even something that little is enough to throw a joke off if I’m settled into a rhythm.
"So, I have to make sure I say ‘restroom,’ but that’s not to say that I have a lot of restroom jokes," he said, laughing. "I always tell people that I speak American when I’m down there and speak Canadian when I’m up here."
Klassen feels lucky that he makes people laugh for a living.
"I talked with someone the other day and they asked if I liked what I do, and I said, ‘Yes,’" Klassen said. "I told him that I love talking with people and bringing them into my world."
Klassen also mentioned that he didn’t like booking tours and handling the logistics of being a stand-up comedian.
"I told him that 95 percent of my time is spent doing all of that, but also said, every job has parts you hate," Klassen said. "Then he said, ‘Yeah, but people usually don’t hate 95 percent of their jobs.’"
Regardless, that five percent on stage trumps all.
"I’m not a great businessman, but I love doing stand up," he said.
The big thing for Klassen is the fact that he doesn’t need to perform in front of large audiences to feel validated, like the time he performed for eight people in a comedy club.
"I don’t know why the club still wanted to do the show because most clubs would have shut it down," Klassen said. "I mean, there are people who tell jokes at parties who had a bigger audience than that."
That night was one of the best shows Klassen had ever done.
"I had such a great time with these eight people," he said. "There was this intimate sense of it all and I knew for sure that they really enjoyed the show specifically and what I did."
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present two nights of stand-up comedy with Art Krug and Leland Klassen on Friday, June 5, and Saturday, June 6. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Tickets range from $19 to $29 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com .
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