It’s funny how a few simple words can change a comedian’s world.
For Vancouver’s Byron Bertram it was simply “Pam? Pam, can you call my mom?”
Those seven words were uttered in a memorable 2012 advertisement for NyQuil and turned Bertram into somewhat of a celebrity.
“So many people, mainly women, come up to me now and are like, ‘Oh my God, you remind me of my boyfriend because when he’s sick he’s just like you, a fat pathetic piece of crap,’” Bertram said. “Or they’ll be like, ‘oh my God can I get a picture with you? I love that ad because it shows how stupid men are when they are sick.’ I guess it just promotes female sexism but I don’t care.”
On Wednesday (April 16) Bertram will be cracking jokes and doing impressions at the Queen’s as part of the Hear No Evil Comedy Tour.
Bertram juggled his way into the stand-up comedy scene more than 12 years ago, after spending time as a street performer.
“I do a lot of impressions and impersonations. I talk a lot about travelling as a neurotic self-obsessed comedian,” Bertram said about his routine.
The Vancouver native comes from a long bloodline of artists. Bertram’s father was a musician, his mother was an artist, and his grandfather is Order of Canada recipient Toni Onley. His great grandfather, Jim Onley, was a successful stage actor in the United Kingdom during the 1930s and ’40s.
“I learned how to juggle in a theatre program when I was a teenager,” he said. “I do come from an artistic background.”
Bertram, whose routine – titled Guilt Ridden Sociopath – has received rave reviews, has previously worked with the likes of Zach Galifianakis, Eddie Izzard, Colin Mochrie and the Flight of the Conchords.
“That was great. It was before he kind of hit it big but he was still a well-known comic,” Bertram said about Galifianakis. “He’s a nice guy. He was over here (Vancouver) filming something. He asked me to introduce him as Chris Rock.”
Unlike the music scene, which can be very supportive to newer artists, the comedy scene can be very intimidating.
“It’s not the most supportive scene of scenes. It is kind of a one-man sport. A lot of comedians come from kind of a broken, insecure outlook sometimes, not everybody, but there is generally this feeling of your success equals my failure and there is this underlying sense of competitiveness. Everybody wants to be the funniest. Everybody wants to feel like they are the star,” Bertram said. “It’s hard to break in there and feel the sense of welcome to the club, we’re with you and we’re going to groom you, when really it is like, oh look, there is another dickhead on stage. You gotta have a thick skin and really enjoy feeding off of self-indulgent attention.”
Despite having success with television commercials and comedy, Bertram is all too familiar with how difficult it is to get a decent paycheque in the business.
“There is just tons and tons of competition. Just trying to stand out and just trying to get gigs and trying to get paid what you’re worth, trying to get the recognition,” he said. “You have to be born with a sense of passion and desire. Making good money doing stand-up is quite difficult to do. I’ve preformed in venues that are just quite undesirable.”
Bertram has cracked jokes on stages throughout Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Denmark, Holland, Japan and Australia. Of all the places Bertram has performed, he said London, England was his favourite.
“London is really quite up there. There is so much with the sense of humour and the alcoholism mixed with the pub culture and the proximity of pubs between places and the population density and the history. I find London is the best city I’ve been to in regards to stand-up comedy.”
Since the NyQuil advertisement, Bertram has appeared in a Huggies commercial, headlined at the Goldies and Rio Theatre in Vancouver, appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and recently landed a role as drunk person looking for a toilet in an upcoming Tim Burton filmed called Big Eyes.
The show begins at 8 p.m. and tickets are $20 at the door.