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Andy Jones: An Evening with Uncle Val

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When I learned that Andy Jones liked to occasionally tour his one-man shows around the country from his home in St. John’s, Newfoundland, I was thrilled. I mean, how often is it that a living legend can be booked by a low-budget presenter like Public Energy? So we didn’t miss our chance when Andy took An Evening with Uncle Val out on the road in 2008.

Andy and his partners-in-crime at the comedy troupe CODCO were the Canadian – oops I mean Newfoundlander – pioneers of taboo-busting humour in the 1970s, when it was finally OK to make jokes about about sex, and abusive institutions like the Catholic Church were fair game for ridicule. Thankfully, in the late 80s the CBC put CODCO on prime time television for the entire country to experience. But not so fast: when Andy Jones’s “Pleasant Irish Priests in Conversation” sketch was pulled from the air in 1991, he quit the show and a year later it was history.

One thing that appeals about Andy is the dry, dead-pan humour of the Everyman just trying to get by in this crazy world despite all the odds. “Finding joy in the face of disappointment” is how the press release summed up An Evening with Uncle Val. Even his physical comedy is dry: In the video excerpt seen here, note how Andy calmly mimes his approach to the mailbox to post his letter, letting the mailbox glide towards him out of the wings and then retreat into the dark. (That’s Patti Shaughnessy, another big Andy Jones fan and always willing to lend a hand, as the mailbox.)

Perhaps the highlight of Andy’s two-night run was when a flying bat made its entrance on stage at the old Market Hall (prior to the fancy 2010 renovation; no more bats these days). Andy of course gamely carried on, so I recently asked him if he recalled the bat’s appearance on stage. He did: “That bat made the show for me. He flew quite near me and I stopped and looked at the audience and said “was that a bird?” And people said no, no it’s a bat. And then an audience member went on to explain to me how the bat was a regular visitor during shows. That little interchange totally relaxed me and I think made the show so much better. I thanked that bat for the rest of the evening.”

-Bill Kimball

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