Could’ve said “Master Debater” but we’re better than that
by James Brotheridge
Steve Patterson’s not interested in riffing on his fellow CBC broadcasters for the heck of it in his latest stand-up show, “This Is Not Debatable”. Patterson, the host of the CBC radio show The Debaters, says that aside from the observational side of his work, he mostly sticks it to subjects who deserve it. But nonetheless, the radio show’s already gotten in a few laughs at the expense of a few other CBC personalities — and one in particular.
“Poor Rex Murphy,” he says. “He’s been referenced on the show so often.”
There’s plenty more for him to draw on from his Debaters experience. The show has two comedians debating mostly real issues, which Patterson moderates. It’s fun — but “This Is Not Debatable” is his chance to truly sound off.
Patterson’s speaking from home before he sets off to tour “This Is Not Debatable” across the prairies, the last push behind this set of material. I’m catching him at a busy time; as he’s getting ready for the tour, he and his wife are also welcoming a daughter who, at the time of our conversation, is 17 days old.
When you go to a new place and you’re thinking of working material about the location into the show, what are you looking for?
There’s nothing in particular. When you’re an outsider coming into a new place, you just remind people of things. One of the things I like to do is make comments on things people are aware of and they can laugh at themselves. So when I’m touring Canada, I can do that wherever I go. In Ireland and Australia, it’s the same. But when I tour in England, for some reason, they don’t like when non-British people make fun of British things. It’s the same to some extent in America. I much prefer countries that can take a joke. Canada’s certainly the best at it, as far as I’ve seen in that regard.
Being a citizen of a Commonwealth country doesn’t help at all in Britain?
Who knows? Maybe it was just me. Let’s put it this way –– they don’t like when you make fun of The Beatles. Maybe that was just the wrong target. But I was over there leading up to the London Olympics, and they do seem to have lightened up a bit now.
I definitely like to keep the show as current as possible, and talk about stuff that people know about but maybe haven’t thought about in quite the same way as someone seeing it for the first time. As a comedian, that’s our job –– to have fun with things.
This is why Saskatchewan holds a certain place in my heart. You know, we’ve done the math and backtracked and that’s definitely where our baby daughter was conceived — during the Grey Cup last year.
Was it before or after the Roughrider victory?
I can’t pinpoint exactly. During the week, I did shows. I did the Riders lunch and I did a show for the league. I hung out in Riderville a lot, and one night, I hung out in Riderville with Brent Butt, which is basically like hanging out in Bethlehem with Jesus. There was a lot of goodwill flowing that night. I think have a picture of the mountain of Pilsner Brent and I consumed that night. I hope the baby was conceived before that, because I’d worry about the lingering effects of all that alcohol.
What are the throughlines running through “This Is Not Debatable”?
It’s basically all the things I can’t talk about on The Debaters, [where] we’re working with stand-up comics and I don’t want to step on their premises. We just try to complement what they say without cutting them off, and I don’t take a point of view, really, because they’ve come in and they’ve written stuff. As a moderator of a debate, you aren’t supposed to take one side or the other. I love the show, and I love working with other comics. [But this] show is my point of view on things, and it’s all me for 90 minutes. People will certainly get to know how I think. Because it’s a good length of time, I get to play around with the audience a lot.
If there’s one theme for the show –– if I had to rename it right now, which I’m obviously not going to do, it’d be “Don’t Be An Arsehole.” It’s not the feel-good show of the year, but that’s the theme. There’s actually a song in the middle of the show that drives that point home.
Is that a general philosophy in your life?
It is. I come from an Irish background, and that was my dad’s theory. You can’t control what other people are doing, what they’re like. But you can control what you’re like, so don’t be an arsehole.
How long have you been writing songs for your show?
Ever since I started. I went from doing song parodies to my own songs, and then fortunately hooked up with some really great music people here in the city that I’m friends with. You want the song to be good. You want it to be funny –– but a bad-sounding funny song, that’s just irritating.
There are three songs during the show and they’re all originals. It sort of sets it apart from the average, run-of-the-mill stand-up show when I break into song. That shocks some people who don’t know it’s going to happen. I hope that pleasantly surprises them and isn’t like a cow in heat.
Are cows in heat noisy?
I don’t know. I shouldn’t speak out of turn on cows. There’ll probably be people who come out to the show that have much more of an agricultural background than I.
Most animals in heat, you just think of them being jerks about it, like cats.
When animals want to go, they want to go. They’re very much like newborn babies. When a baby’s up, everyone should be up. It’s nice when the whole world revolves around you. You might as well use that time while you got it. Milk it, as it were, in the case of cows.
This interview has been condensed and edited.