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Guy MacPherson knows. A comedy show on radio? We’ve had those almost from the beginning of the medium. But a show about comedy on radio? That was still a rather innovative idea when Guy MacPherson and Kevin Smith launched What’s So Funny? on Co-op Radio in 2004.
Now Smith is back at school, MacPherson has a new partner, Colleen Brow, and What’s So Funny? is still going strong, every Sunday night from 11 to midnight.
Guy’s initiation into the world of yucks was not through the stand-up denizens of the comedy clubs, such as he interviews today, but through the comedy stars of old-time radio.
“My father bought me a double LP set called The Golden Age of Comedy,” he says. “It had Fibber McGee and Molly, Jack Benny, all those people. Later I read Steve Allen’s autobiography (Mark It and Strike It). He was a hero of mine.”
His father, Fraser MacPherson, had his own connections to comedy. A nightclub and studio musician, he was one of the accompanists of Rolf Harris on his appearances at the Cave and also played for Dr. Bundolo’s Pandemonium Medicine Show on CBC Radio in the '70s.
After attending the University of Victoria, where he was active on the campus radio station CFUV, Guy took up journalism in Vancouver, covering sports for various outlets and then comedy for the Georgia Straight.
“It was hard to get stories into the paper (about obscure, up-and-coming comics),” he says. “Now everybody’s writing about comedy.”
That job gave Guy an entrée to meet many of the people he’d come to admire, and to learn that he was lacking the obsessive determination it takes to become one of them.
“A lot of comics don’t find their own voice until ten years into their careers,” he said, “and many of them fall by the wayside before then.”
The solution? To host a show about comedy where he got a chance to interview comedians, both local and visiting. Among the guests who have appeared onWhat’s So Funny? are Bill Reiter, Brent Butt, Mike MacDonald, Marc Maron, Janeane Garofalo, Bob Robertson, and Linda Cullen.
He’s interviewed comics who were reasonably “big” already, and others before they got big. “Like Phil Hanley,” he says, “Now he’s doing really well in New York.”
Comics who are just on the verge of celebrity can get uneasy being interviewed by the media. “I like to think that I give them their practice,” Guy says, although his interviews are “not so much question-and-answer as rambling conversations.”
Guy has also seen a one-time neighbour, Kliph Nesteroff, become an authority on the history of comedy with his own book, The Comedians. Nesteroff has been a guest five times on the show.
The increased interest in comedy has one drawback, Guy says. Before, when a comedian came to town and Guy asked if they’d appear on the show, they were as likely to say Yes as No. “Now, they might be committed to doing somebody else’s podcast,” he says.
Guy’s new What’s So Funny? partner, Colleen Brow, is not so much an on-air co-host as an alternate host, doing the show one Sunday every month. (Note: Steve Bowell’s RAGBAG is looking for just such a person. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.)
Listen and laugh with Guy, Colleen, and their guests on What’s So Funny? every Sunday night 11 to midnight (& sometimes longer).