December 14, 2011 by Speakers' Spotlight
Married to a Hustle Called Comedy
Heralded as ‘a new face for comedy’ in 2009 by Sun TV, Gilson has racked up an impressive resumé since emerging onto the comedy scene. A Canadian Comedy Award winner and Premier Award nominee, Gilson has appeared at the prestigious Just For Laughs festival. With a style of his own, Gilson has the talent to deliver political comedy in the vein of a Dennis Miller or Chris Rock and can eschew politics and go the route of Everybody Loves Raymond’s Ray Ramano.
It began on Dec. 29 1997. A comedy club called Yuk Yuk’s would be my start. It was known for providing a stage for young comedians and I had come to know of the venue and comedy in Canada two weeks earlier.
At the time I was an architecture student seeking something new. A fellow student came to class still in hysterics about attending this comedy show. I quickly interrupted, “What do you mean your friend was telling jokes? Where?” It never occurred to me this was a “thing” happening in Canada, nevermind a career path. I was on auto-pilot. I inquired and got details of how I could go about giving it a shot. No hesitation or questions as to how or why this was happening.
Five years later I would claim a Canadian Comedy Award, a development deal with SPIKE TV and other honours. I guess when people ask how I can do that (public speaking), I think, how can I not? Most comedians don’t question why. I was excited, wide-eyed and passionate about making people laugh. To tell you the truth I was nervous all through the first sentence, then numb through the rest. I wasn’t on stage wondering what would I say or will they laugh — it was pure joy that I was making more than four people laugh at a time. By the time my friends noticed I’d been doing comedy, none of them were surprised. They may have not enjoyed my show the first time they saw it, but it made complete sense.
As much as it seems like comedy is a calling, it doesn’t mean my first night was perfect by any means. As a matter of fact, upon reviewing footage, I noted that I barely made it to the stage. Nerves don’t discriminate. They are the final obstacle and gut check before a passionate task. Nerves never show up when you aren’t invested. They’re a good thing. That night I would go through two coffees, a glass of water, a Pepsi and then an alcoholic beverage — any would’ve done by this point. This combination of drinks would accompany me for the next three years. I have now cut it down to just a coffee or water.
But that night I was more nervous than a first-time dad in a delivery room, wondering what have I done and can I have a shot before the big show? What’s an MC and why is he here? The MC for the show, I would later understand, is here to man the ship for the evening and he kept telling me to keep an eye out for the red light. I thought, why can’t he keep an eye out for the red light? I’ll be on stage! It was all sort out before I had my chance to make them laugh. I now realize that on my way up the stage I had almost tripped and landed on the lady in the front row. It turned out I was so nervous that I played with the microphone cord until it was wrapped around my entire left arm. My jokes about Oprah’s weight issue were hack and the audience cared just a little about my bit on who was keeping a diary while God created the world in seven days. My biggest laugh came when I asked, “What does the red light mean again?” By the end of the night it was still good enough to be encouraged and pointed in the right direction by some of the more seasoned comedians. I love comedy.