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An Athletic Approach to Life’s Ups and Downs

An Athletic Approach to Life’s Ups and Downs

Gerry Dee is one of the funniest people to hit the comedy scene — ever. The creator, writer, and star of the smash hit CBC comedy series Mr. D, his signature stories about the absurdities of life at the front of the classroom and growing up the son of Scottish-immigrant parents have become famous to his fans.

He’s also had ups and downs in his career and taken them in stride. With his hit show in its seventh season, he talked to the Toronto Star about how he copes with life as a comic in Canada. Here’s a particularly telling segment of that story:

Dee was a high-level athlete throughout his adolescence and into university. Onstage, his Joe Everybody body type may not scream it. But his body language does, as does much of the jock-fuelled material mined from his tenure as a high school gym teacher.

Sure, that background helped fast-track Dee’s comic voice and quickly established a strong confidence every standup longs for on stage. But Dee says elite level sports also prepared him to navigate — survive, even — all those offstage low points that beat down so many of his colleagues.

“Standup is gruelling,” says Dee, on the phone from his home in Toronto. “It’s a lot of (people telling you), ‘No! You’re not good enough.’ It’s a lot of bombing. But I was used to defeat . . . I was used to competition.”

And Dee says he competed often in his near 20-year standup career: the customary local Funniest Person with a Day Job, Star Search and NBC’s Last Comic Standing — the latter in which he placed third but had many in the industry arguing he should have won.

“I just felt sports helped me get through that because I was used to getting cut (from a team).” Indeed, Dee seems bemused at those stand-ups who wallow in the setbacks that are almost a daily job description. “Nobody is going to cry for you. You just gotta bounce back up.”