She’s one of the founding stars of This Hour Has 22 Minutes (now CBC’s 22 Minutes.) She was a writer/performer with the CODCO troop from Newfoundland. She’s shared television, stage, acting and writing credits with artists like Rick Mercer, Mary Walsh, Shaun Majumder, Colin Mochrie. She has originated some of the most unique, and funny characters ever to grace Canadian television screens.
And on Wednesday, February 17, at 7:30 p.m., Cathy Jones is bringing her one-woman show, Stranger to Hard Work, to Upper Canada Playhouse for one performance only, sponsored by Lumina Productions, which is putting on the show in cooperation with the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage. (The Cathy Jones show is not part of the SLAS regular concert series.)
Jones has been described as a Canadian cultural icon, and one of the funniest women on television. She has won an incredible 18 Gemini awards for her work on This Hour and CODCO. Jones’ one-woman shows are regularly sold out: audiences can’t get enough of her “unique and hilarious perspective on a variety of topics, including food, body image, dating people after 60, people who annoy her” and more. (Sandra Whitworth, president of the SLAS.)
The Halifax Chronicle Herald describes Stranger to Hard Work as “a bombardment of energy, high spirits and wit.” This is a show that adults will thoroughly enjoy.
It’s a challenge to get Cathy Jones to slow down long enough to answer a few questions. She’s a veritable dynamo.
I caught up to her by phone en route to an IKEA store in Ottawa (“I want one of those pretty paper lamps. Really.”) She’d just flown into the capital, already done a women’s night show the evening before, then risen at 6 a.m. to collaborate on creating a roast of fellow comic Mary Walsh, scheduled for later that night.
“I’m 60 and single,” she laughed, “and Stranger to Hard Work grew out of my own experiences, with kids and dating and life. My last one woman show was in 2003, and I had my director Ann-Marie Kerr to help me with this one. I need to push myself to get something like this show going, and she got me out of a rut and working. The actual lines grew out of a lot of improvization, and a beautiful internal process.”
Jones prefers developing, exploring, building her characters, when she writes and performs.
“I don’t really like traditional stand-up comedy. You know, somebody shouting, “Now heeere’s So and So..” I like having my own show and my own stage. Actually I love it. This show is about being 60 and single, and it’s a way of getting out my vulnerability. My view is that the stuff we are all shagged up about is really not a huge problem. We need to do a little excavating, a little digging and get rid of it all. And in the process, we need to have a laugh.”
Jones has created some very memorable ‘characters’ over the years: Mrs. Enid, an elderly lady with an opinion on everything. Joe Crow, an aboriginal who looks satirically at the government’s relationship with Native peoples. Betty Hope, a parody of Nancy Grace.
“I probably got my sense of humour from my parents,” Jones said. “ Mrs. Enid is probably a lot like my dad with his wry sense of humour. Some of my roles may have developed out of the men and women I knew growing up in St. John’s. I manifest these people in some of my characters. Anyway, I’ve got lots of brilliant insanities to work with.
And I think you have to have been wounded in some ways to truly share feelings with an audience. They need to know that we’re all in the same boat.”
Jones has been involved in some of the most iconic Canadian comic productions. She’s worked with some of Canada’s best known comedians. But is there a genuine, unique Canadian form of humour out there?
“I actually don’t think so,” Jones said, “even though Canadians are so self-effacing. Everywhere we all have things in common. Like experiencing a family. And we all had to go to school. And we’ve all had religion poked at us. Whether you are raised in Bulgaria or Wisconsin, we all know a lot about disappointments and joys. Sometimes it’s the frustrations in life that bring out the comedy. We all fall apart in our own ways. Laugh or you’ll cry.
Especially as you grow older, you have to get a sense of humour, or life can get very unfunny. Don’t get stuck in a single state of mind. There’s an old Buddhist saying, I think, which says don’t cover the world in leather, put on a pair of shoes. Take the world with a sense of humour and enjoy it.”
Following her show, Cathy Jones always comes out on stage to share a question and answer time with the audience.
“I love question and answer,” she said. “People ask the coolest questions. So often very funny things come up, and sometimes they reappear in a way later in my shows. I find it intensely rewarding talking to people.”
Tickets for Cathy Jones’ comic one-woman show, Stranger to Hard Work, are $30 in advance or $35 at the door. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. at Upper Canada Playhouse on Wednesday, February 17. The content of this show is adult. The performance runs about 80 minutes with no intermission.
Tickets are available at the Basket Case, Strung Out Guitars, http://www.luminaproductions.ca/ or through a link on the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage page.