Small town Vancouver Island audiences will find Candice Roberts’ show “Larry” very familiar.
Campbell River audiences, in particular, may feel they know the main character very well.
That’s because Larry is based on a “loveable Campbell River dude” and was inspired in no small part by the show’s born-and-bred Campbell River creator’s own brother and father.
“You know, he’s from my roots,” Roberts said. “It’s very easy to bring out this character because it actually came about in me just joking around playing my dad or my brother.”
Larry is a “one-man” comedy that Roberts has performed across Canada and in New York, New Orleans and Orlando and now it will be appearing in its author’s hometown at the Tidemark Theatre on Dec. 16.
Roberts admits to being of two minds about performing the show in Campbell River.
“Part of it feels like an offering,” she said. “Like I’m excited to share what I’ve created and what’s been going out into the world. And then, on the other part, I’m looking forward to seeing what people think and … I want to move the show forward with good vibes, you know, from where it came from.”
In the show, Larry comes from an imaginary town, Moose Creek, B.C., however, in her press release announcing the upcoming show at the Tidemark, she called him a “Campbell River dude” because “that’s where the roots are.”
He is a universal, salt-of-the-earth character and wherever Roberts plays him, audiences relate.
“Wherever I’ve played him, everybody knows that dude,” she said. “Like, ‘oh, that’s my uncle from back east.’ Or ‘up north.’ Usually it’s ‘up north’ … I’ve done the show in Winnipeg, Toronto, Edmonton. All of those places knew Larry, for sure.
“And surprisingly, in New Orleans. The same. People knew him too.”
Roberts was born and raised in Willow Point, specifically, and had “the best childhood” playing in the local forest, exploring trails and building forts out behind her home where housing subdivisions now exist. She graduated from Southgate when it was still a highschool and moved to Vancouver after Grade 12. She was always an artistic person and often played different personas, dressing up in glasses and wigs and “coming down to dinner as different characters.”
“I don’t know if everyone does that but that was me for sure,” Roberts said.
Her creative inclination was expressed intially in music playing in different bands in the Vancouver area. It wasn’t until she was 36 that she discovered clowning.
“And that’s when everything changed,” Roberts said. “I discovered a voice in comedy and clowning.”
But clowning is not just about the big shoes, red nose and juggling. It’s physical comedy and social commentary.
“It’s a very healing art form, actually. Because it it causes you to reflect self; reflect and ask yourself questions like, what bothers me about the world? What bothers me about myself? What do I love about the world? What do I love about myself? And it’s, it’s about making commentary, social commentary.”
She came across a quote the other day from Oscar Wilde, who said, “If you want to tell people the truth, you better make them laugh or they’ll kill you.”
“And that’s clowning,” Roberts said.
Roberts dove headlong into the art form and currently tours with three shows besides Larry: Ideas Bobert, a Charlie- Chaplin-like character; Oopsie, a show for kids involving puppetry, music, dance and physical comedy; and as part of The Myrtle Sisters In and Out of Time, a time-travelling musical trio.
Larry came about accidentally. A friend of hers created a novelty craft item called a beard bag, a vinyl purse in the shape of a beard that you wear and has a pocket in back for putting things in.
“It’s actually a face purse,” Roberts said.
She gave Roberts one of the beard bags and she put it on and just started playing around.
“Just pulling the ‘dude’ out of my psyche from my childhood and it just … people were on the floor laughing it was so, so funny. And before long, I had two 10-minute pieces.”
Eventually, she had enough material for an hour-long show.
“It basically wrote itself and I often joke about giving my brother writing credit,” Roberts said.
Being a clown act, Larry had layers of poignancy mixed in and it all becomes an exploration of male archetypes and an investigation of gender stereotypes that also makes people laugh.
The show has done well in Fringe Festivals around the continent (Vancouver, Edmonton, New York and Orlando) even winning awards (including Pick of the Fringe Vancouver in 2019).
Catch Larry at Campbell River’s Tidemark Theatre Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $28 plus taxes and fees.