“I’m terrified,” Elvira Kurt deadpans, “and so excited – both those feelings at once.”
Kurt’s new show, Popcultured, premiered Apr 5 on the Comedy Network. It’s a sardonic look at the world of entertainment, à la Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. With two highly rated Comedy Network specials under her belt and a stint as commentator on etalk Daily’s Friday show, Kurt has every reason to relax with a solid audience following and the perfect format for her incisive wit.
Kurt is fascinated with all things pop culture, be it celebrity scandals, ill-advised fashion choices or trendy reality shows. Her current television addiction is NBC’s Survivor-style boxing competition, The Contender. “I never thought I’d be interested,” she says, “but it’s really touching and it’s different: These guys actually have a skill that they rely on. They get in the ring and you’re torn. You want both guys to win. I didn’t think any other show could make me cry… besides Extreme Makeover Home Edition: Look, they built the autistic boy a swing!
“If you don’t cry when you watch, there’s something wrong with you. That’s how the FBI should track sociopaths. Watch it with your partner; the person who doesn’t cry has commitment issues.”
And what does Kurt make of Canadian networks’ kinder, gentler attempts to capitalize on the reality-TV phenomenon?
“We want to make sure we take people’s feelings into account. I sort of like that there’s a cultural difference between Canadians and Americans, that we can see both sides of a thing. In America, you’re either Republican or you hate Jesus.
“That’s the great thing about this show being Canadian,” she says, “it’s not even a consideration to change my sexuality. The fact that we don’t care so much about what people do in their lives or their beds. I’m all for it.”
Kurt is handling well the transition from stand-up comic to 9-to-5 television personality. “We start every morning in a frantic panic, then two script readings during the afternoon and then taping at night. It’s harder than being on the road. The only advantage is I get to sleep in my own bed at night.
“We do it with a miniscule budget and a third of the creative support that something like the Daily Show has. They have 15 writers; we have five. Being on the comedy channel is so great… it’s not like being in the glare of the network, so we can nurture the show, help it find its voice.”
It’s a long week from Monday to Thursday, and Kurt tries to be philosophical about the sacrifices involved in creating and maintaining a career in entertainment. “When you’re single, it’s your full blown partner, [if you’re] in a relationship, it’s your mistress. On Friday we all go home and we try to convince our partners not to leave us.”
With this flurry of activity in her professional life, one would think that all else would be quiet and calm in the Kurt household – but no. During our interview, Kurt’s partner Chloe pops in quickly to arrange signing papers on their new house.
“We wanted to make sure that starting the new show, moving from our house and God knows what else, inseminating – sure, add that in – happened all on the same weekend because I’m such a bad multitasker. Could there be more things on the plate?”
Wait a minute… inseminating? Yes, it’s true. Kurt and company are in discussions to expand their four-year union to include a juvenile captive audience.
“We talk about starting a family,” she says. “It’s definitely coming up more. I’ve never been interested in bearing a child, but I’d love to take a crack at raising one.
“My mother is so into the idea of being a grandmother because she knows that my child-rearing philosophy is to just do everything she did – but the opposite. I think more than anything she’d like to stand around and say, ‘I told you that you would be like me!'”
During the taping of the third episode of Popcultured, the live audience is full of love and laughter for Toronto’s favourite queer comic. The writing is fresh and pithy and Kurt is spot-on with wry observations of the day’s entertainment news.
The show is surprisingly informative (Johnnie Cochran died?), with the sort of incredulous subtext that runs through our minds when viewing stateside celebrity foibles.
Kurt’s sly jab at American Idol’s ousting of her preferred contestant in favour of a wife-beating troglodyte gets big laughs (“What is it about Americans? They always vote for the wrong guy!”) and a hilarious dig at the elderly teens of Fox’s The OC brings down the house as she suggests the angsty stars do some hard time at Degrassi Junior High, “Where the girls can kick your candy asses.”
Mix in a truly funny location spot from writer/performer Ellen McKinney and a wickedly arch interview with TV chef Christina Cushing, and you have a tight, fast-paced show that’s over before you want it to be.
Kurt closes with a sincere address to Star Wars fans protesting George Lucas’ latest outer space travesty, advising them to, “Move on to Episode Two of your lives.”
Considering this promising new marriage of Kurt’s wily comedic observations and legitimate entertainment news reporting, it seems our girl has done the same.