He’s almost famous.
Having caught the attention of the zeit-meisters in recent years, Gavin Crawford is now getting recognition from the man in the streets. Out walking recently he felt a hand on his shoulder, “And I stopped to prepare myself to greet this friend who’s grabbing me from behind on the street, and I turn around and it’s no one I know!
“I’m like, ‘Hi’ and I’m flustered and nervous. And then he just stands there… and so I start walking again and he says, ‘Yeah, nice to see you, too.’ I’m here, still asking, ‘Do I know that guy?'”
But it’s not just the man in the streets taking a second look at Crawford. The critics are circling as The Gavin Crawford Show starts its second season on The Comedy Network, premiering Wed, Feb 13. The show is a fast-paced, character-driven comedy set in a crazy neighbourhood full of oddball characters – almost all of whom are played by Crawford himself. What will they say about the wunderkind who tried his luck abroad? The comic says, “Last year’s spin was, ‘Look who’s going to LA!’ I can only imagine what they’ll say now.”
Crawford spent six months in LA in the ensemble of the TV sketch comedy show called Hype. It was cancelled mid season.
Having returned from Hollywood, the question becomes, can a gay, ex-Mormon from Lethbridge, Alberta find lasting stardom?
“I don’t know if it’s becoming a star that’s driving me on…. Yeah sure, whatever – it is.” He ends this statement in mock shame. For the enjoyment of the media, Crawford is playing the role of a fame junkie. Yet he is also being dead honest in admitting to the folly of pursuing stardom.
This is typical Crawford, and what makes his comedy work so well: levels of truth playing out together. Here he’s playing the naïf, the media savant, the watcher and the watched. As with all his ether-siphoned characters you’re lead to ask, “Is he really doing what I think he’s doing… or am I reading too much into this?”
“The main theme of my comedy is that everyone is insincere in his or her own way. They’re clearly doing one thing and their behaviour is the opposite. Which I find fascinating and I also find hilarious.”
Again this season Crawford plays a myriad of characters. Old favourites are back, new faces are added. The tried and true framework of the show, where a self-obsessed actor named Gavin Crawford periodically touches base with his friend Mary Pat (played by real-life bud Mary Pat Farrell), also returns.
In the season opener Gavin/Gavin, fixated with a virtual environment computer game, replaces Mary Pat/Mary Pat with a virtual best friend named Mary Fran. Only the virtual friend has a lot more going for her, a point that Gavin ensures to tell his put-upon friend.
Tactlessness is another comic gem often mined on Crawford’s show. But according to the comic, tactlessness has been the bane of his existence. “I’ll make a flippant comment and I’ll shave it way too close to the bone.” But tactlessness is a characteristic that he comes by honestly enough. “Everyone in my family has developed the skill where they just listen and within five sentences they hone in on a person’s worse fear.”
This character trait hasn’t earned Crawford friends. “When I was 25 I had the ability to be particularly nasty. Now that I’m 30 I have the ability to be particularly nasty only when I need to be.”
Kyle Tingley, Crawford’s partner of six years and co-writer on the show, sees this in a different light.
“He’s an innocent. When he sees something hypocritical, he’s so surprised. He doesn’t expect malice from anyone. He doesn’t understand it. I’m bitter compared to him. We’ll be walking down Church St and some guy will clearly cruise him and he’s thinking, ‘Do I know that guy?'”
Apparently, this is a question Crawford frequently finds himself asking.
Does Tingley, a 30-year-old Cape Bretoner, think Crawford’s innocence is a Mormon thing? Is it a Lethbridge thing? Is it real? “Probably, yeah. I haven’t figured out what part is false modesty and what part is real.”
Crawford admits that his whole life has been about a show. “I’ve been that way since I was five years old. I don’t think I could have gotten even this far being any other way. It’s like the way cats have to look in every hole even if they know there’s no mouse there. I am that way with performing and career.
“I am hard wired for it.”
Is Crawford in danger of becoming show-bizzy? Tingley’s answer to this comes uncharacteristically quickly, “What part of him is the ‘show’ and what part of him is ‘real?’ The ‘show’ is ‘real.'”
And for this couple, the show’s definitely the thing. Crawford and Tingley are clearly in love – with each other – and with their work. They have honed Crawford’s one-man-showmanship together. Tingley is the head writer and a supervising producer on the show and Crawford is clearly both inspiration and star.
Writing alongside the duo in their cramped Wellesley St office is Second City alumnus, Jennifer Whalen, who says the pair, “are really fun to work with as a couple. They work together in the best sense of the word. It’s not like working with a couple where there’s some kind of subtext at play.
“And socially we have a fun time. They have a great spirit of adventure. We have weird little side adventures that relate back to the work.”
Crawford explains his dynamic with Tingley this way: “I am super-emotional and even business decisions are made on an emotional level. I’m like, ‘They don’t like me. They don’t understand how hard I work.'” He feigns whimpering and then continues, “Kyle’s like, ‘It’s business. It’s just what you do.'”
“I think I provide the off-kilterness. [Kyle] will be analytical about things – but it costs. I add a wild card element.”
Yet the substance of their relationship isn’t all gooey. “When we fight,” says Crawford, “we fight hard. But it’s what I grew up with. I had a sister who was as savvy and as nasty as me.
“That’s how my family talks to each other. We buy and trade in embarrassing stories.” Crawford speaks proudly of his family, yet they are not out of range for his comedy. “I’ve said this before: We’re like the family on Roseanne except Dan has a better job and mom is thin and really pretty.”
On the business side relationships are also flourishing for Crawford. He is in negotiations for a third season of The Gavin Crawford Show. Also, a feature film based on his Red Ronny Rocker character is in the works with Alliance Atlantis.
And along with writer Whalen and artist John Webster (whose work has graced the cover of Xtra), Crawford is signing on with Disney to make a cartoon pilot about the whacky, fictional adventures of the Bronte sisters.
Crawford is professionally most comfortable while in the driver’s seat. “Personally, to date, my greatest failure has been not being able to deal with being on Hype. I wasn’t able to go down and do their dumb sketches and take their money. I wanted to fix it. And I didn’t have the power to do that and I was endlessly frustrated by it all the time and it just kind of ate me up for six months.
“The thing that I feel most successful about is being able to create opportunities, that afford the people that I care about, to do the things that they want to do. And to do what they are good at. Knowing Whalen is an excellent writer and having a show to give her to write on. Knowing John Webster’s art and being able to put the Bronte’s into development. And being able to work with Mary Pat on the show.
“Kyle is different because he affords me the opportunity a lot of the time.
“All those people would be doing what they like to do anyway without my input. But I like the opportunity to work with them.
“That, more than anything, is the position I like to be in – more than being a star.”
Gavin Crawford celebrates his return to TV with a special live gig featuring his show’s guest stars: Colin Mochrie, Ed Sahely, Mary Pat Farrell and others, with host Kristeen von Hagen. There’ll also be a show screening and Q & A session. Fun starts at 9pm on Mon, Feb 11 at the Rivoli (332 Queen St W). Tix are $5 suggested donation; call (416) 977-9596.
The Gavin Crawford Show.
9:30pm. Wednesdays, beginning Feb 13.
He’s almost famous.