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The day laughter died, or at least left town

It’s all true, says local comedian Anthony Trombetta.When he’s on stage riffing on family, onanistic habits or drugs, the jokes…

It’s all true, says local comedian Anthony Trombetta.

When he’s on stage riffing on family, onanistic habits or drugs, the jokes aren’t far from the truth, if at all, says Trombetta.

Except for the conversation with Jesus.

That was fantasy.

“When I walk on stage, it’s like I walk through this invisible shame curtain,” says Trombetta.

“All of sudden I have a secret identity that looks exactly like me and I can say whatever I want.

“And I usually do.”

A self-described socially awkward, 34-year-old introvert, Trombetta’s disembodied comedic stage presence helps bring out his off-colour material.

“Part of me revels in that shamelessness because people are wondering if it’s true,” he said.

Will the audience ever know the difference between fact and fiction?

“It’s all true, unless I’m going into some wacky scenario,” says Trombetta, who appears tonight at the Yukon Arts Centre with eight comedians and his mock band, Dandelion Wreath.

In countless theatre productions, standup comedy nights, radio or burlesque productions, Trombetta’s quick wit never goes unnoticed.

Trombetta is like the Whitehorse version of the Wayans brothers: he’s everywhere.

But not for long.

After a summer season of touring fringe festivals, Trombetta, a local arts scene fixture, will leave Whitehorse for good to pursue his comedic career in bigger cities.

“A part of why I’m leaving is to figure out if want to follow theatre or standup comedy,” he says.

“I’m the master of no trades.”

After some world travel with his wife, Erica Bigland, the couple will settle down somewhere other than the Yukon.

Trombetta wants to try standup comedy as a living and, for that to happen, he has to move to an urban centre.

He’s lived in Whitehorse for 10 years, while acting and working in theatre productions and performing comedy for five.

He rekindled his interest in theatre and improv comedy here that he found in high school.

After dropping out of the University of Ottawa’s theatre program, his dramatic work nearly stopped.

Then Trombetta earned a spot in a 2003 Guild Theatre production, Lysistrata.

“I started showing up and never leaving,” he says.

He’s acted in, or staged managed numerous shows in Whitehorse.

But don’t ask for an exact number.

“Professional people probably write those kinds of things down,” he says.

He currently earns his paycheque as a advertising copy writer and DJ at CKRW 96.1 radio.

Trombetta leaves in mid-July for a month-long fringe festival tour of his show Blasphemy! with stops in Saskatoon and Winnipeg

Fringing is a chance to take his well-honed material to a wider audience.

And the zoo-like atmosphere should be energizing, he said.

“Anyone can put on a show,” says Trombetta. “It’s not juried and no one is paying attention to content. It’s exciting.”

Blasphemy! started as a standup-sketch hybrid routine about religion, a favourite topic Trombetta skewers like a Greek chef.

But it evolved from a religion-only theme to encompass sacred cows of all breeds, like CBC and cherished childhood memories.

The shock and awe of Jesus jokes has waned as mocking religion becomes more acceptable, so the targets have changed, says Trombetta.

“Living in the Yukon, people hold on to a lot of sacred cows — or it’s more apparent,” he says.

“On the CBC, no matter how pedantic the noon-hour show is, by golly, people are going to listen.”

In one sketch, Trombetta writes Jesus a letter raising questions he has about faith and organized religion.

“Then Jesus comes out and answers my questions,” says Trombetta.

“We go to the fair and try to work out our differences.”

What’s the deal with the footprints-in-the-sand-poem about Jesus carrying somebody with wavering faith, asks Trombetta.

“There’re a lot of times I’ve blacked out at the bar when I’ve made it home — I just wondered if that was him,” he riffs.

“If he’s going to carry some dude off the beach I can only assume he can carry me home from the Taku.”

Trombetta honed much of the material in the fringe show at the bi-weekly standup comedy night at Coasters Bar and Grill.

The open mike night brings semi-pros and rank amateurs on stage to test their material.

The show started with local comedian Chris McNutt “yelling over drunk hippies at Whitewater Wednesdays,” says Trombetta.

Then it morphed into a bar-hopping open mike that eventually found a permanent home at Coasters about a year ago.

The comedians are playing to essentially the same small crowd every second Wednesday, so there’s pressure to keep the material fresh, says Trombetta.

“I really like talking about things people do, but no one wants to talk about — like masturbating. Everybody masturbates … or smoking pot,” says Trombetta.

“You can’t throw a bud in this town without hitting a stoner. I’ve never seen so many people that smoke weed in one place.”

But comedy can be tough in a small city.

Last Wednesday, a fight broke out in the back of Coasters during a comic’s routine.

More laughs were directed at the row than the man on stage.

Trombetta prefers the dingy bar with booze-soaked hecklers to practice one’s routine.

The comedy scene in Whitehorse has grown in the past year, thanks to some rising talent, says Trombetta.

He mentions younger local comedians and Coasters regulars Rob Stalkie and Steve McGovern.

“They’re at a place that took me three years to get to,” he says.

Most recently, Trombetta stage managed and starred in the locally produced burlesque-themed smash hit, Varietease.

His vulgar, profane lounge comedian character, with jokes about homosexuals, coupledom and cunnilingus, was one highlight of the show.

“It was nice to craft something like that, to talk through a character,” says Trombetta.

He’ still trying to find the right character to find his normal standup routine.

“I hate to say I use standup comedy as therapy because I don’t feel like I have mental problems,” says Trombetta.

“A lot of comedies are like that. They walk on stage into these proto-personalities.”

Trombetta cites comedy stalwart George Carlin and newer comedians David Cross and the deceased Mitch Hedberg as influences.

Though watching new Canadian comics is just as thrilling, he says.

Trombetta will be appear in the mock-band Dandelion Wreath and its final concert at the arts centre tonight at 8 p.m.

The show also features the world premiere of The Last Potluck, featuring celebrities discussing the band’s impact on music and their lives.

Nine comedians will hit the stage with their best standup material.

Tickets are $15 and available at the box office or Arts Underground.