Back in the relatively tranquil time also known as 2019, Ray Morrison retired after a long career. Then, as he puts it, a few months later everyone else sort of did as well.
Or, at least, they found themselves stuck at home a whole lot more.
“It’s been interesting,” he says, of retiring as co-owner of Couch Potato furniture in North Vancouver last fall. “Everything becomes comedy for me, but the joke is we retired at the end of October – and then in March, everybody else did.”
He jests, though as a longtime business owner himself he’s also highly sympathetic to the fact that COVID-19 has wrecked the bottom line for scores of places across the country. Whether they want to retire or not, many business owners, proprietors and staff are reckoning with the reality they may be forced to close up shop sooner rather than later.
Morrison wants to prevent that from happening by doing what he does best – getting people to laugh.
On July 10, he’s organized an online stand-up comedy showcase called Life Is Still Funny, with proceeds earmarked to support the Corner Stone Bistro in Pemberton Heights, one of his favourite local restaurants.
“When we worked over there, it was a place that we went to,” says Morrison. “First of all, the food is fantastic. It’s a hidden gem.”
The digital show, which is being broadcast via Zoom, will feature six comedians, including Morrison, as they get people laughing and hooting from the comfort of home, reminding them that although times are tough, things can still be hilarious.
“The name changed from Life Is Funny to Life Is Still Funny, and that’s with the pandemic in mind. There’s still things in life that are funny and you can still enjoy life,” says Morrison.
Inspired by the sharp banter of Johnny Carson and the “What’s-the-deal-with-…?” observational stylings of Jerry Seinfeld, Morrison braved the impossible and jumped headfirst into his first comedy class in 2007.
He recalls getting a kick during an exercise that involved making observations about fellow classmates that turned into a commentary on Morrison’s older age relative to the others.
“Everybody was getting weird stuff and ripped, but with me, because I’m older, they just said he looks like he’d be a very good grandpa, or a nice dad – all these pleasant things,” he says. “About as far off as it got was: ‘He looks like he’d be the guy on the strata council who would be overly concerned with the lawn.’”
Morrison was hooked. Shortly after that class ended, he booked a showcase at Lafflines Comedy Club in New Westminster, featuring plenty of other talent including himself, and sold out the venue. Then he basically retired from comedy until 2016.
But in the years leading up to his retirement, he started getting back into it, seeing it as an opportunity to have a good time and get others laughing when he had more time on his hands.
“Even the last year our store was open, I did almost 100 shows,” he says.
A classic example of a Morrison joke involves riffing on him being “the oldest guy on stage,” he says, noting that he started going bald when was 21and has always looked older than his years.
“I got the results of my annual physical last week and the doctor told me I was healthy for my age, but she looked at me and she got serious and she said, ‘But Ray, at the age that you look, you had better start living life one day at a time,’” he quips. “I stopped buying green bananas right away; I only buy the travel size toiletries now; Everyday when I get in the car I put $2.20 worth of gas in – I don’t mind dying but I’m not going to die with a full tank of gas.”
His real comedic joy, however, comes from organizing the comedy show itself and giving plenty of opportunities for other comics to ply their craft.
In addition to Friday’s digital show, Morrison, who lives in Burnaby, has also organized benefit gigs for both a consignment furniture store and restaurant in New Westminster, as well as another restaurant in Burnaby.
All of the proceeds for the Corner Stone Bistro gig will go to support the restaurant. And while the evening will be light-hearted and hilarious, its aim is serious, notes Morrison.
“I know as a business owner they got a long road ahead, especially with restaurants,” he says. “It’s not over, this is when they need us the most.”
Life Is Still Funny, a digital stand-up comedy show in support of Corner Stone Bistro in North Vancouver, Friday, July 10 @ 8 p.m. Zoom link will be sent an hour before showtime. Tickets: $10. Go to Eventbrite.ca and type in “Cornerstone” for more information or to purchase tickets.