Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sarah Slean

My interview with Sarah Slean appears in WE and at

Sarah Slean: “I need to be constantly evolving” — and that means working outside the major-label industry.

Sarah Slean: “I need to be constantly evolving” — and that means working outside the major-label industry.

MUSIC: Sarah Slean revels in newfound freedom

With her intelligent songs, swan-like neck, and ruler-perfect posture, Sarah Slean personifies the word regal. Heck, even her speech patterns are so pleasantly polite and mannered, it’s hard not to mentally curtsy at the end of our conversation. (It’s no real surprise she called her 2008 album The Baroness.) The Toronto-based singer-songwriter (and part-time painter and photographer) has spent 10 years cultivating her cabaret-style pop, defying the traditional conventions of career pursuit with a lengthy sojourn in Paris and a baby grand piano at the ready.

Having amicably ditched long-time label Warner Music a few months ago, Slean is now officially self-employed, overseeing every aspect of her career — from her website to her costumes to carbon-offsetting her current Recessionista tour. While becoming a true Renaissance woman, she’s also found time to get engaged and become a university graduate (a Bachelor of Arts in music and philosophy, natch).

WE spoke with Slean over the phone from her home.

Can you talk a little bit about your decision to leave Warner and go indie?

Slean: Sure. I have nothing but great things to say about Warner Music. The people there were incredible. They did the very best with the system and machinery that exists [there], but for an artist like me who’s never really going to be a major radio artist — and I’m constantly changing my sound and experimenting. You know, I’m not doing one thing and making five albums and hoping people catch on. I need to be constantly evolving. And [Warner] perfectly understood that. I’m really excited now to have this business where I know every arm of it is ethical. It’s important to me to do that, and when you’re with a major company like that, you’re not really sure how things are going down. So, I really want to keep a watchful eye on my business and make sure it’s great.

Are you working toward a new album right now?

The next project for me is something called the Art of Time Ensemble. I did a record with these guys, coming out in June, and it’s a handful of jazz and classical musicians and me, and I chose 12 of my favourite songs by Canadian songwriters, and then we did cover versions of them arranged by people for this ensemble. It’s really cool. We recorded on tape — basically live takes — and we’re going to tour that in the fall. Basically, the remainder of the year I’m probably going to be writing.

What’s the biggest difference for you from being in your twenties to now being in your thirties?

[Laughs] Girls love this question! Isn’t this time the best? I’m doing this show on CBC this week about what you’d write in a letter to your 16-year-old self, and I’m thinking: Forget 16! I had it all figured out then. [At] 24, however? I was a real mess then. If I was to write a letter to that person, I’d say, Just relax! Relax and trust that the universe is taking care of you — even though you can’t tell — and everything is going to be fine. I remember some dark nights of the soul from my twenties when I thought, “I cannot go on.” And I can’t fathom having that thought now.

You talked a little bit about how you’re wanting to create different sounds. What are your influences?

Everything: when I read poetry, when I’m curious about the world — which is kind of a constant state for me. I read up on quantum entanglement, and I’m fascinated by all aspects of life. It’s so insanely diverse and complex; everywhere you look, you could pursue something for a lifetime. I’m looking out my window right now and there’s a seagull flying by, and I could study thermal currents forever and never know it all. That, to me, is what’s exciting about getting up every day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

DOXA Film Festival

I got a chance to catch three of the DOXA screenings in advance, and I just love this festival so much. Here are the reviews that appeared in WE.

Awesome sidebar: Alexey Voevoda, the Russian arm wrestler in Pulling John, will be competing in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver as part of the bobsled team. Finally, a reason to be excited about the Olympics! :)

Pulling John’s John Brzenk (right) takes on Sylvester Stallone.

Pulling John’s John Brzenk (right) takes on Sylvester Stallone.

Directed by Vassiliki Khonsari and Sevan Matossian
Mon., May 25 at Vancity Theatre, 9 p.m.

Who knew that arm wrestling, a beloved pastime between drunks perched on bar stools, is actually a legitimate global sport — a sport that receives government funding in places like Russia and Japan? In Pulling John, two men — Travis Bagent, full of American bravado; and Alexey Voevoda, a hulking and determined Russian — pursue a post-Cold War wet dream, whereby each trains to vanquish 25-year world arm-wrestling champion John Brzenk. The humble Brzenk proves to be the most compelling figure, one so focused on his craft that at 18 years old he decided to become an airplane mechanic so he could fly free to arm-wrestling competitions all over the world. Pulling John often looks amateurish, but it’s fascinating, funny, and delivers a satisfyingly tense climax when its three subjects finally collide in a brief but breathtaking battle of bulging biceps. 3 stars (out of 5) —A.W.

Directed by Niko von Glasow
Sat., May 23 at Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour), 9 p.m.

Short or tall, fat or thin, society’s obsession with the perfect body takes on a different meaning in Nobody’s Perfect, a German doc that follows 12 people disabled in utero by the drug Thalidomide between 1957 and 1961. Director von Glasgow, who’s also disabled, sets out to interview and recruit others to pose nude for a photo book. But that bit of brave naughtiness ends up taking a backseat to a history of how Thalidomide came to Germany, and the people responsible for continuing to sell it even after it was declared lethal and dangerous in North America. In this respect, Nobody’s Perfect tries to be too many things to too many people. But, for all its flaws, the film’s subjects transcend survival, leading extraordinary lives under extraordinary circumstances. 3 stars (out of 5) —Andrea Warner

Directed by Jeremiah Zagar
Thurs., May 28 at Pacific Cinémathèque, 7 p.m.

This warts-and-all documentary about artist Isaiah Zarag, made by his filmmaker son Jeremiah, is a voyeur’s paradise. Over four decades, Isaiah has covered more than 50,000 square feet of Philadelphia with his mosaics, all with the support of his wife Julia, who has devoted her entire life to smoothing out the rougher edges of her husband’s eccentricities. In a Dream begins as an ode to his father’s art, but it takes a sharp left turn as Jeremiah digs deeper into his father’s past, unearthing abuse and mental breakdowns. He diligently sticks with the unfolding drama (much of it caused by Isaiah’s actions) even as it threatens the foundations of his family. The film never judges, nor does it condone — a testament to Jeremiah’s strength as a director. Instead, In a Dream is deeply rooted in reality, offering an interesting examination of genius versus madness, devotion versus enabling, and the handcuff-like bonds of love. 3 stars (out of 5) —A.W.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dance Flick

My review of the new Wayans' movie, Dance Flick, is online at


2 stars (out of 5)

The next generation of the Wayans family has risen, and say what you will about their forefathers (and mothers), this is a family that thrives on accomplishing things together. By’s humble estimation, there are at least 11 Wayans siblings of varying ages who acted in, produced, executive produced, wrote, directed, composed music, and lord-knows-what-else for this, their latest pop-culture-skewering satire.

And damned if it isn’t laugh-out-loud funny a few times. Megan (Shoshanna Bush), a white girl who transfers to a primarily black school, just wants to dance. She’s quickly befriended by Charity (Essence Atkins), a 21-year-old just finishing high school who brings her baby with her everywhere she goes. Charity’s brother, Thomas (an incredibly charming Damon Wayans Jr.), who catches Megan’s eye, just happens to be part of a dance crew. Megan and Thomas spend time dancing and dating, but Megan is battling demons about not getting into Julliard and causing her mother’s death, and Thomas is worried about coming up with the money he owes to gangster Sugarbear (David Alan Grier, who seems to relish the wearing of a fat suit) after his crew lost the last dance-off.

As in their Scary Movie franchise, the Wayans don’t deliver a film so much as 90 minutes stuffed with sight gags, one-off jokes, and random shout-outs to well-known dance-oriented movies like Save the Last Dance, How She Move, Fame, and High School Musical, to name a few. (Fans of the genre will have fun playing Name That Movie.) The Wayans also have an uncanny ability to cast ridiculously likable and winning people; they gave the world Anna Farris, after all.

But for all of Dance Flick’s smooth moves, there are bone-jarring stops and starts. Within 15 seconds of its opening, there’s a urination gag. Ten seconds after that, a man shoves his head up his own butt. Plenty of other jokes feel a bit dated, which is always the trouble with lampooning pop culture: Celebrity prominence is fleeting, so jokes about Jessica Simpson don’t tickle the funny bone like they used to.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

TV on the Radio

My interview with TV on the Radio was...interesting. Pick up a copy of WE to check it out.

TV on the Radio share a joke, with varying degrees of success.

TV on the Radio share a joke, with varying degrees of success.

Brooklyn-based TV on the Radio already has legions of adoring fans. The quintet’s unique sound — an amalgamation of disparate influences from Britpop to Afrojazz — and electric live shows have spawned a diverse following, from teen Goth-lite types to pot-smoking neo-hippies.

TVOTR’s founders, Tunde Adebimpe (vocals) and David Sitek (keyboards, guitar), were joined by guitarist and vocalist Kyp Malone for the group’s debut EP, Young Liars. Their first full-length album, 2004’s Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, featured the band’s complete lineup, rounded out by drummer Jaleel Bunton and bassist Gerard Smith. Always critically lauded, TVOTR’s last two albums, 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain and 2008’s Dear Science, claimed the top spot on best-of-year lists from Rolling Stone to the U.K.’s The Guardian.

So, after eight years in an increasingly intense spotlight, one might think TVOTR would have a better handle on the art of self-promotion, but videotaped interviews with the group often reveal men who seem to be in on a joke that only they get. Though friendly and affable, it’s not unusual to see one of them trail off mid-sentence, and then start laughing — an effect not dissimilar to sitting in a hotboxed basement and watching your friends talk about “deep stuff.”

Entertaining? Sure, at times, but it’s not terribly conducive to crafting a compelling story. WE’s first scheduled interview with Malone, while on the road for TVOTR’s summer tour, came and went, as he was nowhere to be found. Take two with the cordial but curious fellow went off without a hitch. Kind of.

How many of these interviews do you have to do today?

Malone: Just two. It’s one of my favourite things to do, so I really feel it’s a privilege.

Really? What do you like about it?

[Laughs] I don’t like doing anything about it! I was just kidding. But I don’t mind talking to you.

You’ve talked a little bit in the past about your experiences listening to the first incarnation of TVOTR, before you joined.

When I first heard them, I didn’t really get it. [Long pause] But it sounded like people having fun. It was kind of a free-for-all show where anyone was getting on stage with them and performing. [Long pause] Is that not the part that you’re talking about? You’re talking about another thing I’ve said a hundred times before?

I was just wanting you to say it in your own words, so I didn’t have to paraphrase somebody else’s.

[Laughs] Right. Um, I remember being very, very, very impressed listening to the Young Liars EP. It felt like, uh, a real record. Which isn’t to take away from any of the other — I don’t know, I was impressed by the sounds of it. It felt very formidable. I felt very proud of it.

What kind of music did you make before joining TVOTR?

I made the same kind of music I make now, but just a younger version of myself, with not as much experience, and without the influences of this time. I was making rock music and experimental music and a bunch of different stuff.

Do you have any themes you like to go back to when you’re writing songs?

Um, there aren’t themes I like to go back to. There are themes that I do go back to. I’m not trying to. I’d like to be diverse in life and experiences, but themes about family and relationships and religion and politics... But, I don’t know. I’m reading about mythologies a lot lately... I just got a book of Haida stories, which I didn’t bring on tour, and I’m actually kicking myself about it, although there’s not a lot of time.

Are you guys working on your next record?

Nope. We’re working on doing the best job we can as a live band, and really making the show a fantastic, supersonic, and psycho-spiritual thing... I’m just saying words now.

Camping getaways close to the city

I forgot to post my urban camping story for getaways as close as 30 minutes to the city.

By Andrea Warner

Weekend camping getaways can feel like a lot more effort than they’re worth: stuffing a tent, sleeping bags, food and other provisions into the car, then spending hours driving to the Interior or the Okanagan, only to set up your campsite for 36 hours before taking it all down and hitting the long road back home. We know you have better ways to spend your time, so we’ve rounded up the quickest and closest ways to help you commune with nature — as little as 30 minutes from your favourite downtown Starbucks and the soothing sounds of the outdoors.

•Dogwood Campgrounds

Quiet, affordable, and within minutes of a major mall if you start freaking out about being so far from the city. Dogwood offers campsites, RV sites, and a little grocery store for mini-emergencies. And there’s an on-site playground in which children can run themselves ragged, ensuring early bedtimes for everyone. (15151 112th Ave., Surrey;

•Mt. Seymour
If you’re feeling truly adventurous and ready to leave behind the luxuries of city living, Mt. Seymour permits walk-in/wilderness camping in its back-country. Enter north of Brockton Point and stay as long as you like (but no open fires). It’s a beautiful forested environment during the summer and dense with snow during the winter, but there aren’t many amenities, so make sure to bring enough food and water for your stay (and garbage bags to clean up after yourself). A group campsite for larger parties can be reserved by calling 604-986-2261, ext. 214. (1700 Mt. Seymour Road, North Vancouver;

•Fort Camping

Located in Brae Island Regional Park, Fort Camping offers beach access, kayaking lessons, and plenty of supervised activities for kids, allowing parents their own playtime. Upcoming theme weekends this month include a Mother’s Day tea party, a “Nifty ’50s” retro long weekend (complete with Elvis impersonator), a pet show, and a chocolate festival! Fort Camping also provide sites for all sizes — tents, campers, and RVs. (9451 Glover Rd., Ft. Langley;

RV hookups, tent camping, and cabins — this is the perfect set-up for those looking to test the camping waters. Cabins sleep up to five, and offer a TV, barbecue, and a mini fridge. But be prepared: The cabins don’t have running water or bathrooms, so you can still say you’re roughing it even if you bring your 700-thread-count sheets. (18843 8th Ave., Surrey;

•Paradise Valley

Halfway up the Sea-to-Sky Highway, but worth the journey, this campsite is nestled in the wilderness, and promotes learning about its eco systems while navigating the trails and waterways that have solidified its reputation as a nature sanctuary. On the upside: giant scoops of ice cream. Downside: pay showers. (3520 Paradise Rd., Squamish;

•Rolley Lake Provincial Park
The warm-water lake is a nice alternative to freezing your bits off, and the predominantly flat landscape makes hiking a breeze for novice nature enthusiasts. If it’s true adventure you’re looking for, try your hand at paddling around the lake in a canoe, or fishing for your supper (but get a license!). (Dewdney Trunk and Bell Rd., Maple Ridge;

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Americans In France

My story about the post-punk band Americans in France is in the Charleston City Paper this week.

Americans in France twist a funny sound

Not So Silly?

They're slim and scrappy ... the type of young adults who thrive on a steady diet of sarcasm, silliness, and at least one photo-op in a sex swing — that is, they're perfect candidates to start a post-punk noise band with a completely nonsensical name like Americans in France.

Former Floridian Josh Lajoie, AIF's singer/guitarist, possesses the nasal twangy voice of his punk forefathers, and he's working on his meaty snarl. He shares vocal duties with drummer Casey Cook, who happens to be a renowned artist. Kent Howard makes up the third part of the AIF triangle, providing pounding bass lines and terrifically funny one-liners.

The trio riff off each other naturally, and their camaraderie comes through even during an interview via e-mail. They're eagerly anticipating the release of their newest album, Pretzelvania. Indie bloggers and established sites like have been kind to several tracks, and AIF still can't get over the fact that Pretzelvania boasts the fingerprints of Grammy award-winning producer/engineer Brian Paulson.

"It was surprising to have the opportunity to work with Paulson, and that he came to our house to do it!" Lajoie says. "Essentially he was cooped up with us. We felt very comfortable." Lajoie and Cook's home served as the de-facto studio, but while its idyllic location in Chatham, N.C., fostered plenty of creative spirit, it also meant that any time of day one could hear AIF's blistering punk shattering the countryside.

"We live on a pond which is basically a giant amphitheater of sound," Cook says. "While we were recording, a lady that lives across the pond would turn her stereo on full blast to illustrate that point every once in a while."

"Her taste in music was surprisingly good," Lajoie adds.

They're equally glib about their unusual name and their songwriting practices.

On their unique moniker, Cook says she imagines spy-type ex-pats living in France, drinking absinthe, smoking fancy cigarettes, and eating baguettes, whereas Lajoie envisions fat tourists in NASCAR T-shirts with bad attitudes. He does admit that fellow Floridian Jim Morrison's defection to France may have also inspired the band's name.

When it comes to crafting their songs, which sometimes come off as impassioned mini-manifestos and sly cultural criticisms ("Mr. Fister" and "Nosejob" come to mind), Lajoie gleefully admits to a controlled chaos. "In the beginning, we'd write songs while we were walking down the street together," he says. "I steal a lot of my lyrics from things people have said to me or from weird movies."

"I'll have words and a melody and bring it to the band knowing it will be filtered through everyone's brain and come out sounding like our song," Cook says.

"We call that not being afraid to kill the baby," Howard adds.

This quick quip is just another example that for all the fury Americans in France pack into their songs, their shared sense of humor is steadily humming below the surface. Or, in certain cases, part of a photo gallery on their MySpace page, which lead this nosy writer to come across a picture of a man fully clothed, joyfully leaning backwards, spread eagle, in a sex swing.

"Yeah, that's me," Lajoie confesses. "Busted. What can I say? Florida chews you up and spits you out."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Kills

My interview with Jamie Hince of the Kills appears in print and online for WE (

The Kills’ Alison Mosshart patiently waits for bandmate Jamie Hince to wake up.

The Kills’ Alison Mosshart patiently waits for bandmate Jamie Hince to wake up.

Lost and Found with the Kills

When WE interviewed the Kills’ Jamie Hince last week, we had no idea we were conversing with a missing person. According to reports discovered after the fact, Kills vocalist Alison Mosshart had put out a call on her Facebook page earlier that day, asking if anyone had seen or heard from the guitarist since the band’s Montreal gig the night before. They were just hours away from showtime in Toronto, and Hince was nowhere to be found.

Groggy and tired-sounding, Hince didn’t seem like a man on the run when we spoke over the phone in the midst of his 16-hour disappearing act. He blamed his rusty pipes on the non-stop action of New York City, where the Kills played a couple of shows before Montreal. He admitted that New York shows are, for him, the most anxiety-inducing. “The record industry people come, and that makes me nervous,” he says. “They’re not the kind of people I like at my shows.”

The kind of people who do frequent Kills shows are often described as too-cool hipsters or fashionista types — an audience the band has willingly cultivated from the beginning. The Kills’ high-energy blues-rock is gritty and sexy, but also slightly art-school; during their first few years of fame, Hince and Mosshart often copped to wanting to recreate Andy Warhol’s Factory.

Hince proves to be funny, sweet, and unguarded throughout our interview — a different man than the one depicted in the tabloids as the on-again, off-again arm candy of supermodel Kate Moss, or by music journalists who seem fixated on portraying the Kills as tough-as-nails, arty intellectuals who ooze sexual tension with their “Are they or aren’t they?” stage presence. Hince shrugs it off as best he can.

“I think it’s a hard thing, writing about music,” he says. “It’s not an enviable job. Vocabulary’s so small these days, you’ve got bands described as a cross between this, that, and something else. It’s hard to describe music without falling into that category of talking in clichés. There’s not that romantic writing anymore that’s gonna be seen in a frame behind glass or as art in a museum piece, as it used to be.”

Making art is all the Kills have ever wanted to do, an earnest declaration that’s been applauded and mocked since the band’s 2003 debut, Keep on Your Mean Side, which is just now being re-released with five bonus tracks. That will have to suffice as a bridge between 2008’s Midnight Boom and the band’s next album, which likely won’t see the light of day until 2010. Hince explains that even though the duo don’t write songs on the road, that’s where the creative process starts.

“What we do is write loads, take pictures, paint and draw and take photographs, and at the end of it we have this huge collection of odds and sods and all sorts of different things,” he says. “Then that becomes a weird sort of journal that starts the next record. It always starts with an aesthetic for us.”

Hince’s voice becomes fully animated. “I think if you come up with something really true and original, it will sound a bit nasty, it will sound a bit ugly,” he says. “I think Picasso said something about that, like you have to run faster than beauty. We did that with Midnight Boom. I was sick of these ’60s and ’70s guitar tones and drum sounds. I really went overboard to try and make a sound that was not like a beautiful guitar sound, but really harsh and ugly.”

The current tour is likely the last push in support of Midnight Boom. When it’s over, Mosshart will spend some time performing with Jack White of the White Stripes in their new side project, the Dead Weather. Hince also has a few other music-based ventures in the works, but he declines to go on record about them, citing “superstition.” He will, however, confirm that he and Mosshart are already working on the Kills’ fourth album.

“I’ve written a couple of songs, but we write songs in so many weird ways,” he says, laughing. “Most of the time it’s on a one-string guitar, with some vague ideas, and you never really know until you get to the studio what sort of style it’s going to be done in. That’s when I sort of go all funny and stuff.”

Friday, May 8, 2009


Only is absolutely wonderful. A great Canadian film!

Starring Jacob Switzer, Elena Hudgins Lyle
Directed by Ingrid Veninger and Simon Reynolds
4 stars (out of 5)

By Andrea Warner
From its simple title to its familiar premise (couple meets and has just one day together), Only has been called Before Sunset for the tween set. It’s a valid comparison, but it doesn’t accurately reflect the film’s real accomplishment: a Canadian indie that is understated, natural, bittersweet, and hopeful.

Twelve-year-old Daniel (Jacob Switzer) is an only child whose hippie parents operate a motel in rural Ontario. Vera (Elena Hudgins Lyle) is 13 years old and staying at the motel en route to Brampton with her dysfunctional parents. Together, the two wander through the snow — bright spots of coloured toques, scarves, and knee-high boots leaving a trail of footprints all over the town and surrounding woods.

As normal kids toeing the line between innocence and adulthood and forced to make up for their parents’ shortcomings, Switzer and Lyle are revelations. They make nuanced choices to reflect children with vivid imaginations who are used to entertaining themselves and bearing their burdens alone.

Only is the first joint production between filmmakers Ingrid Veninger and Simon Reynolds, who also co-star as both sets of parents. The writer/director/producer duo ensure that Daniel and Vera are never talked down to or dismissed. They trust their young actors to improvise, enriching the film’s authenticity. But most significantly, they use long tracking shots to follow the children from a distance and swoop in periodically for close ups, relying on the landscape’s natural beauty to convey the lonely but often magical quality of small-town living.


Starring Rory Culkin, Kieran Culkin
Directed by Steven Martini
2 stars (out of 5)

By Andrea Warner
Like a suffocating hug to the bosom of an overbearing aunt, Steven and Derick Martini smother their indie labour-of-love drama with too much personal involvement and not enough outside help. Not only did the brothers pen the script to Lymelife’s semi-autobiographical ode to late-’70s suburban discontent, but Steven directed and Derick served as both a producer and composer.

Scott (Rory Culkin) is a vulnerable 15-year-old in suburban Long Island, attempting to weather the storm of his dysfunctional family and his devastating crush on the girl next door. He and older brother Jimmy (Kieran Culkin) are helpless witnesses to the dissolution of their parents’ marriage: Brenda (Jill Hennessy) is caught in the grips of Lyme disease paranoia, and Mickey (Alec Baldwin) is a workaholic womanizer. Mickey’s latest fling is next-door neighbour Melissa (Cynthia Nixon), the long-suffering wife of Charlie (Timothy Hutton), a man who’s sunk into a deep depression after being diagnosed with Lyme disease. Bringing it all full circle is their daughter, the lovely Adriana (Emma Roberts), who is the object of young Scott’s affections.

Performances by the high-powered cast rise well above the material, particularly in scenes involving the Culkin brothers, who infuse every exchange with genuine emotion. Although convoluted, the script offers moments of refreshing subtlety. But the limited scope of the Martini brothers’ imagination is glaringly obvious from the outset: The increasingly sick and depressed Charlie starts having hallucinations and becomes obsessed with rifles and hunting — an all-too-easy recipe for disaster that telegraphs the gist of the ending within minutes of the opening frame, thereby rendering Lymelife practically stillborn.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lewis Black

My interview with Lewis Black appears online and in print for WE (WestEnder).
Comedian Lewis Black is kidding — maybe — when he says Canada has begun testing his affections. “I had all this respect for you people, but I think it’ll crumble.”

Comedian Lewis Black is kidding — maybe — when he says Canada has begun testing his affections. “I had all this respect for you people, but I think it’ll crumble.”

For Lewis Black, it’s a full day of back-to-back interviews with Canadian media, but when this writer offers the 60-year-old comedian a chance to hang up after the allotted 15 minutes, he cheerfully declines, saying, “If I don’t keep talking to you, I’ll just have to get up and wander around or find some other way to occupy myself.”

Nice-guy ribbing from one of comedy’s most curmudgeonly characters? It makes sense when you think about the company he keeps: Known associates include Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, fellow Comedy Central funnymen with politically-minded crosses to bear; and Black’s rise to fame can be attributed largely to frequent guest spots on Stewart’s The Daily Show, where his comedic mini-tirades, performed under the title “Back in Black,” hint that he’s just one injustice away from a coronary.

WE caught up with Black over the phone from his home base of New York City, where he was rant-ready on everything from legalizing pot to American Idol.

This tour is called Dual Citizenship. Do you have a secret wish to be Canadian?
Black: At times I’ve had more than a secret wish, starting the first time they were picking numbers in the draft lottery [for the Vietnam War]. The night before, when I went to sleep, I thought, “I hope I wake up and I’m in Calgary.” Especially after the last eight years, I’ve always had that wistful, “Ohhhh. Oh, Canada.” Also, things like the Trailer Park Boys: I know a few of them now, and if I could only have been a Trailer Park Boy! Those guys kill me.

How much of your material focuses on Canada?
Well, the nice thing about this tour is that I’m finally in Canada for a length of time, so my hope is that by the time I get to Vancouver I’ll have a good 20 minutes on Canada. [Laughs] I mean, I just heard that your Minister of Science [Gary Goodyear] is a Creationist. Holy... I mean, that’s five minutes for me! Nothin’ better than a Creationist in charge of science. I had all this respect for you people, but I think it’ll crumble. I’ll be lookin’ to get citizenship in... oh, God knows. What country’s left? Costa Rica. I’ll move on.

The global economy has crapped out, and I wanted to talk to you about California pussyfooting around the idea of legalizing and taxing marijuana.
Yeah, good for them! For the first time, I’m pushing that in my act: pushing legalization. I’ve never pushed for anything, but I’m sick of this, and I don’t even smoke it. But, come on! My generation has not accomplished anything. The least we could do is legalize pot. We can’t even get medical marijuana done! It is stupid — profoundly stupid — when your largest cash crop in three to five states is marijuana. What’s the matter with you? A country of morons. Fucking how dumb are you? And we’ve got Hillary Clinton goin’, “Oh, it’s our insatiable drug needs.” Well, yeah! What are you gonna fuckin’ do, Hillary? Go door to door and talk people off the ledge?

People talk about it as this gateway drug to crack and heroin.
Yeah, you know what it is? A gateway to the fuckin’ refrigerator. You know what that fuckin’ is? It’s like going back to Reefer Madness. People don’t smoke pot and go, “Oh boy! What’s next?” They go, “Where can I get another bag of this shit?” But fine, you don’t wanna legalize pot? Fine, you gotta stop drinking. That’s it. Then I’m moving to France where I can drink my wine. [Laughs]

You’ve called yourself a socialist. What does being a socialist mean to you?
I got tired of the Democrat and Republican models. I’ve always felt, for a long, long time, that everyone only needs a certain amount of money. The argument’s always been, oh, if you can only make a certain amount of money, where are they going to get their drive? Well, maybe if they enjoyed what they’re doing, they’d have drive, you asshole! I was broke for most of my life, and I never had a problem with drive, and it wasn’t so I could make money; it was so I could do my stuff. Especially over the last 20 years of my life, the greed level’s just risen exponentially year by year.

What’s the most evil thing in pop culture right now?
American Idol is a disturbing, giant, gaping hole. If you were flying in an airplane at 30,000 feet and the door came off and people were sucked through the door — much like that is American Idol. And they’ve pulled the door off of the plane and music’s been sucked out. This is the way you’re discovering people? Are you fucking kidding me? I did comedy for years, and I didn’t even start ’til I was 40, but I went out there every night, and that’s what you do. You don’t fucking do a week’s worth of work and get a hair stylist and sing love songs. This is the way you discover talent? Talent really does everything it can to learn about its talent. There’s no learning experience. You can have a certain amount of star quality, but presence comes with taking a bunch of punches, so that when you’re performing you can go, I’m in charge here. I’m on stage, so shut the fuck up.