Trent McClellan Interview

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Hailing from Corner Brook, comedian Trent McClellan may be best known for his role on the comedy series This Hour has 22 Minutes. He has also filmed several performances for Just for Laughs, Comedy Central, and the Winnipeg and Halifax Comedy Festival. Trent also hosts his own podcast, The Generators, interviewing creative people and what motivates their work, which you can find on TuneIn Radio and Itunes.
Trent is currently preparing for his Canadian tour with 27 stops in eight provinces, with six performances in Newfoundland and Labrador. I sat down with Trent to talk about his career so far.

What can you tell us about the early days in your career?
It’s kind of weird to talk about the early days, because I always feel like I’m in the early days in my career. I started at an amateur night at a comedy club, they gave me 5 to 7 minutes. Luckily it went well, because if it went poorly I don’t think I would have had the courage to try it again. But I was able to get up there and manage to get some laughs, so I thought “I’d like to pursue this a little longer”. When you first start, there’s a lot of long road-trips, 9-hours through snow drifts. I would often check the weather the night before, and if a storm was coming I’d get up super early to try and beat the storm, considering if I don’t have a gig I don’t get paid. Those early days were a great test, because it makes you realise if you have a real passion for what you do and if you want to pursue it. It’s definitely a test, that’s for sure.

Like many Newfoundlanders, you grew up on the island before basing yourself out of Alberta. Have the two provinces influenced your comedy?
I think so, living in Newfoundland for the first 30 years of my life, I found that almost everyone in Newfoundland has the ability to tell a story and make somebody laugh, so that storytelling culture in just ingrained in me. I also think that Newfoundland culture, East Coast culture in general, we don’t take ourselves or anyone else too seriously. You need that for stand-up comedy, that ability to not put anything too high on a pedestal, make sure everything is open for criticism and make a joke out of it. Moving to Alberta, I got to reinvent myself because I was working in a totally new environment, I was in a totally new industry working with kids and after school programs at the time. When I moved to Alberta around 2003, the economy was booming at the time and anything you wanted to accomplish, you could do in Alberta. If you dream it, work hard enough to achieve it, you could make it here.

Your podcast, The Generators, talks with creators and what motivates their work. How did you come up with the idea for this podcast?
It’s one of those things I try to relate back to my comedy. It’s kind of like having a long conversation with someone during a 9-hour road-trip.You’re having conversations about comedy, life, dating, and whatever is going on in your life. As I get older I really value meaningful conversations, I love being able to sit down with someone, exchanging ideas and learning about this other person, I just love it. I felt like “I want to have a podcast to capture those kinds of conversations”, I’ve talked to journalists, athletes, musicians, and I love talking about their creative process, what their journey has been and it’s fascinating how many parallels you can find in connection to your own life. I already loved that kind of connection, so I wanted to capture those conversations through a microphone.

Is there anything unique about performing in each province?
I think that if you go to Newfoundland, there are things you can talk about culturally that is so unique to the island and different from everywhere else. We do things our own way, and while you’re in Canada it doesn’t feel like the rest of Canada. I feel like whenever I go to a new place or city, I take something in from the place you’re at, whether it was when I’m travelling or if I’m out in town for the day. I like to personalise every show so that it’s in the moment of every town you’re in. My stand-up is pretty universal, so whether you’re in a small town or big city I like talking about stuff everyone can relate to. I’ve met comedians from Los Angeles, and they’ll have 20 minutes of their set talking about how bad traffic is, but that’s a tough sell if you’re doing a show in Kindersley, Saskatchewan. The traffic material and jokes about subways isn’t going to fly everywhere. Performing in small towns and villages, you learn that some stuff translates well to most people. I keep my eyes open for opportunities to comment on things in the community, such as a store sign that looks really odd, it makes me love the moment more. Being a comedian, your search for material is always on in the background, absorbing information even when you’re not aware of it in the moment.

Do you have any comedians in mind you’d like to work with in the future?
That’s probably the hardest question so far, there are so many amazing acts out there. The great thing about comedy is there are so many different acts and styles, I love Bill Burr, Maria Bamford is someone I worked with a few years back and she’s just incredibly funny, humble, and nice. It’s kind of like the podcast where you work with other comedians, or observe them working, you learn. That’s the great thing about this profession is that you’re always learning and improving your act.

Are there any future projects you’re working on?
Yeah, I have a few things in the works. I’d love to shoot a comedy special sometime this year or next year. I’ve thought about writing a book at some point, I’ve always wanted to write one. I think this is going to be a summer of exploring possibilities.

If comedy hadn’t have worked out, what would have been your backup plan?
I would’ve continued working with kids, joining a mentoring program of sorts. I found it really rewarding work, so I would have stayed in that field

You can find tickets for the Happy Hour Tour at artsandculturecenter.com.

Newfoundland and Labrador show dates are:

March 9 @ 8 PM, Grand Falls-Windsor Arts & Culture Center, NL

March 10 @ 8 PM, Gander Arts & Culture Centre, NL

March 12 @ 8 PM Labrador City Arts & Culture Centre, NL

March 13 @ 8 PM, Goose Bay Lawrence O’Brien Centre, NL

March 15 @ 8 PM, Stephenville Arts & Culture Centre, NL

June 19 @ 7 PM, St. John’s Arts & Culture Centre, NL