Yellowknifer Alex Sparling walked onstage at the Hollywood Improv last night to the sounds of Hockey Night in Canada’s old theme music. He had six minutes to crack up an audience of 220 people, many of them industry insiders and kingmakers within the highly competitive world of comedy.
Proof that he killed came swiftly.
“A manager, a guy from L.A., gave me a shout this morning. He said he loved what I did last night and he and a tour-booking company would like to meet with me Friday,” the 27-year-old told EDGE in a telephone interview from his room at the Sheraton Universal hotel in Los Angeles.
Sparling was one of nine finalists selected from thousands who competed, mainly throughout the U.S., for a coveted spot at last night’s NBC Standup Diversity Showcase. It’s an opportunity for people of different ethnic backgrounds, or with physical disabilities – “people not usually chosen for leads” Sparling says – to get a role in a TV comedy.
His particular qualification for the competition comes from the fact that he lost an eye in a horrific home invasion in 2008 in Vancouver, where he now lives. Intruders beat him with a hammer, crushing part of his skull, in a case of mistaken identity.
His standup set last night included “a bit of one-eye stuff, a bit of marijuana, another joke about cooking with MDMA, and a great joke about telemarketing,” he says. “So really highbrow humour.”
The winner will be announced in January, but Sparling says just having had the all-expenses-paid opportunity to perform in North America’s entertainment capital is enough to make him feel like he’s already won.
“It was amazing, it was surreal,” says the graduate of Sir John High School. He says the other comics were wholly supportive, especially during the technical run.
“You have to run your whole set for the eight other comics, which was just a nightmare, but everybody was supportive and laughing. It wasn’t lost on everybody what was going on.”
He’s won other comedy competitions, and recently made it to the top three in the Sirius XM Top Comic Competition.
Sparling says Ice Road Truckers became his favourite TV show this week. “Only because it made explaining where I’m from so much easier. A very northern part of Canada… near the Arctic… ice and snow… Ice Road Truckers? Oh! Yah, yah, wow, you’re from there?”
Sparling heads back to Vancouver on Saturday, where he will be performing throughout December as a regular at Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club.