Comedian Ron James rambles and ruminates from the Canadian Road
Ron James needs no introduction. We Canadians have known him and loved him, it seems, ever since he was a pup. Well, Ron’s just released a memoir with plenty of heart about our country and the everyday folks who've put a smile on his face. All Over the Map: Rambles and Ruminations from the Canadian Road is an affectionate collection of tales from just about everywhere you can think of, all delivered with the same laser-focused, vivacious storytelling skills that reside in the DNA of any true Cape Bretoner. In other words, what’s not to love?
Ron’s family left the Cape for Halifax when he was a young lad. After completing a history degree at Acadia, Ron joined Toronto’s legendary Second City troupe and began to hone his stage skills. He spent three years in LA chasing the sitcom dream but returned to Canada in 1993 with his one-man show Up and Down in Shaky Town: One Man's Journey Through the California Dream. That set him on the road to stand-up comedy.
Ron’s performance style is reflected in his writing; loquacious riffing (take a breath occasionally, will ya?) that’d get you shunned at a dinner party, blended with the lyrical prose of Margaret Lawrence. “All over the Map” reveals how masterfully well-prepared and thoroughly rehearsed Ron’s stage scripts are, which is why they appear so extemporaneously brilliant.
The motivation to capture life on the road in book form came from Ron’s heartfelt desire to memorialize lessons learned and epiphanies had while “‘following my bliss’ criss-crossing the Big Wide Open.” The result is a virtuosic piece of brilliantly-spun storytelling that takes the reader far beyond the usual memoire style. “I’ve always enjoyed the way words trip off the tongue to tickle the ear as well as the funny bone, so once I found my rhythm with writing the book, the transition felt like a natural fit,” Ron says. “I can thank my Celtic heritage for the love of language but I can't stress enough how important stand-up comedy’s learning curve was.”
Linus once said to Charlie Brown, “I love humanity, it’s people I can’t stand.” Ron James, however, obviously loves the humanity in people, and therein he discovers, out of the thousands of encounters he’s had, the concoction of elements that makes a person’s story and personality stick in his memory. “I’d have to say that first and foremost it's their ’soul note’. Sharing stories connects us. It's what makes us human. The book recounts several encounters I’ve had with Indigenous people whose stories opened my eyes to another Canada I wouldn’t have experienced had I not hit the road. Authenticity is important. You can see it in a person’s eyes and hear it in the timbre of their voice.” The common theme woven into the book is his admiration for “the determination and resilience of the everyman in making tomorrow better than today,” Ron shares. “Marshalling fortitude in the face of the storm gets my respect. Kindness too. I call it the 'heartline hum’.”
Ron James probably knows Canadians better than just about any politician or pundit, so it’s well worth considering his thoughts on the state of the nation and the world at large.
Be sure and order Ron’s wonderfully entertaining book, “All Over the Map,” published by Doubleday Canada, at: http://www.ronjames.ca/.
Ron appears at Centrepointe this St. Patrick’s Day evening, no less, following which there’s sure to be a mocktail or two: https://meridiancentrepointe.com/en/ron-james
PHOTO: Richard Beland