By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – In his leather jacket, black sun glasses and boot cut denims, complete with handgun sticking out of the waistband, Bernard Robichaud looks exactly like the drug dealer he plays on Trailer Park Boys. All that was missing was the vintage red Corvette he drove around Sunnydale.
But while those who came to meet Cyrus from Trailer Park Boys at Coach’s Corner in Morinville Friday night got to meet and greet the character up close, a perfect storm of inadequate sound system and inattentive patrons deprived anyone of hearing Robichaud’s stand up comedy act.
It wasn’t the first time the Canadian actor has worked a tough crowd, nor is it likely to be the last. Robichaud went on the road in April of this year with his stand up act – Drug Dealer or Public Speaker? You Pick!
Although the venture is a new direction, the actor / writer / comedian is aware that different types of performances come with different working conditions.
“Film and Theatre is very isolated,” he said. “When you’re on TV and film, people say, ‘Talent’s on set – everybody shut up.’ When you do theatre it’s a controlled environment as well where people kind of clap at appropriate times. In comedy or stand up, it’s not a controlled environment. It’s one of those things where you have to be ready. You have to have some heckler lines ready. It really works on your being off the cuff.”
Robichaud’s act was co-written by himself and Andrew Young, the latter of whom won the Mike Meyers Award in Canada a couple years in a row. The actor / comedian said the material received an endorsement from comedienne Elayne Boosler.
“She loved it,” he said. “It’s changed since she read it and kind of gave me the thumbs up on it. Coming from her, I feel pretty confident that the material is good.”
Robichaud said the material was written as if spoken by a stupid drug dealer and is a satirical approach to his Trailer Park Boys character Cyrus.
“People, no matter where I go, still look at me as Cyrus,” he said. “They don’t look at me as Bernard Robichaud, unfortunately. I don’t talk about the show. It’s all about a stupid-ass drug dealer, basically.”
But outside the simplistic character portrayal, Robichaud said the material carries a lot of undercurrents that audiences have to listen carefully for. “There’s a lot of hidden lines in there,” he said.
More than just a comic
Beyond the stand up, Robichaud is looking forward to seeing his play Kitchen Sports, which he wrote in 1995, come to the big screen.
“It looks like it’ll probably go to camera next year because at this point of the year, Telefilm and NB Films have run out of money,” Robichaud said. “The money starts to come around in February or March through the government. It looks like it’ll go to camera next year. That’s what we’re hoping.”
Kitchen Sports is based on Robichaud’s life growing up as a young athlete in a family headed by an exceptional athlete. “My dad had like 55 goals the same year Bobby Hull had 50 in the NHL,” Robichaud said. “And back in the ‘60s, senior leagues in the Maritimes were as strong as the NHL with their six teams.”
Robichaud said when he was writing the play he was often reminded of how his involvement in basketball and Junior B hockey kept him out of trouble and from developing into the type of person he would one day play on Trailer Park Boys.
“The only thing that kept me out of trouble then was the chain link fence that kept me separated from the parking lot where the guys were stealing stereos and s**t and [where] I was shooting baskets or playing ball hockey,” Robichaud said. “Later on in life when I got into my early 20s, it was acting that took me away from being in trouble again. I was spending my weekends with a chip on my shoulder and getting in bar brawls, and thinking nothing about hitting people.”
When he wasn’t pounding people in pubs, Robichaud worked as a model. It was during a fashion show booking in Toronto that he was told that his real calling was acting. It was an idea he spurred at first, thinking that although he’d like to be in acting, so too would 30 million others.
Robichaud pursued the career, entering Dalhousie University as a mature student, but left soon after on the advice of his voice coach to pursue his career on his own. Within two years of leaving the school, Robichaud received his professional accreditation through ACTRA after playing both the male and female roles in a CBC radio drama.
Nearly three decades later, Robichaud is still plying his craft. His most recent film is American Sunset with Cory Haim and Frank Molina.