Matt Billon’s childhood dreams included becoming a police officer, a comedian or a wrestler.
“I’m too lazy to be a wrestler and I couldn’t get into criminology,” said Billon, who will be performing a comedy show in Penticton at the Barley Mill Brew Pub on April 20.
It is a return to his comedic roots for Billon, who said he was known as the class clown when he attended Columbia, Carmi then McNicoll schools in Penticton before moving to Nelson in Grade 11. It was 13 years ago he took his natural talents for being a funny guy onto the stage. The decision was a bit of a shock to some in his family.
“Absolutely, for my mom anyways. She thought I was moving to Calgary to do criminology. That is what I told her, at least. I said I was moving to the big city and had to go under the radar saying I was trying to get into school, but I was there for comedy,” said Billon.
In those early years in his comedy career, Billon wrote material based on his experiences growing up in Penticton and Nelson and quite a bit from his family, making it somewhat awkward when he would do a show locally and his family would come out to watch.
“I would try and sneak into the area without them knowing because I was so nervous but eventually I learned they are just there to support me. I would try and censor my shows too but then I would think, what jokes am I going to have left?” said Billon. “I don’t want to talk about pot in front of them, or do this joke because it is about them, I don’t want to talk about sex in front of them and the next thing you know you are left with a bad show. That is even worse because it is embarrassing having a bad show in front of them.”
Billon has developed a solid reputation for his creative and unassumingly clever material and has landed feature appearances on CBC’s Madly Off in all Directions, The Debaters and written for This Hour Has 22 Minutes. He has performed at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, been on Much Music’s Video On Trial, XM Satellite Radio’s Laugh Attack and had his own one-hour special on The Comedy Network. Along the way he has been the supporting act for Pauly Shore, Harland Williams, Tommy Chong, Rob Schneider and Tom Green.
While Billon said the stand-up comedian industry can be cutthroat, he was lucky enough to meet a helping hand early on in his career. Well-known Canadian comedian Mike MacDonald spotted Billon at the Just For Laughs festival in 2003.
“It was a competition that night and I placed second-runner up. I was really excited because I placed. He came up to me in the lounge and the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘You won that thing hands down.’ Already I liked the guy,” said Billon. “Just from that night we hung out and he would introduce me to everyone saying ‘I was the next guy,’ and ‘This kid has it,’ which was really cool. He completely took me under his wing and we just started hanging out more, writing together and working together.”
The pair have grown to be close friends and have toured together up until recently when MacDonald underwent a liver transplant after having struggled with hepatitis C. Billon said he saw MacDonald last week and that he looks to be improving.
“It is good to see him doing so well and I am really looking forward to getting back on the road together and just seeing him get his life back. He is a living Canadian legend.”
Billon pays the generosity he received early in his career to others. His current touring partner, Mike Craigdallie from Kelowna, is someone who he helped out. The pair are performing at the Barley Mill on April 20 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7 and can be reserved by phone at 250-493-8000.