Haven't laughed this hard in a long time
All of a sudden you find out about this other person and it’s like the exact opposite
Elliott Smith is delighted to be alive. The Tampa by way of Ottawa comedian and magician has built a steady career over the past four plus decades, entertaining crowds from Canada to the Caribbean, the Friar’s Club to the National Comedy Hall of Fame Museum in Holiday, Florida, and he wouldn’t dream of doing anything else. In fact it’s all he ever wanted to do since he was six years old. Being able to help people, if only for a little while, forget their problems is the goal, he said. “If I can take them out of reality for a short period of time? What more do I want than that?”
Also the laughs. He loves the laughs.
Admittedly I would have never heard of this particular Elliott Smith if not for a tweet I saw the other day that I found just delightful. Yes I am very easily amused.
Long time readers of this newsletter will know I am something of a Big Elliott Smith Guy, which I’ve written about a few times in here.
From that second one:
I’ve made an asshole of myself in front of beloved bands too many times to count over the past twenty years or so but one I often think about was in like 1998 or 1999 or whenever it was he was touring with Quasi as his band when I saw Elliott Smith standing by the bar at the Troubador in L.A. I was wearing a yellow knit cap in the California heat just like he did all the time because young people don’t know what they’re doing the world is like a dressing room and you’re trying things on constantly going does this work how do I look in this until you settle on something disappointing. He was standing alone and I went up to him nervously and explained how great I thought he was and the entire exchange seemed to really bum him out but I suppose in retrospect things that bum out Elliott Smith isn’t exactly a high bar to cross.
The first time I ever saw him play was a year or so before that at Lupo’s in Providence and we borrowed my college girlfriend’s nice car to drive down there from Worcester and he played Ballad of Big Nothing and I cried standing right there in the middle of the crowd and it had never occurred to me before that point in my life that crying at a show was something that could happen and then we went and got a falafel over at that place on Thayer St. and it was a really good falafel I remember that.
Here’s a podcast I did on one of his records earlier this year if you want to listen to that.
Anyway, and I’m sorry, I simply found the idea of a comedian magician named Elliott Smith very funny. So I wanted to talk to him — at first just to ask if he ever had anyone show up to one of his gigs very, very confused — but then I remembered that sometimes I interview people in here about whatever it is their job is, and especially how those jobs have been impacted during Covid, and a comedian magician is a job as much as anything else, in fact one weirder than most, so it all sort of worked out in the end.
If you want to read previous pieces about working as a pharmacist, or at a water park, or as a sanitation worker, or in coffee shops, or in restaurants (here and here too), or in super markets, or a record store, or as a nurse, or in palliative care, or as a public defender (here too), or as a farmer, there’s a lot more to choose from in the archives.
Most of those you’ll need to be a paying subscriber to read.
So here’s me and Elliott Smith. We talked about some of the highlights of his career, the differences between Canada and Florida, the importance of following your dreams, whether or not audiences are too sensitive nowadays, and, yes, about how he got a number of very confusing phone calls on a really sad day back in 2003.
How long have you been doing this?
I’m going into about forty five years I’ve been doing this. It started when I was six years old. I grew up watching a program on TV called the Mark Wilson Magic Hour on Saturday afternoons. I’d rush home on my bicycle to watch. For my sixth birthday my parents asked what I wanted and I said I want a magic set. I want to be a magician. And they go, that’s nice. Go to school. Get an education. Get a real job. But, here, we’ll get you a magic set. Throughout my career I’ve met a lot of people who when they were kids had a magic set at one point in time. They just didn’t realize how much time and work and effort and patience and diligence and repetition went into it, but I just totally gravitated toward this. I used to come home from school, do my homework, then sequester in my bedroom and practice magic.