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Sunday, May 19, 2024

James Mullinger celebrates his 20-year obsession

The New Brunswick-based comedian brings his Greatest Hits Tour to Halifax's Yuk Yuk's Comedy Club on May 3 and 4.

In 2023, comedian James Mullinger celebrated ten years in Canada with a tour. In 2024, he embarks on another anniversary tour, this time celebrating twenty years of making audiences laugh. His Greatest Hits Tour includes a stop at Halifax’s Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club on May 3 and 4.

If 20 people are willing to listen to me tell jokes, then that’s the dream. – James Mullinger

Despite an initial shyness and social anxiety, Mullinger’s lifelong fascination with comedy was undeniable. “I considered myself a comedian as a teenager, and I really wanted to do it even though I was showing no signs of being comedic,” he says. “I wasn’t the class clown, and there was nothing remotely funny about me, but I felt like [a comedian] because I was obsessed with it.”

Watching stand-up “religiously and relentlessly” growing up served Mullinger well as he began honing his craft, but the turning point for the New Brunswick-based comedian came in 2005 at a bar in East London.

Fueled by a New Year’s resolution to pursue his dream, Mullinger finally took the stage for his first-ever gig. Leaving his anxieties behind, he adopted the mantra that you “can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.”

That mantra has served the New Brunswick-based comedian well over the years as he realized pursuing a comedy career wasn’t about becoming famous but pursuing something he loved. “If 20 people are willing to listen to me tell jokes, then that’s the dream,” he says.

Acknowleding the challenges of breaking into the industry, particularly when starting later in life than many of his peers, Mullinger persevered.

“When you start, you don’t realize that it’s not a sprint,” he says. “You’re trying to make everything happen very quickly, and then 20 years in you realize it doesn’t quite work like that.”

Mullinger never had a formal mentor, but he credits being a finalist on Jimmy Carr’s Comedy Idol competition and appearing with Carr at the Comedy Store to record a new DVD shortly after as a “validating experience” that kept pushing him forward.

“It was a wonderful experience, but it didn’t change much for me,” says Mullinger. “It basically meant that when you phone up the Comedy Store to get an unpaid open spot, you might only wait three months rather than six months.

James Mullinger appeared as a finalist on Jimmy Carr's Comedy Idol in 2005 as he began his comedy career.
James Mullinger appeared as a finalist on Jimmy Carr’s Comedy Idol in 2005 as he began his comedy career. You can watch the full show on YouTube (Mullinger appears at the 34-minute mark in this NSFW clip).

After performing for 20 years, Mullinger has an estimated 12-13 hours of material. To help whittle down the set list for his anniversary tour, he utilized what he calls “work-in-progress” shows, where he experiments with old and new material. For some of his older work, it is an opportunity to test jokes and gauge their relevance in today’s context.

“So I basically just turned up with all this stuff, tested it, recorded it, and then listened to it all the next day, and whichever stuff gets the love stays in,” he says. “What I’ll be doing in Halifax this weekend is the best of that.”

With two anniversary shows over the past two years, Mullinger has already started thinking about a theme for his next tour that may very well include using his recent ADHD diagnosis and the impact it has had on his life. “My next anniversary tour will be 47 Years of Living with ADHD,” he says. “How does that sound for a clunky title?”

James Mullinger brings his Greatest Hits Tour to Halifax’s Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club on May 3 and 4. Visit yukyuks.com for tickets and information.

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