Kingston, Ont. -
Some people say that the best dream you can have is to fly. For Lorne Elliott, the best way to wake up is laughing from a dream.
"It's just the best way to wake up," says the wiry-haired comic from Hudson, Que. "I used to have them once or twice a week before my heart attack."
The heart attack happened three years ago, and Elliott remembers nothing funny about it. But how about the tough times we're going through now? Not exactly hilarious are they? Well, Elliott has made a show around it called "The Upside of the Downturn."
First thing is first. The comic wants you to know that the downturn isn't exactly over, contrary to what experts are saying.
Reached during his tour through Saskatchewan, he says, "I read a piece in the Globe saying Saskatchewan is booming, but yet just the other day driving I saw 10 pickup trucks on sale in the front yards," he says. "I didn't see any help wanted signs in the windows either.
"I think the real estate prices are inflated and the experts are talking up the economy. But things are tougher."
So what's the upside, funnyman?
"You have to trust yourself, and your family and your neighbours," says Elliott. "And I read that 40 per cent more gardens have been planted.
"Being more self-sustainable, it's in the air."
Much of the show consists of Elliott and his wife Francoise Doliveux's efforts to cope with the downturn.
"It's about our little attacks in trying to live off the land," says Elliott. "Last year, we were able to be 75 per cent sustainable.
"I talk about fights with squirrels to get the crops in. Squirrels are living proof that you are what you eat."
Of course, the heart attack forced Elliott to adopt a more healthy lifestyle as well.
"It turns out that smoking is bad for you," he says wryly. "I know they say that laughter is the best medicine, but cardiac surgeons says medicine is the best medicine."
The heart attack didn't particularly change Elliott's comedic style either.
"If I was the bitter kind of comedian, I'd probably have a crisis of meaning, but I'm not," he says.
But he does muse that dying while you're laughing wouldn't be a bad way to go out.
There was a time when Elliott would do as many as 300 shows a year, but in the last three years, he has reduced that number to 40 a year.
Currently, he's touring Western Canada and only briefly touching down in Ontario.
Elliott balances standup with a burgeoning career as a playwright. He and his wife have a summer place in Charlottetown and every year put on a new play he has written.
"It's a good discipline for me working with other people," he says.
The comic usually directs his own plays but doesn't put too much emphasis on that.
"I think direction is a modern affectation," he says. "If you cast a play well, then just let the actors do their thing. That's what someone like Noel Coward would do with his plays, and that's what I tend to do."
How does he decide which funny lines go into his standup act and which go into his plays? Says Elliott, "I have a notebook in which I keep all my observations and really I don't know where they're going to go.
"Going through Saskatchewan, you see all these fields, and I started thinking who would want to cut them with a push mower. Now that's something I could have one of my characters say for one reason or another, or it's something I might say on stage."