There are stars who say, “I own this town!” And then there’s Shaun Majumder.
Shaun Majumder and his partner, Shelby Fenner, pose for a photo in St. John’s on May 15. — Photos by The Canadian Press
The “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” comedian is buying up much of his hometown in the second season of “Majumder Manor.” The reality series chronicles Majumder’s dream to turn Burlington into a top tourist destination. It returns Monday, July 21 at 11:30 p.m. NT on W network.
The challenge is that Burlington, a picturesque town of about 300, is seven hours from St. John’s, an unspoiled coastal paradise tucked into a remote corner of Canada with little in the way of lodging, attractions or restaurants. Still, for Majumder, it’s a passion project that just won’t go away. “I’m Donny Trump,” he jokes as he sets about rebuilding the town. “I’m actually just trying to create something so that it grows on its own.”
Fans who only know Majumder as his sweaty alter ego, Raj Binder, may be surprised at the seriousness of his manor project. The comedian, however, has always had a very diverse career. Majumder, who also has a home in Los Angeles, has spent years flying to and from the “22 Minutes” studio in Halifax, and has appeared on U.S. dramas such as “The Firm,” “24” and “Detroit 187.” In between he’s shoe-horned a stand-up comedy career. Now he’s venturing into TV production, real estate and tourism. He’s like the “Shark Tank” of satire, a one man “Dragons’ Den” of The Rock.
The good news for Majumder in terms of real estate at least is that Burlington is a bargain. When an old pal tells him an abandoned schoolhouse is for sale, Majumder snaps it up for a few thousand dollars (provided he also pays $500 in back taxes). Majumder, whose father still lives in Burlington (and is featured on the series), now owns enough land to go ahead and build a 5x5 metre guest cabin and set up camp sites. The plan is to eventually erect a tourist-friendly eco lodge. There are fundraising concerts underway, with Sam Roberts among the headliners at a Burlington gathering in August.
Majumder’s Hollywood pals don’t quite get it. Former “Detroit 187” cast mate Jon Michael Hill (now on “Elementary”) “makes fun of me,” says Majumder. “Oh yeah, Shaun, he’s building a city.”
On Season 1, viewers were introduced to producer Peter Blackie, an architect as well as the art director on “Republic of Doyle” (also produced by Take the Shot). Blackie was dragged before the cameras to help Majumder map out his vision for Burlington. You can see him on the “couch segments” sprinkled throughout the series.
“His motivations were based on a love of home,” says Blackie, who, like Majumder, grew up in a small, rural, Newfoundland town. Both worry that these smaller communities, while “unfathomably resilient,” are at risk. “We had a lot that we cared about that was the same,” says Blackie. “This is about Burlington, but in a more meaningful way this is a template that could blaze a trail for other parts of Newfoundland.”
We also meet actress Shelby Fenner, a blond Michigan native who grew up in Florida and met Majumder in Los Angeles. Fenner looks like a California surfer girl, but is all in with her partner’s dream, agreeing to a wedding in Burlington and all the nutty shenanigans flying 90 friends in from L.A. will entail. Viewers will go along on that ride as Season 2 concludes.
Shelby, in fact, proves just as resourceful as Shaun. She accepts a challenge to brew beer to win free suds at the couple’s wedding. The makeshift jacket on Shaun’s back sports a Shelby-inspired marketing initiative.
She stitched, “LAF BOY” across the shoulders, creating a prototype for a line of hoodies and sweatshirts. Shelby and a friend have also penned what Majumder calls, “a stoner chick flick,” a project the couple hope to get to next. “It’s kind of ‘Harold and Kumar’ meets ‘Romy and Michele,”’ he says.
Majumder feels he and Shelby are natural born entrepreneurs. “You are your own business,” he says. “That’s been kind of wired into my head.” He feels Canadian entertainers in general are used to doing everything themselves. “You start doing sketch comedy or theatre, you do your own wardrobe, direction, your own everything. You go to L.A. All of a sudden you are elevated to be just the actor. Everybody else around you takes care of you.”
For now, Majumder is more focused on taking care of others. He’s jazzed that his passion project will have a long-term impact on people looking for jobs in his hometown. “It’s a beautiful, collaborative project,” he says.
The series is a bit like “Tori & Dean” in reverse, with a Hollywood couple leaving the West coast to build a dream home in the Canadian wilderness. The ultimate goal is lofty and meaningful, but the immediate goal is to get all of Canada screeched in to the life he’s always treasured. “Majumder Manor” sounds like a show about a destination, but as Shaun and Shelby have discovered, it’s really all about the journey.