A champion of Vancouver comedy, Guy MacPherson has died, leaving an important legacy

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      Long-time Georgia Straight comedy writer and What’s So Funny? radio-show host Guy Macpherson has died. He passed away in the early hours of January 31, his family announced on Facebook.

      In the post, MacPherson’s wife Liz Jones wrote, “Apologies to those that are learning of this for the first time. Guy was not one to share this type of thing on social media but he did ask me to post on his page when he passed away. He is at peace now and hopefully listening to some great jazz and laughing in his quiet way at some amazing comedians and watching and playing basketball.”

      In what speaks volumes about MacPherson’s sense of humour, she added, “As a nod to one of his favourite comedians, Norm Macdonald, Guy was adamant that I not say he lost a battle to cancer. The cancer is gone now too. It was a tie.”

      MacPherson began writing about comedy for the Straight in the early ’00s, carving out a place as an impassioned champion of the Vancouver comedy scene.

      At the time, the Straight rarely covered comedians, local or otherwise. MacPherson made it his own personal mission to change that, doggedly advocating to cover not just big visiting names, but the local scene, as well. He quickly became the one journalist in Vancouver who comedians actually enjoyed and looked forward to talking with.

      In the years that followed, MacPherson would be the first to write about future Vancouver stars like Dino Archie and Graham Clark, and praise the brilliance of locally-based legends like Darryl Lennox. Over his career, he’d interview everyone from Craig Ferguson and Kathy Griffin to Russell Peters and Lewis Black.

      Here’s a funny thing: interviewing comics, especially famous ones, isn’t necessarily the most enjoyable job in the world. You sit down expecting them to be funny, only to find that the last thing they’re interested in doing is amusing folks when they are off-stage.

      MacPherson’s great gift was connecting with comedians who often put up walls with other journalists. He’d climb into the ring and hold his own with underground oddballs like Neil Hamburger. And he'd establish long-standing relationships with veterans, his friends and admirers ranging from Canadian mainstay Brent Butt to superstars like Sarah Silverman and the aforementioned Norm Macdonald.

      In his interviews, he had a gift for getting his subjects to go off script—no easy task when dealing with people who often sit there giving standard answers to questions they are asked over and over again.

      A 2020 feature with American comedy giant Bill Burr yielded gold like this excerpt:

      “There’s this stain of ‘America is Donald Trump’ and then you guys act like you’re these saints and you’re one of the most racist countries I’ve ever fuckin’ been to. Any guy of colour that tried to make it in the NHL, his stories of when he was in the minors, it sounds like America in the 1950s.” He laughs as he says this, but it still stings.

      “And your whole m.o. is, ‘Okay, I’m sorry! I’m sorry!’” he says with the imitated Canadian pronunciation Americans find so funny. “Anytime your fuckin’ team loses the Stanley Cup finals, you guys have a fuckin’ riot up there. So there’s obviously something going on up there.”

      MacPherson was raised in Victoria, the son of Canadian jazz icon Fraser MacPherson. His upbringing would give him a lifelong love of jazz, other passions including a conviction that there’s no better sport on the planet than basketball.

      I first met MacPherson through friends in a bar in Kits in the late ’90s, long before he started freelancing for the Straight. We bonded immediately as fellow hypochondriacs, going through a long list of things that we’d been convinced were going to kill us over the years (lumps that turned out to be boils, coughs that turned out to be cold-related chest infections, headaches that turned out to be, well, just headaches).

      MacPherson was as quietly and drily hilarious as he was opinionated, arguing endlessly that there was no such thing as “indie comedy” when we featured a bunch of then-underground comics like Kliph Nesteroff in a special issue. He’d go on tirelessly about the Straight’s jazz coverage being lacking on every front, mostly because he wasn’t writing it. And he’d be off and running whenever it was suggested, mostly by me, that hockey was violently thrilling while his beloved basketball was every bit as boring as billiards, bowling, and baseball.

      A celebration of life on MacPherson’s Facebook page will be announced once the details have been figured out.

      In the meantime, one only has to check the flood of comments and condolences on that page to get a sense of how much he touched Vancouver, not just with his comedy coverage in the Straight, but on his long-running co-op radio show and podcast What’s So Funny?.

      Here’s what was so funny: Guy MacPherson.

      He leaves behind wife Liz, son Louis, and an endless list of friends, colleagues, and grateful admirers. Thanks for making us laugh.