TORONTO — Bobby Slayton has a good reason for going to Montreal every summer to host The Nasty Show at the world-famous Just For Laughs festival.
“A paycheque,” Slayton says. “I don’t like the show. I don’t like Montreal. Never did.”
He’s kidding, of course.
The 59-year-old L.A. comic has been doing The Nasty Show — a collection of stand-up comedians working as blue as they want to — for more than two decades.
“It’s one of the few shows that I really enjoy doing,” he says.
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Slayton says he also enjoys spending time in Montreal, which he describes as “a great walking town” that provides fodder for his act.
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In an interview with Global News from his L.A. home, Slayton recalls being “stuck” in Calgary in May.
“The audiences are great, the club was great, but after a day in Calgary it’s, ‘OK, enough already.’ So I just love coming to Montreal,” he explains. “It’s a great eating town. Montreal has always had that European flair and that great food. It’s just a place I love.”
Slayton has performed at Just For Laughs galas — the shows that are edited into hour-long TV specials — but he says he prefers the freedom of The Nasty Show.
“The galas are great but you do 10 to 15 minutes of nice, clean material for television,” he says. “The thing about The Nasty Show is you say whatever you want and do whatever you want.”
He corrects himself. “Actually, I can’t do whatever I want.
“I come up with a lot of good clean jokes and I say, ‘this isn’t the place for it.’ This is one of the few places where you can’t do clean material. They don’t want that.”
This year’s edition, featuring Ari Shaffir, Derek Seguin, Hailey Boyle, Kurt Metzger and Nick DiPaolo, runs July 9 to 13 at Club Soda and July 24 to 26 at Metropolis.
“I know most of the comics and they’re all A+ comics so it should be great,” Slayton says. “It’s a great line-up.”
Known as the Pitbull of Comedy, the gravel-voiced comedian and actor doesn’t pull any punches on stage. He figures people know what to expect when they come to one of his shows — especially one with the word “nasty” in the title.
“I think they’re trying to get away from political correctness,” says Slayton.
“If, God forbid, there’s someone in the front row who looks offended or pissed off, then I make sure to really go after them because they picked the wrong show to come to.”
Has anyone ever gone beyond heckling at The Nasty Show?
“There was one a**hole one time, many years ago. I was making fun of his girlfriend,” Slayton recalls. “He stood up and threw something at me. He didn’t hit me. But then I went backstage and [Just For Laughs co-founder] Andy Nulman had just come back from a hockey game and gave me his goalie mask. I went back out there in a goalie mask. It was pretty funny.”
Slayton, who cites Don Rickles, Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce as role models, doesn’t seem concerned about negative reactions to his act.
“When people don’t like it they generally don’t say anything,” he says. “But I can’t worry about that. John Lennon was shot and people liked him. Anything can happen. It’s a crazy world out there and I can’t worry about it. I’m not going to hold back.”
Is any topic off limits?
“Anything’s fine as long as it’s really funny,” Slayton replies. “If you do a Holocaust joke or an AIDS joke or a child molesting joke, it better be a really great joke.”
He’ll even use the N-word, he says, but “the joke better be damn good.”
Slayton says he’s also not worried about audience members who post something he said in his act on social media in hopes of causing a furor.
“Let it go global. What do I care?,” he says. “If you want to tweet something or write something about the show, whether it’s good or bad, I don’t think it’s going to affect anyone coming to the show.”
Slayton knows he has to tone down his act for different venues.
“I’m doing The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon [in July] and I’m going to do a complete 180 from The Nasty Show,” he says. “I was in Israel a few weeks ago, I did a tour of the country, and I had to do 25 clean minutes.
“I’ve been doing this long enough. You’ve got to do it.”
Even though Just For Laughs gives Slayton an opportunity to cut loose on stage, he doesn’t get to see many of his fellow comedians perform.
“If I have a minute I’ll watch a guy like Lewis Black or Bill Burr. I’ve seen Don Rickles enough times where I don’t really need to see him again,” he says. “When I’m working, I don’t have time to see anybody and when I have five or six days off between my two weeks I fly back to Los Angeles.
“I mean, I love Montreal but it’s nice to be home for a week.”
The Nasty Show, part of Just for Laughs, runs July 9-13 at Club Soda and July 24-26 at Metropolis. Click here for ticket information.