Nick Flanagan is a writer, actor and stand-up comic. A triple threat, you could call him. A renaissance man, a polymath, maybe. Really busy. Trying to make a living as an artist. Any one of those.
He explains it thusly: "The whole analogy is Dungeons & Dragons, where you have multi-class characters, only a half-elf can have three classes at once---a half-elf, that would be the product of a human and an elf. Say you're a fighter. That's all well and good, except when you kill a troll, the 60 Experience Points you get are divided three ways. But if you were only a fighter you would get all 60 points."
Flanagan is based in Toronto, where he writes for Toro, performs at a weekly show called Laugh Sabbath, does "little kids' TV writing" and films funny interviews. With barely a day to sleep off a trip to South by Southwest, he's coming to Halifax this week chiefly to film the second season of the web series Moderation Town. He will also host a big show at Gus' on Sunday that includes Cheryl Hann, Andrew Bush and his Toronto friends Mike Balazo and Tim Gilbert ("I have no local humour written as of yet," he warns).
Flanagan's performance career actually began in music, most notably as the singer for the The Brutal Knights, a band name-checked with Fucked Up as part of Toronto's punk scene explosion. When he first tried comedy---his brand is the wry, occasionally punny, low-key-nerd kind---he didn't really take it seriously.
"I think I was critiquing what I perceived was stand-up comedy, the cheesy elements of stand-up....My vocabulary with stand-up increased in that I started seeing people I liked in the present, then I started being aware of people from the past," he says. "Once that happened maybe the disparity between being on stage in a band and being on stage as a comic, that become more apparent then, for better or worse.
"I started going around to the States and doing better shows in LA and New York, seeing Paul F. Tompkins and Todd Barry. When you realize there's so many great comedians going through the comedy club system and really doing the work---you couldn't be doing comedy two nights a week and taking the piss out of comedy."
Moderation Town is a locally produced workplace comedy starring Flanagan, about a company that moderates internet content. "Compared to all the other web shorts I've shot it didn't feel guerilla," he says of the first season, which was shot in the home of Evan Jones, whose Stitch Media produces the show.
"There's a fund that provides money for it, so there's lighting and food and a crew and actors. Generally with web shorts, it's whatever camera you have and maybe a bit of lighting. This is way less Che Guevara. You know, guerilla."
The new season will be shot in an actual office, and is "just gonna be a bit of expanding the world of it. The first one primarily being in this home-office environment. There may be a scene of someone walking in the street this season," he says.
"No, scratch that, we don't need that. The show is just gonna be a still shot of a modem. You know The Replacements video for 'Bastards of Young'? It's just a still shot of a record player while the song plays. The season is gonna be just a still shot of a modem."