By Gurman Sahota, March 21 2017 —
University of Calgary student Spencer Streichert used his knack for perfectly-timed humour to get started in comedy. After spending four months practising for his first stand-up gig, Streichert was hooked when people laughed with him. The Gauntlet sat down with the actor and comic to talk about his new album Winning by Default — available online — dark comedy and taking risks to avoid going back to mundane day jobs.
The Gauntlet: How has university shaped your comedy career?
Spencer Streichert: It’s kind of been nice because I recorded my album right at the start of my university career. I did it because I knew that in 10 years I wasn’t going to be using that material, I also knew I wasn’t going to be doing a lot of comedy while I was in university — I’m doing the drama program so I’m acting all the time. I think it’s helped me because I’ve been able to write things in a new way. Now, since I’ve been in university, I’ve been meeting so many people that come from very similar backgrounds but also from very different backgrounds.
Every comic, when they start out, they go with the darkest and the dirtiest and then as you get better you learn. You kind of figure out different writing styles — realizing that there is a time and a place for being dark and dirty but there is also something to be said for if you’re not doing that in a smart way — you’re just being offensive.
G: Can you speak more about your album?
S: The album is called Winning by Default. I actually decided to record it because I got fired from my job last summer and I realized I didn’t want to get another day job ever again in my life. I didn’t want to have to go to another job, learn how to do that job that I hate and then hate doing that job for another period of time until something better comes along. I decided to do it on my 21st birthday too so that I could guilt people into coming to the show.
I recorded it and waited until December to release it. I wanted to make sure I didn’t release it too soon after the album was recorded because I didn’t want it to be flooding people’s Facebook feeds with ‘look, I did this and now you can buy it!’ I didn’t think it would get as popular as it has. Especially in this day and age with the social media aspect, it’s cool that people can find your art, who have no idea who you are and then become fans of you and then get a hold of you all in a matter of 30 minutes.
G: Have you noticed any shifts in how you perform your pieces from your first time doing stand-up to now?
S: When I first did stand-up, I went with trying to talk about sex a lot to trying to be smart with talking about politics and religion or things like that. My confidence has also changed. Back then I was nervous about saying things and now I’m confident in saying things because I’m doing everything from a self-deprecating point of view. Instead of trying to shit on other people for their opinions, ideas, for their views on anything [I now am] looking at my own views and shitting on them as well as myself. I can find a way to make fun of other people and myself at the same time, which is kind of a nice feeling.
G: Do you plan on taking comedy to a professional level or are you focusing more on school at the moment?
S: I’m doing a little bit of both. For the next couple of months, I’m focusing strictly on acting but it’s only because that’s where the opportunities have been so far. I also don’t have very much material right now. After the album, I didn’t want to be that guy that goes out and does his material that’s been recorded and asks the audience to buy his album after. I felt like that would be the
crappiest way of doing things. I decided I would wait until I have at least 20 minutes of material again before I start booking myself for gigs. I’m still in the scene but I’m not going to be getting any shows booked in the near future.
G: Do you often give yourself a timeline to gather material?
S: The pressure is what makes good art, I think. When you have to get things [done] by a certain amount of time. Because otherwise, I could wait two years to get 20 minutes and that would be terrible. The material would probably be good in two years, but I wouldn’t be challenging myself as an artist. Giving myself timelines and making myself do these things keeps me hustling. Like I said, I’m not going to get another day job again — now I have to make it work. Regardless of how I do it, I have to make it work.
Edited for brevity and clarity.