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January, 2008

Coyote Morning

Good For Darren Frost
And with any luck, good for everyone
By  Diego X. Jesus

Darren Frost thought for years writing silly stuff was the ticket. Now he's sharpened up.
ut of the cancer-gulch environs of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada arises the tortured soul of one Darren Frost.

The stand-up-pipsqueak-turned-public-pontificator-turned-serious-thinker was known – until a recent epiphany as a comedy writer – for cluttering up various and sundry stages with some pretty sorry jokes and some silly clothes.gnome-like, pathologically goofy public facade brought with it, however, an incessant little tic, a constant punctuation of every punch line, floater or sinker – a non-discriminating, absurdly perfunctory, nasally delivered tag line, “Good for me!"

It became, Frost now realizes, sort of a trademark by default, a much-needed gimmick to keep people interested as he “just plowed through” with a “manufactured” act that nevertheless brought him back-to-back second- and third-place finishes in his shots at the influential Toronto Comedy Festival’s national amateur championships.

But in his 12 and a half years on the stand up and TV commercial scene, he’s learned not only was “Good for me!” good only for the odd laugh, he realized he’d better get at writing something of a little more substance.

Frost himself is painfully aware of the phenomenon as anyone. Writers of comedy must crank funny material. The act can go stale as fast as a two-day old loaf of bread, a situation that would infuriate a comic ingrate and miser like Frost.

His typewriter was, and has been, the open-mike circuit – bagging, on a couple of occasions throughout his career, some 30 shows in 20 nights – like a rabid weasel. And that, at least on the stand-up stage, is pretty much what he’s become. These days it’s not hard to imagine the little fella actually sitting at his computer, ripping up a bit of flesh. Frost “lets it flow” now. And on a good rant, no question – the guy’s a demented, desperate riot.

Like such a character in a short story, or sitcom, Frost has changed characters more times than Carson snuck drags of cigarettes off-camera. He generally doesn’t do “Good for me!” any more. He’s cultivated a darker, nastier character now that screams the most horrifying of obscenities, but mixing it up, goofing off, doing the Funky Chicken, kicking people off stage – the stuff of which sketch/screen writing is made.

Out the window with the contrived material has gone Frost’s encroaching bitterness toward show business; a condition friends say is more advance than is healthy of the already high-strung lad. So in its place he tries to work the best aspects of silliness and polish them to a dark glean with the sardonic.

Says he’s gotten to a level where he knows funny, which affords him the freedom to soar or plummet, whichever mood strikes first. Otherwise, he’s terrified of stagnation, and doesn’t give a dirty rodent’s hindquarters if you tell him not to spread himself too thin, from the point of view of amassing a manageable repertoire.

He’s angry now; you can see it in his writing. Years ago he wore his heart on his sleeve and was desperate to be liked. And his doesn’t give a good deity’s curse now, if you hate his guts. He’s also taken to wearing dark suits onstage. Frost’s advice to young comedy writers? “Keep it dark, as**oles."

This may seem extreme, even for an extremist of Frost’s caliber. But it’s all part of a diabolically shifty plan in which he’ll attempt to pack what he’s learned about material gathering from idols Kenny Robinson, Jack Norman and Mark Walker – edgy writers all – and take it on the road.

In the end, Frost maintains, people “like it dark.” And whacked out.

Lord knows he's not stranger to that.

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Diego X. Jesus is a Dominican-born American freelance journalist and associate editor of IN who makes Toronto his home approximately half the time. Otherwise, we don't know where he might be. Email Diego Jesus

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