The Quebec comedian has sold more than 20,000 tickets for the taping of his hit candid podcast Sous écoute at the Bell Centre.
Outside of the UK, it is highly unlikely that many were aware of the feat achieved by Chris and Rosie Ramsey. The pair hit Guinness World Records for the most tickets sold for a podcast recording at London’s O2 Arena on November 30, 2021 for their contribution to Sh*gged, Married, Annoyed culture. An audience of 13,480 people caught the British couple arguing.
But there was at least one person on this side of the pond who took note of the pair’s achievement and was determined to go where no podcaster had gone before. Now the ever-enterprising Quebec comedian Mike Ward is about to break that Guinness World Record on July 22 with Juste pour rire.
Ward has already surpassed the Ramseys, having sold more than 20,000 tickets for the Bell Center taping of his hit Francophone podcast Sous écoute, reputed to be the most popular French-language podcast in the world.
Ward will be loose for four hours, in separate two-hour podcasts, with a surprise guest bevy: “big Quebec francophone stars.” All that is really known about the guests is that venerable Habs organist Diane Bibeau will carefully accompany Ward Buddy, gonzo comic/’rassler/actor/performance artist Mike Paterson in his singing of the national anthem. Almost worth the price of admission alone.
“It was kind of fun,” says Ward, 49, in the comfortable confines of Le Bordel, the Ontario St. E. comedy club he co-owns. “No shit, nothing prepared. No idea what we’re talking about. That’s the beauty of it.”
Nor will he attempt to replicate the Ramsey couple’s shenanigans by including his girlfriend in the podcast: “She’ll be mad, but she won’t go onstage with me,” jokes Ward.
He had some stipulations before going ahead with the Evenko/Juste pour rire/Ward co-production. He wanted to take advantage of the entire Bell Center of over 20,000, not just the smaller amphitheater used for most performances there, and he wanted to keep a cap on ticket prices, making it affordable for his fans. He had his wishes fulfilled.
To the surprise of most, there are now only $30 ticket pockets left available.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Ward says with a smile. “Few expected this, but I really wanted the event to be bigger than Aerosmith, like a U2 show. We’ve already broken the record for the most tickets sold by a comedian at the Bell Centre. But comedians like Sebastian Maniscalco, Kevin Hart and Russell Peters had to deal with bigger stages than me. I’ll have my little table on a small stage.
“We would have broken the entire Bell Center record, but they changed three of the sections, turning them into VIP areas. I would have liked to break that record, UFC 83, when Georges St-Pierre fought there, but even if we sell every last ticket, we’re still 200 short of the St-Pierre fight.”
The only way to resolve this will be for Ward to send Paterson into the Octagon to face St-Pierre.
“It’s GSP… it’s a legend in these places.”
With an Anglo father and a Frankish mother, the Quebec City native is perfectly bilingual and one of the few comedians who can play to full theater in both French and English. Ward also has a successful Anglo podcast, 2 Drink Minimum, which he does with sidekick Pantelis.
His next plan is to set another podcast record, having at least 2 drinks with Pantelis at the Big O.
Ward’s only concert at Juste pour rire will be as a no longer secret guest at the outspoken equivalent of the Nasty Show, Les Rebelles, presented by Pantelis, on July 28 at Théàtre Jean-Duceppe at Place des Arts. Ward had previously hosted the Anglo Nasty Show for a few years. In the fall, he will do a series of Anglo shows at Club Soda.
Ward is still dealing with his court battle in the controversial and protracted Jérémy Gabriel case. Last fall, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Ward’s favor, upholding his right to free speech. In a split decision, the court ruled that there was no discrimination, as Ward joked about singer Gabriel more than a decade ago because he was a celebrity, despite his physical appearance due to Treacher Collins syndrome. The court decided that the Human Rights Court did not have jurisdiction over the matter.
In February, Gabriel and his mother filed separate lawsuits against Ward totaling more than $300,000.
“When I met my lawyer Julius Grey, he told me it was going to be a long process, and that was 10 years ago. So I think maybe in another five years, everything will be ready,” says Ward.
“Yes, I said something that was meant to be a joke 12 years ago. … But after that, I was afraid of going too far in one direction or another, becoming the darkest, most obnoxious comedian there ever was, or becoming a guy afraid of his own shadow. I’m glad it didn’t happen either. … But now I have Julius Gray in my head when he chooses my words on certain topics.”
Ward correctly points out that there is and always has been a lot of nasty stuff in the comedy world, but those who would take offense tend to avoid those shows.
“The difference today is that people tweet about these kinds of shows, and someone who wasn’t there takes the nasty joke out of context. But taken out of context, almost all jokes are cruel.
“I don’t want to go back to the court thing, but I went through this weird depression. The good thing about coming out of a depression is that you realize the things you love to do, and that’s all I do now.”
TAKE A LOOK: Mike Ward does his frank podcast Sous écoute, July 22 at 8 pm at the Bell Center. Tickets: ticketmaster.ca
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