Bobby Lee isn’t changing a goddamn thing

The Nasty Show host tells us why he won’t edit his comedy for 2019 audiences.

The Nasty Show has long been a fixture at Just for Laughs, and if last week’s spate of shows were any indication, that won’t stop anytime soon. Still, one wonders whether or not it should or even could. Discourse has changed and will continue to change, and with it, the things that comics “can” say or joke about without fear of reprisal — or worse. 

Honestly, I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing — but I do see it from the other side. I get why people bemoan a certain flavour of sensitivity or political correctness; I get why people think you should be able to joke about anything. I don’t necessarily agree, but I get it. I wondered, though, if Bobby Lee — this year’s Nasty Show host — felt the same way. So I asked him.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Publicist connecting the call: Bobby I have Dave on the line for you.

Bobby Lee: I love Dave.

Dave Jaffer: That makes one of us.

BL: You don’t love yourself?

DJ: Not yet. Anyway, I was going to ask you a bunch of questions but I was just on your Instagram. What happened at the Ontario [California] improv?

BL: My opener was onstage, and then all of a sudden, this guy, he was really thuggish, and he just charged the stage because my opener said he would fuck him. That’s all he said. He looked at the guy and said, “Hey, I’d fuck you.” And the guy got up and he raced to the stage and it was pandemonium. It was insane. 

DJ: That happen a lot?

BL: It happens. I have a weird cross-section of people who like me. I have “harder” elements who follow me. I don’t know why they like me. It got pretty violent, too, but they kicked him out and I went up. It was fine.

DJ: I’ve been in a few clubs where someone gets upset at something some comic said, and it’s always a dude, and it’s always a dude who feels threatened. The guy who heckles, and then the comic heckles him back and he doesn’t like getting owned in public. 

BL: It’s alcohol, but also, I had done some research, talked to the manager at this club and he said this guy had just got out of prison. Stand-up, on the road — usually it’s good but sometimes some really fucked up things happen that I carry with me for the rest of my life. I’ve had people pick me up by my neck and throw me on the ground because I’m so small and kind of fat and weak. That’s why I don’t say hi to people after my shows.

DJ: You’re hosting the Nasty Show and so I wanted to talk a bit about how that kind of comedy fits in given current social mores. Today there are seemingly more rules about what you can and can’t say. So how do you prepare a set for the Nasty Show given where we are in culture?

BL: Honestly, when I perform, I don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with what I’m saying, and I don’t even view it as dirty or nasty. People say, “You can’t say ‘retarded.’” I’m going to say it. I refuse to edit anything that I do, really, and I don’t care. I know a lot of comics are getting in trouble, right? And most of the time I don’t know why they’re in trouble, because I don’t find things to be that offensive as I guess [they are]. But I refuse to really change; I’m not going to change. Because I know what my heart says. I love everybody. Maybe I’m lucky and I haven’t been accused of anything yet.

DJ: You say, “I haven’t been accused.” That speaks to the fact that there is this line where everybody knows where it is, and what side of the line to be on.

BL: I’m able to get away with a lot more because I look the way I do and I act the way I do. I’m not that threatening sexually towards women. In terms of men in the audience, they don’t have that masculinity thing that they do with me because they know they could crush me, so I’m able to go up on stage and get away with a lot more because I am who I am. It’s always the good-looking white guy, handsome — like, I feel like [Anthony] Jeselnik has a harder time. ■

The Nasty Show continues nightly at MTelus (59 Ste-Catherine E.) through July 27, 9:30 p.m., $62