Nelson’s own Matt Billon, who has carved a name for himself on the very competitive comedy circuit, is returning to the West Kootenays this weekend as part of the Blackjack Comedy Tour.
The tour will be hitting Castlegar’s Fireside Inn on Saturday, March 10 and Finley’s Irish Bar and Grill in Nelson on Friday, March 9.
“I moved to Nelson and went to high school there,” said Billon, who spoke to the Castlegar News from Banff. “I lived there for quite a few years and I had family that lived there after I moved away. It’s been called home for quite a while.”
Billon is excited to be back in the West Kootenays with the Blackjack Tour, which sees Billon and headliner Mike MacDonald perform 26 dates throughout Western Canada.
“Any chance I get to book a tour through the Kootenays I do,” he said. “I’ll always add an extra week to go through. It’s great. A couple of years ago I moved from Toronto back to Nelson for about three months. I broke up with a girl and moved back to the hometown. It’s such a peaceful, beautiful place. It really energized me.”
For a short while Billon based himself out of Nelson and flew out of the Castlegar Airport to attend shows. “Eventually it was to much travel,” he said.
Billon has a strong resume with several appearances on TV shows and specials including CBC’s “Madly Off in All Directions”, “The Debaters”, and MuchMusic’s “Video on Trial”. He has had his own one hour special on the Comedy Network and been a winner/finalist on “The Great Canadian Laugh Off”, “Stand Up and BITE Me”, and the Seattle International Comedy Competition.
He has been touring with Canadian comedy legend Mike MacDonald for several years with the Blackjack Tour. MacDonald, known as the King of Canadian comedy, has appeared on TV shows such as the David Letterman Show, the Arsenio Hall Show, Just for Laughs, Showtime’s Comedy All-Star Show, and A & E’s “An Evening at the Improv.” MacDonald has had three prime-time specials that have appeared on CBC and Showtime. He has also appeared in a couple of movies including Mr. Nice Guy starring Jackie Chan and Three Fugitives with Nick Nolte.
“We’re doing about 26 shows together this time around,” said Billon. “We try to hit 21 shows but we always go over. Our tours are so long that we can continue to add to the end of tour.”
To make travelling easier, Billon recently bought a big RV in Nelson in October.
“It’s been great. It’s an awesome little tour van. It’s a nine foot van with a shower, kitchen, and furnace. It’s fully liveable,” he said. “I brought it down to L.A. for three weeks doing shows. As far as being on the road, it makes it much easier.”
Billon has a TV show on hold right now that he is hoping to get the green light for. “It’s never ending – meeting after meeting,” he said. “It’s on, it’s off. I try not to think about it. I do have a show that’s been pitched around. It’s a poker show with comics.
“I just got my U.S. work permit so I’ve been chipping away down there. The goal is to come up and tour Canada for six to eight weeks and then go to the States for four weeks. Just keep going back and forth and hope something sticks. Once I got that work permit – I’m going hard. I did a show at the Comedy Store (in L.A.) recently. Now it’s about making new contacts and just putting myself out there.”
Billon says 2011 was a great year for him. Besides doing the Blackjack Comedy Tour with Mike MacDonald, he also got to work with Rob Schneider, Tom Green, Tommy Chong, and Norm MacDonald.
“It was a crazy year,” he said. “I was really lucky as far as that goes.”
Billon got his start in comedy after watching and being inspired by the monthly comedy shows in Nelson.
“I was 19 and I went to a show, I was going to Selkirk College in Castlegar at the time,” he said. “I couldn’t believe how funny these guys were. I was thinking, ‘this is their job. What a cool career.’ So I talked to a couple of them after the show and picked their brains. I did that for about three months and got a lot of great advice. I then moved to Calgary and started doing amateur nights there. I dropped out of kinesiology and there you go. I told my parents I was going to Calgary to go to Mt. Royal College for school.”
Billon said people coming to the show in either Nelson or Castlegar should expect a hilarious evening.
“It’ll be a solid show from start to finish,” he said. “We’re looking forward to being back in Castlegar. That was one of the first stops on the original Blackjack Tour two years ago. We had a great crowd. It’s an awesome venue. We’re looking forward to going back.”