Nathan Lane bringing the Canadian jokes to Montreal’s Just For Laughs

Nathan Lane is one of those chameleons in the industry, who can seamlessly go from stage to screen and back again without batting an eye. Audiences, too, seem to revel in his performances no matter what the medium.

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At age 60, Lane isn’t showing any signs of slowing down or getting himself trapped in any sort of rut. The versatile actor can go from something light and silly — like the transient Pepper character in Modern Family — to something heavy and requiring gravitas, like the role of real-life F. Lee Bailey in The People vs. O.J. Simpson. It seems effortless for him.

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On top of all that, Lane is also a master of comedy. The Tony, SAG and Emmy Award winner is bringing that gift to Montrealers on July 28, when he headlines the Nathan Lane Showstopper Videotron Gala at the city’s Just For Laughs comedy festival. Global News had a few minutes to chat with Lane about his upcoming stop north of the border, and Montreal audiences can rest assured he’s bringing his repertoire of Canadian jokes along with him.

Global News: How do you find time to do all of this stuff? You go from stage to screen like it’s no big deal.
Nathan Lane: Well, that’s what you hope for in this career. That kind of diversity and those challenges, all of that. It’s great to be able to go from one to the other. I feel very lucky to be able to do it, and it certainly keeps things interesting.

Not a lot of actors have that diversity in output — many just have that one thing they do.
Bless your heart. I feel so much better about my career after talking to you! [Laughs] You try, but you don’t always have control over that, you know? I certainly think that my theatre work has had an impact on other things, especially in TV, less so in film. I try to seek out these challenges, whether it’s doing The Iceman Cometh in Chicago or doing the stint on The Good Wife. People always remember you for the most successful things you’ve done, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have success in musical theatre and comedy, so that’s what people think of first.

Do you have a preference? Stage or screen?
Oh, the theatre. It’s always where I feel most at home. The theatre offers the more interesting parts, for me anyway.

So you’re headlining this Showstopper Gala at JFL Montreal…
I’m hosting, yes. I had nothing to do with the title. [Laughs] I have no idea why they called it that. [Laughs] We’re not putting on any big numbers or anything, but there’s a little song we’re putting on at the beginning. I’m looking forward to it, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

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Is it more musical, or stand-up, or both?
It’s stand-up, and I’m definitely doing a lot of jokes. There’s a little bit of political stuff … we’re going to do a so-called “deleted” scene from The People vs. O.J. Simpson with volunteers from the audience. It should be a lot of fun. We’re going to be highlighting a lot of these great comics.

Given the rather serious political climate right now, is it harder to put on comedy shows?
Well, I think people still want to laugh. This is an entire festival devoted to comedy, so that’s the job description for me: to show up and entertain people, to help people take their minds off of things.

Are you planning on sneaking in any Canadian jokes?
[Laughs] Oh, there’s a lot of Canadian jokes. There’s a big tribute to Canada at the very beginning.

Any Celine Dion jokes?
[Laughs] No… [Laughs] No Celine Dion this time.

The Nathan Lane Showstopper Videotron Gala presented by Air Canada takes place on July 28 at 7:00 p.m. at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier Place-des-Arts. You can find ticket information here.

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