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OH, CANNABIS, a benefit for the Medical Marijuana Resource Centre and the Medical Marijuana Defence Fund, with CHRIS QUIGLEY, DEREK EDWARDS, JACK NORMAN, RONNIE EDWARDS, KERRY TALMAGE, PAUL SMITH and STEWART SILVER, and legal guest ALAN YOUNG, hosted by HOWARD DOVER, at Yuk Yuk's Superclub (2335 Yonge), Tuesday (September 1) at 8:30 pm. $10. 781-7310.

Oh, Cannabis and Chris Quigley get cosy

Hamilton-dwelling stand-up Chris Quigley, along with some of his more respected cohorts, is a natural for the Oh, Cannabis show being brought together at Yuk Yuk's by Howard Dover to advocate medicinal pot.

It's not that Quigley does any specific material about the blessed herb. But during his ascent up the circuit, he's developed a unique style that has audiences convinced he's stoned out of his mind anyway.

"Just my presence onstage makes people think I'm on drugs," giggles a cool Quigley before Tuesday's (September 1) marijuana mayhem.

Fine timing
So Quigley supports the cause and gets a nice, high-profile gig in the process on, like I said, a killer card.

And the timing couldn't be better, as he's also, these days, been feeling "destined for greatness." He's certainly the least bitter of many of the denizens of this often bitter world. Hitting headliner status helped. And Dover needed a favour.

"I believe marijuana should be made legal for those purposes," Quigley adds. "But I think everyone else on the bill will be doing pot material. It's certainly a sympathetic group. So I'm not going to do any drug material, because it seems rather predictable. My material is a bit stoned-out in nature anyway, but still with good ideas."

Quigley's made a name for himself with that very thing -- he's quick, smart and writes like a demon. He's only been pro for five years, and his act in that time has been thoroughly doused with a whole case of Turtle Wax.

Steven Wright and Hal Roach were his primary inspiration when he started cracking jokes at age 12. But he got stuck on Howie Mandel, and it took a gargantuan effort for him to lose that puerile goofiness and get down to some serious funny business.

Quigley now suffers naught of that same-old-joke syndrome, and the Mandel weirdness is history.

"New material is crucial, both for me and the fans I've gathered," he says, "because if they're coming to see me, I want to keep them happy. I admire Wright's imagination so much. It's all about the mind.

"I imitated Mandel for the longest time when I first started. Even when I was trying to be myself, there were a lot of his mannerisms in the act. I wanted to be known as Chris Quigley. I had to figure out a way not to use my hands. I'd take a drink on with me. It was tough."

As an amateur, then, Quigley opted for the outrageous, hitting the stage in a silly housecoat with a giant water gun. He had material, but went for over-the-top wacky -- until he was told outright he was a cheap version of Mandel.

Mandel muck
"I'm glad I lost the Howie thing," he enthuses. "And ever since then, I've just been myself and it's working out just fine. What I'm most proud of is that I have my own fans now. People come up to me on the street. I haven't been on TV, but they still recognize me."

Most gratifying, though, is that Quigley's able to hold his own on a bill like Oh, Cannabis that features some of the city's finest. Their support and guidance buoys him no end. He thrives on input.

"Some of these guys have been in the business a lot longer than me," he says. "I admire them so much, and they give me good criticism. The fact that they think that I've got it makes me feel good. They see it in me, and that's the best feeling."

And Quigley's motivation is refreshing -- he swears it's all for the craft, not the graft.

Art attack
"I'm doing it for the art," he says. "I'm not in it for the money. I want to perfect the craft -- even though there's no way you can perfect it.

"But as long as I keep at it and don't get bitter, that's all that matters. And for the crowd to have a good time. That's the best high of all -- the applause and the laughter.

"No amount of money can give you that. I'm content doing something I want to do. I'm happy. I'm paying the bills and love writing new material. That's a high, too. When a new joke works it's like being reborn -- starting all over again.

"Anything else that might happen will just be icing on the cake."

Tickets for the show, whose proceeds go to T.O.'s Medical Marijuana Resource Centre and the Medical Marijuana Defence Fund, should be bought in advance -- as opposed to at the door -- at MMRC (517 College), the Toronto Hemp Company (599B Yonge) or Ed's Record World (2359 Yonge), so the show gets the dough.


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