"This is a safe city. It's a lot of flip flops at night," Vancouver-based comedian Dino Archie joked of Montreal. Archie began an opener set for fellow comedian Jo Koy at the 34th annual Just For Laughs festival with his analysis of the city: "When you leave the house wearing flip flops, you're saying two things: You're not ready to run, and you're not ready to fight."
After a year of successes—from releasing his first comedy album, Choosy Lover, to appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live—his year’s JFL was no idle time for Archie; the comedian kept busy with a slew of performances. In addition to opening for Koy, Archie appeared in New Faces of Comedy—along with other fresh comedic talent scouted from across North America—and was also featured on the televised comedy series’ Kevin Hart’s LOL Live and Ari Shaffir’s This is Not Happening.
Archie’s comedic style is akin to a friend telling a story over a few beers. Many of his jokes revolve around coolly-recanted tales from his personal life, made accessible to his audience with his approachable tone and willingness to laugh at himself.
Though he maintains a calm and comfortable presence on stage, Archie is not shy to approach topics in his comedy that may be uncomfortable to the average audience member. In one memorable bit from his opening set for Koy, for example, Archie touched on the topic of police brutality in the US by comparing it with his own experience being pulled over for texting while driving by an excessively friendly Canadian officer. After apologizing for inconveniencing Archie and making small talk for several minutes, the officer let him go with a warning.
"He goes, Hey man you're making this really difficult to give you this ticket, you're being too nice,” Archie told the audience. “What a nice guy, he didn't shoot me—what a nice thing to not do. He was so cool. He was like 'Don't worry about it, black lives do matter!'"
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While delving into topics that may make the audience uncomfortable runs the risk of having a joke land poorly, for Archie, taking such chances allows audience members to grow.
“I just like that concept of being ok with things being uncomfortable, being ok with some silence, being ok with some stuff, in an attempt to be original, or take on something that’s more challenging,” Archie said after his show. “This thing makes you feel uncomfortable, but that’s where the growth comes in. I like to play with that element of this might go to a dark place, but I’m not just gonna leave you there. Be uncomfortable. The crowd needs to be uncomfortable sometimes. Push people’s boundaries.”
While pushing his audience to leave their comfort zones, Archie instigates his own discomfort by toying with the potential for uncertainty in his performance, often adjusting his set immediately before, or even during a performance.
“I do map [my set] out, but I don’t write it down, and I don’t time it,” Archie explained. “It really depends on if I can get a look at the crowd. Sometimes to the moment of when I’m walking to the mic will change what the first thing that comes out of my mouth is […] The possibility of ‘Oh I don’t know what I’m gonna say next’ […] it makes it more organic.”
A central part of Archie’s comedic writing process is taking everyday moments, like mushroom trips and forgetting online account passwords, and turning them into relatable bits. The process of creating these anecdotal jokes involves constantly thinking about how to turn an experience into a story and using the feedback of other comedians to perfect his set.
“My mind is always creating; I’m always at work,” Archie said. “I don’t necessarily sit and write, but I’m always thinking, and I’m always like ‘Man what’s the angle [to take with this joke]’, and then I riff [with others] and we talk, and then something will come out.”
For Archie, being surrounded by other successful comedians at a festival like Just For Laughs is not only beneficial for his joke-writing process, it also inspires him to continue growing in his writing and his stand-up career.
“When I’m around funnier people than me or people that challenge me, then [I’m] going to get better,” Archie said. “It’s all about being open-minded and going ‘There’s another level to get to, so I’m at a certain place now, and I want to keep growing.’”
Looking back on his growth as a comic over time, taking the plunge into starting stand-up nine years ago was just a matter of portraying himself, as he is in everyday conversation, onstage.
“Even if I wasn’t a comic, [comics were] the people I related to,” Archie said. “Even if I didn’t do stand-up, I would still be talking the way that I talk. When I worked at AT&T, I would talk this way, and I kind of thought this way, but I just sold phones.”
Since his days selling phones, Archie has learned the power of taking a chance, while acknowledging the reality of how long it may take to find success.
“Don’t be afraid to bet on yourself, and don’t have kids for a while so you can take 10 years and do something,” Archie said. “Give yourself some time to follow your dream, and if you go that whole route, and it ain't it, then you at least gave it a shot. So, don’t believe in the limitations and keep pushing it. And don’t expect this shit to happen overnight.”
After years of pushing himself in comedy, Archie has perfected the ability to tell a story, and his opening set for Koy was no exception. Archie draws audiences in with the vivid detail of his stories, transforming the mundane into laughter.