The Ron James Quest For The West DVD may be the most Canadian / local colour and topics of his, to date, three releases (The Road Between My Ears and West Coast Wild being the other two). Not to say that Quest For The West is not a highly enjoyable stand-up comedy DVD as James is once again in fine form and once more amazes with his nonpareil writing talent; for example covering some 150 years of western province history -from a Ford Taurus to sod huts-in less than thirty seconds.

Ron James is one of very few monologuists around and that in itself is praiseworthy. What never ceases to amaze however, and I am pretty sure I have everything James has released -including a bootleg audio of Up and Down in Shaky Town-and I know I’ve listened to everything more than a few times, is the man’s ability to tell an extremely well-written story that sounds good to the ear, is basically clean, and gets its laughs without relying on putdowns or cheap laughs.

Granted, James does mug a bit for the audience on Quest For the West which is unusual but at the same time you get the feeling you are watching an expert angler jiggling the lure to get a bigger laugh and his High Noon at the Fort Edmonton Corral is worth it.

This comic can write and paint a picture at the same time, “That’s the west I’ll be seeing. Standing small on a patch of Saskatchewan rolling prairie on one of those sun-smiley meadowlark mornings to watch the wind rule the big wide open ‘neath blue skies filthy with eagle-eyed raptors in flight tucking for lunch in a prairie dog town”

It is one of the many things l love about James and he is, as always, in fine form in his take on the western prairies, their peoples, their histories, the politics, and their many quirks. Oh, and he does a great gopher.

There are too many really good moments on Quest For The West to really point out the best ones but I especially liked James’ take on the Calgary Stampede, the very short coyote versus shitsu joke, the gun bit from the Up and Down show and the Canadian gun control bit, and “a couple of rent-a-cops from a gene pool so shallow you wouldn’t get wet jumping in”.

Not everything on this stand-up comedy DVD is prairie based. James does a nicely set up aside on flying after 9/11 that somehow manages to incorporate preemie caribou births setting up a terrorist eighteen-month old.

This is one of those you have to hear it to believe it routines that not only makes you laugh out loud (again) but blows you away by its artistry. The show then moves on to more worldly topics before getting to the Rockies, skiing, and the joys of grizzly bears.

There is only one cheap laugh in this show: James can never resist doing his Bobby DeNiro imitation and he tries to sneak it in here. The closer is a bit abrupt but that could simply because I was enjoying myself so much I didn’t really want it to end.

Ron James and the producers kept the snow globe Canadian factoids that segued to and from the commercials when Quest for the West was originally aired on the CBC. They are just neat little things but I like them.

Quest For The West
Ron James
Stand-up Comedy DVD
CBC Home Video
60 minutes

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