Irwin Barker is one of Canada’s best-loved comedy writers and stand up comedians. Most Canadians wouldn’t recognize him in the supermarket aisle. But within the comedy business, at the comedy clubs and in the writing rooms of television shows, and in the green rooms of Canada’s comedy festivals, Irwin is a living legend. He’s the stand-ups’ stand-up; a master at his craft, who sets the standard that younger comedy writers (the smart ones at least) aspire to. These days, living in Toronto, Irwin is working up new material. It may be the most hilarious and fulfilling writing of his life. And it may also be his last. Irwin Barker is diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“That’s My Time” is a one hour documentary that chronicles Irwin’s journey with cancer, and his determination that he will “find the funny” in what is for most of us the least funny predicament imaginable. “Just as there was real value to bringing humour to a war-zone,” Irwin said after a recent trip to Kandahar to entertain Canadian troops, “Similarly, there is a purpose and a value to finding the humour in cancer. I’m sure of it. So that’s it. I’m doing it.”
Through candid interviews, the viewer will come to know Irwin as he mines this unlikely terrain for laughter and comedic insights. We’ll witness the writing process, and the on-stage performance of brand-new material. Some might find the subject difficult. For certain, once word spreads of Irwin’s new set, comedy fans – and his peers – will pack the clubs to listen. Interspersed with the new material is biographical information, and clips from previous work (the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, The Vancouver Comedy Festival. This Hour Has 22 Minutes, The CBC TV Pilot “The Truth About …”, the Ha!ifax Comedy Fest). And the viewer will learn about the hard reality of living with cancer and the treatments required, through the prism of one of Canada’s most gifted comedy writers.
“Guilt, anger, resentment … I realize I have no time or energy for those things.” says Irwin. “I call it “travelling light” and that also has a nice double entendre ring to it as a theme: travelling light, a comedian’s journey with cancer.”