Funny. That’s the first word that comes to mind when anyone mentions the name Peter Oldring. And while the versatile actor and master improviser from Calgary has been working steadily for the past 25 years with roles in everything from K19: The Widowmaker to Young People F***ing to House of Cards, it’s on radio and podcasts where you might recognize Oldring best.
Every week for nine seasons, Oldring and his longtime comedic partner Pat Kelly fooled Canadians with their award-winning satirical CBC radio show This Is That, a truly brilliant sendup on CBC’s everyday interviews with normal Canadians.
Oldring’s latest character is the deeply delusional L.A.-based “thought-leader” Dexter Guff, star of the hit satirical podcast “Dexter Guff Is Smarter Than You” from Vancouver’s Kelly and Kelly Creative.
Next week, as part of the Just For Laughs Northwest Comedy Festival, Oldring brings us the live show Dexter Guff’s Success Symposium & Soul Summit Seminar, where you will be invited to “wear a lanyard at a conference like other successful people,” among many other promised Tony Robbins-like life-changing moments.
I caught up with Oldring to set the stage for what promises to be the funniest event Vancouver has experienced since the Canucks signed Jan Bulis.
Before we get to the Success Symposium, you had an incredible run with This Is That. I have my favourite bits from the show, but what were a couple of yours?
One that stands out for sure was the Calgary aquarium story we did. The premise was that the aquarium was closing down and because of a number of complications it was hard to transfer the fish to another aquarium. So instead they decided to have a barbecue in the parking lot. Visitors could point to any fish in any tank and have it prepared over open coals! A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enjoy grilled manatee! It was the first story we did that had hundreds of listeners calling in. It was the first time we realized that some of our listeners didn’t know our show was satire. In many ways it shaped This Is That for seasons to come. Another story I loved was ball less soccer… to address the negative impact of competition in youth sports, a soccer league removed the ball from soccer. That way there could be no winners or losers. If someone said they scored nobody could argue they didn’t. There was no ball. I loved the image of a bunch of kids running around a soccer pitch kicking at the air. Incidentally, Fox News took our story and covered it as truth.
Near the end of This is That, you emerged with the Dexter Guff podcast. You play Dexter. Who is this guy? How did you come up with him? Who inspired him?
Dexter Guff! Yes! Dex is a self-proclaimed self-help guru! A thought leading thinkfluencing braggadocious entrepreneurial hustler! But mostly an idiot. In his podcast he coaches people on how to live their very best life personally and professionally, meanwhile his life is a complete and utter disaster. Years ago we shot a comedy video with This Is That where Pat Kelly parodied a guy giving a TED talk. A podcasting company approached us and asked if we would be interested in developing a podcast parody of thought leaders and self-help gurus. That’s where Dexter Guff was born. There are so many self-help podcasts that listeners have a strong sense of the whole “thought leader” genre. Lots of our listeners love real self-help podcasts and also really appreciate us taking a comedic parody of that world, too.
What has it been like for you both personally and professionally to play this completely narcissistic asshole for a few years now?
As was the case with This Is That, has anyone been fooled into thinking that Dexter Guff really is a world famous jet setting “lifestyle entrepreneur” who “keynotes” conferences no one has ever heard?
Definitely when you go to the comments section of our show you can tell that there are people who don’t realize Dexter Guff is satire. Personally, I love characters that are oblivious to how they come across. Loudmouths who believe they’re the smartest person in the room with little proof of why that would be. General jackasses who are somewhat “tone deaf” to what they’re saying. I love those characters. I love being able show cracks in their puffed up façade that allows them to be vulnerable. Despite Dex’s many shortcomings I always want the audience to care about him. To feel for him. I love the challenge of that dichotomy.
You're bringing your Dexter Guff character to Vancouver for a live show with a mouthful of a name. What can people expect? Is there any way we can prepare?
This will be the first time Dexter Guff has ever done a live show! Yes, there will be special guests! Yes, someone in the audience will likely be brought onstage for Dex to change their life! There will be lanyards, power points and potentially a song if Dex is so inspired. The podcast itself is very improvisational so that will play a part in the live show as well. Honestly, anything could happen.
The current season of Dexter Guff Is Smarter Than You appears to be over. Will there be more? What's next for Dex?
In the case of the podcast yeah, there wasn’t really a definitive end for season two. Dex just kinda vanished. But we are about to launch into production on more episodes in February. Dex will have some long-winded excuse for why he’s been MIA. May have been serving a light incarceration due to a Ponzi scheme that he was involved in. A simple misunderstanding! Not quite sure yet. Stay tuned.
Dexter Guff’s Success Symposium & Soul Summit Seminar is at the Biltmore Cabaret on Sunday, Feb. 16, 5 to 7 p.m. Tickets $25, 19+. Lanyards provided.