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Jon Dore's stand-up comedy series 'Funny as Hell' back with a new US audience

Last Updated Feb 9, 2017 at 3:40 pm PST

Jon Dore has been funny as hell for years — although his TV show “Funny as Hell” did disappear in 2016.

Dore, the one-time “Canadian Idol” joker who has lived in Los Angeles since 2008, thought the stand-up comedy series was toast when it didn’t return to the airwaves last year.

But “Funny as Hell” got a new lease on life thanks to Seeso, a NBCUniversal-owned digital service launched in the U.S. last year. Looking for proven stand-up content, Seeso teamed with Just for Laughs and Bell Media/HBO Canada to revive the series.

It’s back now with new episodes Fridays on HBO Canada.

Taped during the annual Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal, the series features Ottawa-native Dore as host. He welcomes an edgy and irreverent mix of comedy newcomers and veterans in this six-episode season including Aparna Nancherla (“Late Night with Seth Meyers”), Eugene Mirman (“Bob’s Burgers”), Janeane Garofalo (“The Larry Sanders Show”), Kurt Metzger (“Inside Amy Schumer”), Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe on “24”), Sean Donnelly (“My Dumb Friends” podcast) and Thomas Dale (“Chelsea Lately”).

Dore was happy to jump back in as host — so long as the series didn’t interrupt his other plans last summer. Those plans primarily involved following Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip on their emotional farewell tour.

“I went to the Hip in Victoria, Toronto and Kingston,” says Dore, who admits he’s an obsessive Downie fan. “It was moving and very different, and also beautiful to see what was going on on-stage.”

Seeking to avoid “burning” through his own new stand-up material, Dore sought to give this new season more of a sketch-show spin. To that end, he huddled with two writer/director pals, Adam Brodie and Dave Derewlany. They have Dore climbing ladders and doing various bits of business with the audience before introducing each act.

Brodie and Derewlany directed and helped write the comedian’s former series for The Comedy Network, “The Jon Dore Television Show.” There’s nothing better than working with friends, says Dore.

“Half the fun is just getting in the room together and laughing. It’s basically hanging out with your friends and making jokes all day.”

It’s a formula Dore has followed ever since he used to host murder mystery theatre events as a 22-year-old in Ottawa.

“We would do 28 shows in 25 days over Christmas,” he says. “Those were the most creative, fun, free things because nothing was at stake.”

Dore says he was a “pleaser” when he first started doing stand-up, always hoping to be liked by the audience.

“Then I slowly discovered TV shows like ‘Mr. Show,'” he says. The early HBO cable comedy, starring Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, showed him that “comedy didn’t have to come in threes; it could come in 11s. All of a sudden there were no rules and that was very exciting to me.”

Dore’s stand-up went from deliberately pleasing to edgy and improvisational. Some of his lines take a few seconds to sink in, including one rather cerebral Just for Laughs keeper: “You know what I just realized? I have never had an epiphany.”

Beyond “Funny as Hell,” the 41-year-old has spent the last several years working on sitcoms, sketch shows and pilot series close to home in Hollywood. He’s been showcased on “Conan,” shot an episode of the ABC series “Speechless” and played an ex-boyfriend on “Inside Amy Schumer.”

“I know her from doing stand-up, just being in the States, touring around,” he says. “When she got the show and started blowing up, she invited all her friends on.”

Dore says “the idea of Hollywood is exciting so you go,” but he keeps one foot in Canada, appearing recently on CBC’s “Baroness von Sketch Show.”

“I miss and love Canada,” he says. “I would love to just come back to Canada and do a series. That’s the goal.”

— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.