“Hold on a sec. Let me turn down Sesame Street,” says comedian Elvira (pronounced El-veer-a) Kurt as we begin our interview. She and her partner have an eight-month-old baby, which has been affecting more than just their television viewing habits.
When asked what she's been up to lately, Kurt answers: “No sleep. And right now we're having some teething issues. Major life adjustment—that's what I'm up to these days.”
But she's also been shooting a new reality series for Logo, First Comes Love. Kurt says it's based on a Canadian show from last year that Scott Thompson hosted— My Fabulous Gay Wedding —and that the American cable channel tweaked the format as well as the name.
“They thought having a show with gay in the title was redundant for the gay channel,” Kurt deadpans. “It's shot up here in Canada because, you know, it's legal,” she adds with a characteristically animated cadence that's difficult to convey in print.
Though she's made a career as a comic performer, Kurt studied animation at Toronto's esteemed Sheridan College. Faced with two job offers after college, one in animation and the other improv, she chose to join the Second City comedy troupe.
Kurt knows Thompson from her ten years living in L.A., which ended recently when she moved back to her hometown of Toronto. The two transplanted Canadians used to commiserate, she recalls: “Even though we speak the same language and you couldn't tell a Canadian from an American visually, culturally it's incredible. It's like, oh my God. They think about things completely differently.”
“Canadians are so self-effacing,” Kurt continues. “We're so self-deprecating. And Americans are so ‘Look at me. I'm here. I'll tell you what's good, I'll tell you what's right.”
Kurt acknowledges it's a reputation that drives many Americans traveling abroad to pose as Canadian. “But you always give yourselves away,” she taunts. “Eventually foreigners will turn to each other and whatever their word for ‘brash' is will come up, and they'll say, ‘Not Canadian.' You'll push to the front, you'll tell someone what to do, and then you've blown your cover.”
Kurt is best known for her solo stage work. She has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and specials as well as series on Comedy Central, HBO, Showtime, CBC, CTV and The Comedy Network. Her one-hour TV special, I'm a Big Girl Now, was nominated for a Gemini (Canadian equivalent of an Emmy) and won a Worldfest International Gold Award. She has also received a Canadian Comedy Award.
In 1999 she released a CD, Kitten with a Wit. Last year she produced, hosted, and wrote for the Comedy Network daily show Popcultured with Elvira Kurt.
And now Kurt is one of four comics featured in the film Laughing Matters…More!, which continues to collect awards on the festival circuit.