Mike Costello recently celebrated his second anniversary as a stand-up comic, but due to his effortless rapport with audiences, jovial swagger and prolific writing skills — he pens fresh material for every show — he already is one of the city’s most versatile comedy hosts. On November 13, Costello will be master of ceremonies of an evening entitled, “A Cornucopia of Food and Laughter,” at Ristorante Corneli, in Montreal’s Little Italy district. Actor/comedian Guido Cocomello headlines the show, which features Jeff Elliott and Tony “Heavy T” Riccio.
Costello and Riccio, partners in “B Leaf Productions,” are presenting the event, which sold out a month in advance. Costello’s goal as producer is to expand beyond the mainstream Open Mic circuit. “It’s a way of promoting my comedy, of creating professional opportunities and building something larger.” With the success of this, their first effort, Costello promises more shows to come.
Costello’s family moved to Montreal from Ottawa when he was a young child; he attended six different French elementary schools. This was extremely challenging, given that his family didn’t speak the language. “I had to change my friends every year… The only way to make friends was to clown around, which came naturally to me – I enjoyed the attention.” Thus, a comedian was born. Another early training ground was Costello’s “dysfunctional family.” “Using comedy was a way of diffusing tense situations and preventing them from escalating.” Costello’s early influences were Woody Allen, Richard Pryor, Jackie Gleason, Buddy Hackett and Mel Brooks. “I loved comedy – it was all I wanted to see.”
Always a bundle of energy, Costello still considers himself an “ADD Poster Child.” “I have to do seven things at a time to keep myself amused … I have different voices, sometimes conflicting, pushing me in different directions … Comedy keeps them all in check.” With frequent hosting duties as well as a stint on MIKE FM’s “A Little Bit Zany,” Costello looks forward to film, television and voice-over gigs as well.
Costello’s background in technical writing helps him structure his comedy, so that it’s always clear and accessible to his audiences. He begins with an inspiration, expanding and honing it until it’s perfected. Even then, Costello may try the material ten different ways before he’s satisfied. He relies on wife Diane, an astute comedy observer who’s regularly in the audience, to provide feedback regarding audience reactions.
Unlike most newly arrived Montrealers, Costello does not wax romantic over the city, but embraces it fondly, despite its frequent challenges. “Montreal is a great comedy city because we put up with so much,” he says, referring to the harsh winters and occasionally incendiary political climate. “But, there’s more than enough good to offset the bad … We (English-speaking Quebecers) have struggled here, so as a result, we’ve built up a strong resistance … We take so many hits, but we always bounce back.” As it turns out, living in Montreal is an excellent metaphor for stand-up comedy.