Pop Culture

Stars in Cars: Comedian Ron James

Ron James is a standout amongst comedy standups thanks to his razor sharp wit and trademark rapid-fire delivery. At 56, the award-winning comedian still tours across Canada, headlining shows at sold-out theatres from coast to coast. In the wintertime, James often drives to many of his gigs in his old, but reliable 1999 Toyota 4Runner. But in the summer, he trades those wheels and lets loose, hitting the open road and dropping the top of his 2014 BMW 428i cabriolet.

PG: Isn’t it time to dump your 15-year-old 4Runner?

RJ: “I can’t. The first year I had it I took it around the tip of Lake Superior in the wintertime – that’s when I realized what an incredible machine it was, especially getting stuck in blizzards. I was smack dab in the heart of the Canadian Shield in the dead of February with logging trucks plowing out a blizzard on my side of the road. I drove stretches of highway in that baby that a Yeti wouldn’t wander! It’s invincible. It’s never, ever, ever, ever let me down. I’ve got 293,000 km on it! You still see them on the road because they’re reliable.”

PG: Why did you buy a German car instead of another Japanese vehicle?

RJ: “I wanted a fun vehicle. I call my BMW my mid-life crisis-mobile. I’m text book. It’s been five years since I got separated. I got the first one – a 2011 BMW 335i - when I finally managed to put my feet on the ground again and not bemoan my change of life. I thought, hey man I’m going to get a toy! So I did. I wanted something that was fun and the cabriolet appealed to me.

“I love driving the car when you have the wind in your hair with your favourite playlist on and heading along country roads - there’s nothing like it! It really is a beautiful car to drive. Given my Celtic skin, though, it might be the last year I get to drive it. I have to have a lead helmet over my entire face – that’s how susceptible I am to the killer sun.”

PG: Have you had any mishaps with your Bimmer?

RJ: “This is a warning: BMW makes a great vehicle, but don’t expect them to help you out with BMW Roadside Assist. They eventually came through, but it took a great deal of due diligence on my part and my representative at my local BMW dealership.”

“What happened? I got a flat driving my previous Bimmer crossing Montana on Memorial Day weekend outside of Miles City. I cracked my rim driving in – even though you’re supposed to be able to drive on that run-flat tire. I cracked the rim and I was stuck there for 6 days! 6 days trying to get a new rim! And the only way I could get a new rim was to be towed 520 kilometres to Boulder, Colorado for $2,600 bucks each way! BMW would only cover $800 bucks of that. I would drive with a tow-truck driver – that would be a fun conversation, eh? 520 km with some battle-scared veteran of Iraq with a pair of Taliban ears hanging from the rear-view mirror while a pit-bull growls in my ear with probably a dead hooker in cold-storage in the back. That’s what I would be in store for! Anyway, the locals in the town went the extra mile for a wayfaring stranger, broke down on the prairie. All I had to do was hate Obama, love guns and eat beef. BMW ended up apologizing profusely. I had to come back for a gig and they were honourable. They paid for my flight back from the gig, they paid for my hotel, and they paid for everything except the flat tire and the cracked rim! How ironic is that!?”

PG: What was your first car?

RJ: “The very first car I ever owned was a 1984 Rabbit convertible. I drove that on my honeymoon. It was a standard and I blew the clutch in that baby! Suffice it to say I had it for a couple of years. I couldn’t afford a car for the longest time and then my wife at the time won a car - a Buick LeSabre - on a game show in Canada called Split Second back in 1987. I was so broke at the time we’d just look at it in the driveway because we couldn’t afford gas.”

“It was the worst car we ever owned. The Buick LeSabre was actually recalled – it used to stall at 100 km/h and it had hairline cracks in the engine block. It was a two-door LeSabre coupe and you could throw your back out opening the door. Nothing comes for free – that’s the lesson I learned from that.”

PG: When you finally made it did you treat yourself to new wheels?

RJ: “The first vehicle I bought that I had an emotional attachment was the 4Runner in August 1999. I put my one-man show up for a week in Halifax and I ended up extending it for two weeks. It was a show that described my three years of debt, poverty, disappointment and success in Los Angeles. And the money I made from that show I used to lease this truck and then buy it. It’s been my vehicle for the 15 years I’ve been touring Canada. It’s the vehicle that means the most to me – it’s why I can’t get rid of it.”

“I’m taking it in because I want to get it juiced up. I’m getting it pimped out. I want to get some new wheels on it. The only trouble I have with it – because I don’t drive it that much in the summertime – is it stalls. So I have to get my battery juiced all the time. That’s the only drag. But once that baby is on the road it’s great.”

Ron James

Profession: Comedian, Actor + Writer
Age: 56
Hometown: Cape Breton, N.S
My Car: 2014 BMW 428i Cabriolet + 1999 Toyota 4Runner

Notable achievements:
• TV and film credits include Conan O'Brien, Just for Laughs, BlackFly, Tommy Boy, Wings, Night Heat, Robocop and SCTV
• wrote and starred in The Ron James Show on CBC and on several one hour comedy specials including Up and Down in Shaky Town, The Road Between My Ears, Quest for the West, West Coast Wild, Back Home, Manitoba Bound
• received the ‘Dave Broadfoot Comedic Genius Award’ from the CCA
• voted Canadian Comedian of the Year in 2000
• won a Gemini Award as part of the writing team on This Hour Has 22 Minutes
• has appeared on every major TV network in Canada and the US

• his one-hour comedy special, From Fallsview Casino: Ron James, The Big Picture, airs on New Year’s Eve, Wednesday, December 31, 2014 at 9:00 pm (9:30 pm NT) on CBC-TV
• his one-man stand-up comedy show “Pedal to the Metal” runs from February 24 – March 9, 2015 across western Canada
• his one-man comedy show “Take No Prisoners” Tour is at Massey Hall in Toronto, Thurs. April 23, 2015