FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Jebb Fink
February 18, 2014
He credits his ease in life as, “it takes no time to be a nice guy”.
We have lots in common. We both love to be on stage. We both love to cook.
We both began our working lives as shoe-merchants. We loved selling footwear to women.
What’s not to love about that?
Jebb Fink began life in Compton, California, grew up and was schooled in North Long Beach – until one day his dad sold his sport-fishing business and moved the family to Coeure d’Alene, Idaho where he finished school and began his work life – selling shoes and managing shoe stores for independent specialty stores and a chain – a journey that took him to Spokane, several cities in Alaska (Kinei, Fairbanks and Anchorage) and back home again – all before he ever stood on a stage to be funny.
I first met Jebb, as so many Calgarians have, at a fund raising event where he was emcee, or roasting someone – and of course we know him from long stints on local television doing breakfast shows, evening news coverage or we’ve seen him on comedy specials, Montreal Comedy fest pieces. In recent years he continues to do lots of charity events in Calgary as always but now his mix is ‘on the road’ with his comedy act or ‘at home’ doing corporate work – entertaining at business sessions, conferences and parties. His adventures in writing, producing and performing have grounded him as 'complete entertainer'. How well he has done it have endeared him to his audiences.
He says - with great conviction that it wasn't producers and directors he relied upon. "Camermen taught me how to do televison".
His website bills him as The American in Canada but Calgarians happily claim him as ‘ours’. If you attend many fund-raisers, roasts or corporate events in Calgary you’ll surely cross Jebb’s path – and if you haven’t, I’m sure his agent Nancy Beavan would be happy to arrange a booking.
His inspiration in comedy is rooted in a love of Flip Wilson, FosterBrooks and others from that era. His stories of meeting and being influenced by Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler and meeting so many others – he’s not a name-dropper, but he has some fabulous stories involving Don Rickles, Bob Newhart, Mike MacDonald, Ted Rogers and many more. I didn’t take notes because I was laughing too hard.
His on-stage life began at an open-mike event. At the time he was running a convenience store/gas station. It was a mix of amateurs and pros, Jerry Seinfeld was the headliner, and the competition ensued. Jebb made it to the semi-finals and was hooked. Open mike opportunities followed in Seattle, work offers followed and his life on-the-road began. He credits help from other comics. And, of course, he was funny. That was 1983.
He visited Calgary for the first time in 1984 for a comedy club date. Being noticed by a booking agent led to work in Edmonton where he met booking agent Judy Sims. She later moved to Calgary where she established CallBack Corporate Entertainment. She also made a personal booking! Jebb felt his best shot was to woo her with food, so he set out to impress her with his offerings. It must have been good – she married him. Her agency continues to handle Jebb’s bookings.
His pre-entertainer years read like a story of a guy on the road – as has his life as an entertainer, comedian, TV personality/host in Calgary and in Los Angelese, writer and producer, but he calls Calgary home and does a large portion of his gigs here.
Jebb credits being a ‘stay at home dad’ with his two youngest children – one due to a back injury, the other due to work scheduling as being humbling, formative and an important part of his life-balance. Also, he developed substantial culinary skills – which, he tells me, can be the cause of some kitchen conflicts when married to a foodie!
Jebb’s family is a geographic distribution of blends – 3 grown children from his first marriage, 1 from his second. A sister, a half-sister. And 10 grandchildren – with an 11th due in April.
Jebb is also developing a ‘soon to be launched’ BBQ sauce product. Watch for it this spring at local food outlets …
I asked Jebb how he sees his corporate comedy business, and the entertainment industry, faring over the next 90 days?
…. Last year was a little thin – the flood impacted how companies allocated resources and pulled back on spending – but the year before was my best ever. I expect 2014 to be a very strong year.
And over the next 5 years?
…. the entertainment industry is cyclical – there are always new trends, but for club work, for my kind of work – those of us who are good at what we do will always do well and have work.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… no yelling! ..and no blaming – that wastes time, energy and money. Efficient. Good at what they do. I heavily rely on those cameramen.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Jebb Fink, why do they do business with you, hire you, over your competitors?
… really good at what I do. I have a good reputation. They trust I’m not going to offend their audience.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… my future. What to do?
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my dad. He was funny right to the end. He drank, smoked and died of lung cancer. In 1981 I broke my back in an accident and took a year off. That year at home with the kids gave me a lot of perspective.
Work life balance?
… yes and no. I’ve used Clarity life coaching for many years. I do as many thing at one time as humanly possible.
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