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Leftovers explores comedian Charles Demers’s lifelong relationship with socialism.

Tim Matheson

When Charles Demers was born, his mother said he would be two things: a comedian and prime minister of Canada.

The first half of her prediction was spot on. After all, Mr. Demers has become one of Vancouver's most in-demand funnymen. Unfortunately for the second half, he was born at exactly the wrong time.

The beloved Vancouver comedian, author and UBC writing instructor – who pens the hugely popular East Van Pantos, regularly appears on CBC's The Debaters and recently released The Horrors: An A to Z of Funny Thoughts on Awful Things – is a lifelong socialist. Problem was, he arrived in the world in 1980, just as staunch capitalists such as Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Brian Mulroney began their long and steady rise.

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And that tension, as well as the ways it has rippled through his life, are the subject of Leftovers, a comedy-theatre hybrid that Mr. Demers co-created with acclaimed theatre-maker Marcus Youssef of Neworld.

"I ended up embracing a world view that the whole rest of the Western political world had just spent half a century expunging," Mr. Demers says on the phone with a laugh. "From a comedy perspective, there's something tragically funny and pathetically wonderful about any time you're saddled with being on the losing side of history. You can weep about it or you can laugh about it."

In the piece, Mr. Demers touches down on various moments in history, both political and personal, from Tommy Douglas's introduction of universal health care in Canada to the serious illness of his mother, who relied heavily on the benefits of Mr. Douglas's socialist ideals. He also explores the politics he's handing down to his young daughter.

He jokes that he was deeply thankful for the election of Justin Trudeau – not because of the new Prime Minister's more socialist underpinnings, but because it made for a better narrative.

"It's easy for people to hate capitalism when somebody like Stephen Harper is the face of it. But when you've got this kind and handsome man backed by a beautiful cabinet that represents us as Canadians, it actually becomes a more complicated thing to hate capitalism," he says. "It's a much more interesting problem."

Through the 70-minute show, audiences will get a crash course in socialism – and plenty of laughs along the way – but Mr. Demers says they needn't worry about weathering a political diatribe.

"With politics, comedy death happens when someone who's absolutely sure of themselves and sure of how we get out of this mess starts hectoring us," he says. "Happily for comedy audiences, I am desperately terrified and confused and don't incline naturally to that feeling of unwavering confidence in my solutions to the problems I'm presenting. So I will be exactly as confused as they are."

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Leftovers is at the York until Jan. 30 as part of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival (pushfestival.ca).

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