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Blind comic sees funniest things


Standup Gordon Paynter knows how to turn an obstacle into an advantage.

Paynter is blind and, throughout his headline set Thursday night at Yuk Yuks Superclub, 2335 Yonge St., he used this condition to mine laughs from his sell-out crowd. "I got a talking clock for my birthday," he told his audience, as he produced the timepiece from his breast pocket "Have you ever seen one of these?"He paused and shot his crowd a smile: "Neither have I."

Paynter lost his sight when he was 22. A diabetic, the comedian's blindness was a result of complications that caused him to suffer detached retinas. The loss sent Paynter into a deep depression. He had held hopes of becoming a professional comedian and he believed they had vanished. In 1984, however, Paynter ventured into Yuk Yuks and took a turn appearing on amateur night. He scored big laughs and has been doing standup ever since.
Thursday's show was vintage Paynter. He is a tall, red-haired fellow who, that night, sported a yellow jacket off-set by a jet black shirt and pants. This colorful appearance matched Paynter's upbeat stage presence (which borders on Las Vegas glibness).

He regularly combines his high energy with a set-up/punchilne style. That is, he relies on jokes, rather than anecdotes, to pull laughs. At least 75 per cent are plays on his blindness. Using humor, Paynter takes his audience's preconceived notions of the visually impaired and flip flops them, often with hilarious results.

"If I don't look right at you," he told one patron. "Play along. I'm lucky if I get the right room." Paynter made a quip about a naturopath putting him on diet in which he eats "50 carrots a day." He boasted that he and his wife never lose their tempers. "We fight but she never yells. All she does is move the furniture."

One of Paynter's larger pieces of schtick in a segment in which he pulls an member from the audience, at random, and describes their appearance from head to toe. On Thursday, Paynter brought a woman from her seat and proceeded to guess her weight, age, hair, color with hysterical accuracy. 'I'd say you're 5-foot-8," he told her. "I'm 5-foot-7, she replied. "What do you want?" Paynter countered. "A miracle? I'm blind."

Paynter also uses physical work when he is sending home a punchilne. Perhaps, because he is unable to visually monitor his own expressions, many of his facial quirks and images have a frank, unabashed quality.

Paynter is a regular headliner at YukYuk's. If you like affable, high energy standup be sure to remember his name.

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