‘Jimmy the Janitor’ – who hails from Cape Breton – is about to bring his down-home hilarity to Donalda in a special show to benefit the Donalda Museum.
Jimmy (Sandy Gillis), described as one of Canada’s most popular comedy characters, performs at the Donalda Community Hall Nov. 22nd.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with curtain at 7:30 p.m. for the show, which is being presented by the Museum.
Gillis is a native Cape Bretoner now living in Prince Edward Island.
After 25 years in broadcasting, he retired as partner and an operating director of the Maritime Broadcasting System to pursue his ‘funny business’ as comedian ‘Jimmy the Janitor’.
“Back in the early days, I used to do characters when I did what was called the morning show show from 6 to 10 a.m.,” he explained during a recent chat.
“When I was running some stations of my own, we had a competitor coming in against us and I needed something funny in our show. So I created this Cape Breton character to appear every morning to do some funny stuff.”
Folks loved what they were hearing.
“We eventually moved Jimmy to our nine radio stations, and then later on we syndicated the show across Canada and we are on 80 stations now. This also lets Jimmy tour,” he added with a laugh. “So I have retired from radio, and Jimmy is my ‘busy, busy’ hobby.”
Gillis performs about 50 shows a year, plus he’s recorded 11 CDs to date. He’s also landed several comedy appearances on CBC Radio-TV and the Comedy Network, and is a founding member of ‘Late Night Live’ and the Hub Cap Comedy Review.
His experiences of writing funny material for the radio morning show have also translated smoothly into writing material for the character of Jimmy.
“When Jimmy came along, I had to come up with a way of putting Jimmy’s words into some funny situations. So we started writing these one-minute comedy bits. It’s not hard for me – it’s fun! I’m looking at my daytimer now, and it says ‘writing day tomorrow’ which is really fun,” he said.
Meanwhile, he’s eager to hit the stage in Donalda again.
“It’s a fundraising show for the Museum Society, and we had a great show there three or four years ago,” he said. “We get over 200 requests a year for Jimmy to do fundraisers, and can’t do anywhere near close to that because we have our own corporate shows.”
Meanwhile, Gillis is having a blast with Jimmy – he can be somebody, and say things as this quirky character, that Sandy likely wouldn’t say or do.
“The character is easier than being up there as yourself,” he explains of his approach to performance. “You are playing this part, and I’ve been an actor as well. Sandy is quite different from Jimmy – totally different people. Sandy has been the business man for years and Jimmy, well, I put the costume on with that orange hat, and really I can do anything,” he chuckled.
“It’s amazing how the character just takes off, and the character is funny. Sandy is not necessarily anywhere close to being as funny as Jimmy is,” he added.
Off the stage, Gillis is a former United Way Campaign chairman, past chair of the Scottish Association, a former director of the East Coast Music Association, past chair of the Chamber of Commerce and past chair of the Friends of the Moncton Hospital Foundation.
As to being Jimmy, it’s clearly a fantastic gig.
“It’s a great job. People applaud at the end – when does that happen? When was the last time you walked out of your job and people applauded? he added with a laugh.
Tickets for the Nov. 22nd show are $35 (includes a dessert bar) and are available at the Donalda Museum or from any board member or by calling 403-883-2100.
Proceeds will support the Donalda Creamery restoration.