By Kristina Jarvis
He may have been bumped off the Radio and Television Arts admission list, but now comedian Rick Wharton is getting loads of laughs and a lot applause nationwide.
Rick Wharton will never forget one of the biggest improvised moments of his life – and he can thank Ryerson’s administration for it.
Wharton, now 40, had just finished his first term as a radio and television arts student when he became ill with pneumonia for a month. When he returned, the faculty’s administration decided he had missed too much work. They suggested he return to re-do his first year the following September.
So he took their advice.
But when he came back in August to register for classes, he was told his promised spot in the program had been taken, leaving Wharton scrambling for a place to go to school. He ended up studying film and acting for two years at York University.
“A glitch changed my life drastically,” said Wharton. “It was so heart-breaking when it happened.”
But the heartbreak turned to sheer joy a few months ago when he was nominated for Pretty Funny Male Improviser at the 7th annual Canadian Comedy Awards, which were hosted in London, Ont. this year, by the Comedy Network.
He didn’t win, but he’s happy his comedy is at least getting some attention.
“Comedy doesn’t get the respect it deserves,” said Wharton. “I’m hoping it will only get better.”
His work with the Canadian Comic Witness Protection Program, a group of Canadian comedians who tour around the country performing improv and musical skits, earned him the nomination.
Wharton has also performed at Second City and Rick’s Improv Café. He was nominated for Best Male Performance in the 2002 Canadian Comedy Awards for his role on the Space Channel’s Conspiracy Guy, alongside comedic stars Rick Mercer and Martin Short.
“I was the underdog,” explained Wharton, describing how it felt to be slotted into the same category as two talented comedians he admires. “I had not a hope of winning, but it was a real buzz to be nominated.”
Wharton may not have left Ryerson with a degree, but he feels connected to the school. He has filmed show segments on campus, he’s still friends with people he met in his RTA classes, and he has considered teaching at Ryerson if ever given the chance.
“I always loved the vibe at Ryerson, the hustle and bustle,” he said. “Truthfully, Ryerson had a better vibe than York (and) I’m sure some people wouldn’t blame them for not taking me back.”
Wharton believes improv is all about making choices. He’s happy with the choice he made to move on.
“Everyone makes choices, whether it’s what to wear in the morning, or how to do your hair, everyone does,” he said. “I made that choice and it totally impacted my life. But I’m not looking back.”