Dave Merry: Making magic with a unique skill set
By Kerry Turner
Dave Merry has been Canada’s leading comic magician and has travelled the globe making people laugh for the last 35 years. When the curtain rises at the 2024 CIPH Gala in Support of Habitat for Humanity in Toronto on March 19, he’ll be ready to entertain. “A nice big corporate job like that is right in my wheelhouse,” says Merry. “It’s going to be a nice gig.”
A seasoned professional, the larger events still get his heart going, such as opening for a big band or working in a very large venue. “I opened for the Beach Boys not that long ago and we had almost 18,000 people in the audience. That gets the heart going and requires a little bit of extra preparation.”
Merry has a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Comedy Magic Seminar and has been nominated at the Canadian Comedy Awards for Best One Man Show and Best Variety Act. He is an award-winning writer and member of the Writers Guild of Canada. He writes all of his own material and over the years has written jokes for legendary comedians, including Joan Rivers and Rodney Dangerfield.
In January of 2018, Merry and his business partners established Home Invasion Studios, where he has written television pilots and feature-length films. Since then, his projects have featured prominently at film festivals. He was the director and executive producer of Off the Hozzle, a comedy golf travel show on CBS Sports Network. Merry has written for the Canadian Comedy Awards, was a writer and host of Global TV’s sports trivia show Game On and Get a Grip on Golf, and in 2017 was a cast member and writer on Super Channel’s Too Much Information.
The question that springs to mind is, how does anyone have such a diverse resume? But Merry’s career trajectory makes perfect sense. From heading to Vegas in his twenties to play blackjack professionally, to reaching for a pen in between gigs, using time wisely has provided the foundation for the next business venture. While in Vegas he would watch comedic icons perform when he wasn’t at the card table. That prompted him to give standup a try.
“When I lived in Las Vegas I’d go by all these fancy casinos that would have a comedian performing. I saw Rich Little, Johnny Carson and Don Rickles. That’s when I found my first love of comedy. I realized I was going to stop playing cards for a living and go into comedy full time.”
When he was on the road Merry spent his days playing golf, eventually becoming a golf pro. He would later combine those skills and offer more than 1,400 corporate golf events with clinics through the day and a comedy/magic show in the evening.
“With so many years on the road as a career comedian, first of all I tried to use my time wisely. If I was on a weekend gig, I would bring my golf clubs so I could do something healthy and constructive during the day instead of sitting in a hotel room. That’s where the golf came in.
“By playing so much golf, I actually became pretty good. When I was in my twenties, I decided to take a run at a Canadian qualifying school. I didn’t make the tour full-time, but I made both cuts. And with that I became a golf professional.
“In the ‘80s when people were doing so many corporate golf tournaments, I decided to package it as such; where you could get one person who was a comedian, a golf professional, and a magician to come out to your corporate golf tournaments to entertain in three different ways. I was lucky enough to have several different talents,” recalls Merry. “When I was on cruise ships, I couldn’t golf, so I wrote movies.”
During his childhood, Merry had a serious speech impediment. “I learned how to mask it. I also slowed my talking down. My mind was working too quickly, as they told me,” recalls Merry. Fast forward and today he has added motivational speaking to his repertoire. “One of my managers knew that I stuttered very badly as a kid. She was fascinated that later in life I ended up making a living speaking and suggested motivational speaking. I talk about following your goals and taking risks. Things can change in life. Don’t get stuck in your ways because if you’re clever about stuff, you can make things happen.”
What’s next in the script?
Merry has three adult children. “People ask if the kids have any interest in doing it − my kids all are very, very funny. They come by it naturally. But when someone goes into comedy that is not a multi-generational career. It’s a very peculiar line of work to go into. Even though they’re all very funny, it’s one thing to be funny, it’s another to take it to the stage and then be able to carry it off for 35 years.”
Over the course of his own career, which has included more than 7,000 shows, Merry spent most of the year away from his family on the road or in the air. “I wanted to do comedy. I practiced it very hard and became quite busy and good at it. And I did that for 35 years. As an exit strategy, I didn’t want to be full time on an airplane, so I opened a TV and film company. My biggest challenge was making the transition from only stand-up comedy to entertainment on a larger basis. That’s what my TV and film company is all about.
“I’m launching my new movie called Switched at Death. We filmed it in March and into the summer, and now we’re actively selling my first feature-length film.” This career step has proven to be a success. Merry recently won the New York International Film Awards for Best Movie and Best First-Time Director.