Preview: In Search of Cruise Control (James Gangl)

James Gangl in In Search of Cruise ControlCanadian Comedy Award Winner James Gangl brings his hit one-man Edmonton Fringe show, In Search of Cruise Control, to the Second City John Candy Box Stage this weekend. With dramaturgy and direction by Fringe favourite Chris Gibbs, the show is the true story of Gangl’s attempt to give his teenaged nephew the sex talk.

We asked writer and perfomer Gangl a few questions about the upcoming production:

Can you briefly describe your show and how it was inspired?

The show started with a story about me making all the mistakes I should have made during four years of high school during a four month cruise contract doing sketch comedy aboard the the Norwegian Dawn. It was a tight 15 minutes, a terrible 30 minutes, and a non-existent 50 minutes. I just kept writing darker and darker truths about myself until I ended up with the scariest 60 minutes I’ve ever had to perform… and then I tried to make it funny again.

What can the audience expect to see?

The audience will see me being very honest about some very poor decision-making on my part. That and me doing a bad impression of my mom.

The show premiered at the Edmonton Fringe Festival. Did you enjoy your Fringe experience, and has it shaped the show in new ways?

Yeah. The Edmonton Fringe was amazing! As you mentioned, I opened at the fringe and my director (Chris Gibbs) and I talked about how the Edmonton run would be a workshop for the show. The show received really strong reviews right out of the gate, which actually gave me a lot of freedom to play around with the writing. I tested out a prat-fall and it only worked one of the five times I tried it, so it got cut from the show.

What are some of the pitfalls or perks of doing a one-man show?

Pitfalls: If the show fails it’s all your fault.

Perks: If the show is a success, it’s all because of you.

This is only a half truth. Whenever I write a new solo piece I think I’m going insane and all my writing is shit. And most of my writing is garbage…hence the need for a trusted outside eye that can sort the diamonds from the rough.

What do you think is valuable about sharing such a personal story with an audience? How do people react?

The value in true stories is human connection. Ideally the people I tell my story to will feel as if they are not alone, as if they know me better. I’ve noticed that the more specific and detailed my stories are the more universal they become. It’s a strange paradox. I think it’s because our humanness limits the emotional reactions we can have to our lived experiences. There are a million ways to get to anxiety or depression or happiness or sadness or jealousy or embarrassment but we are limited to these emotions. The more honest I am about my mistakes and how I felt in those moments, the more the audience can see themselves in the story…the more connected we become.


  • In Search of Cruise Control by James Gangl is playing October 2 at 9:00PM and October 3 at 8:00PM at The Second City’s John Candy Box Theatre, 99 Blue Jays Way, 3rd Floor.
  • Tickets, $15 General Admission, are available online and by phone at 416-340-7270.

Photo of James Gangl by Paul Aihoshi