Did you hear the one about Calgary’s growing comedy scene? It’s not the biggest secret in the world, Calgary is developing into a great comedy town. All this week the first ever YYComedy festival will be highlighting all the funny our city has to offer. Held Sled Island style at a host of YYC’s comedy venues, the festival will feature Calgary comedians past and present. There are some big names coming home to celebrate, you might not even realize some got their starts here. Mark McKinney and Bruce McCulloch from Kids in the Hall, This Hour Has 22 Minutes alum Gavin Crawford, Laurie Gibbs, Ryan Bellville, Graham Clark and the list goes on.
For festival producers Cory Mack, Harry Doupe and James Southerland it was the perfect time for a Calgary-centric comedy showcase…
“With Calgary being designated Canada’s Culture Capital for 2012 and a bunch of anniversaries lining up like the 100th anniversary of the Grand Theatre, a great vaudeville house where the Marx brothers, George Burns and Chaplin all performed, the 35th anniversary of the Loose Moose, 25 years at Yuk Yuk’s, 10 years of the Comedy Cave. All of those rolled in one and with comedy being our largest export, to not have a large form comedy festival here in Calgary, it seemed a waste, it was really right place, right time.” says Doupe.
The festival, running all week long, will feature a Gala performance at the Jubilee on Saturday night and an eclectic mix of shows between now and then. Stand up showcases, live tapings of local radio favorites ‘Am I Right’ from CJSW, ‘This Is That’ from CBC and Vancouver’s ‘Stop Podcasting Yourself’ with Calgarian Graham Clark and his co-host Dave Shumka. For Cory Mack it’s all about the Gala on Saturday.
“I think the Gala lineup is top notch – and I’m excited about the All-star Standup show. Really with 170 Calgary-connected comedians hitting the stages is awesome! And, the entire week puts a huge spotlight on shows that happen year round. I’m so proud of the comedians and our community.”
For a young stand up like Amanda Brooke Perrin, who recently graduated to Toronto to continue her career, it’s great to be coming home. I asked her what she’s looking forward to at the fest, “There is this weird girl named Amanda Brooke Perrin performing there. I’m not sure why she is performing there but she’s probably happy about it or whatever… I’m just excited to perform with all of my friends.”
Bringing comics together to celebrate the scene seems to be one of the priorities of the organizers. The hope of everyone involved is that the YYComedy festival will make Calgary more aware of the burgeoning stand up scene.
“I don’t think people have an appreciation of what’s going on here or know who’s come out of Calgary. Being able to say “Hey Calgary come out and see how much comedy takes place in one week” is one of our goals.” Doupe tells me. “I think any time you put a greater focus on something and open it up for more eyes to see, as long as the shows deliver and we think they’re great, it will hopefully get people to keep it going past this week, that’s our hope anyway.”
For Cory Mack who’s been doing comedy in Calgary for over 20 years, she agrees. “We hope to highlight the incredible talents from our past, present and future – we are growing as a community – and will keep on showing up and shining all over Calgary in big ways … That won’t stop. Folks crave connection and what better way than to gather together and laugh!”
The festival didn’t get green lit until earlier this summer, so there were some challenges to getting it off the ground according to Doupe, “Starting from scratch was our biggest challenge, we decided to go ahead in late June with a limited budget. We’re really dependent on ticket sales to help us break even. There were acts we wanted to get but couldn’t, given the shorter time frame due to commitments. Moving forward, next year provided we can do this again, we’ll benefit from having this one done.”
If you’ve wanted to go see some stand up or improv now is the perfect time. The best Calgary has to offer is front and centre. According to Brooke Perrin Calgary has a daring community that’s eager to perform. “Canadians are more fearless when it comes to humor. We have the advantage of having an outsiders perspective; We’re the “friendly neighbors up north.” It makes us edgy and sharp and smart. Calgarians for the most part are very open minded people and I think that gives performers a level of excitement about wanting to test and push the limit.”
The YYComedy festival continues tonight through Sunday. Check out yycomedy.ca for tickets and a full schedule of shows and venues.