Friday, May 15, 2015

Love Letter to the Edmonton Comedy Scene

(This post is in regards to an article in Vue Weekly, which you can find here:

I was recently quoted and interviewed for an article in one of Edmonton's local arts papers that has led to a bit of a stir in the Edmonton comedy scene. The article focused on a supposed "underground" comedy scene (I guess Whyte avenue is considered underground? I wonder if the writer had confused "underground" with "south of the river") and it was presented in such a way that it made it seem like these shows were inclusive while the big comedy clubs and other shows were not. Which is not true.

This has led to many to be upset at such an idea as they should be. The comics that are hard working in the clubs and other shows are not creating an exclusive environment.

Some of their responses have pointed out something to the effect that those interviewed have no authority speaking on comedy because they are so new and/or are bad comedians. Some have indicated that those interviewed are creating a divide or are unfairly insulting fellow comedians. I can't speak for the others in the article. So I won't. I will, however, respond for myself.

I have no idea if my comments were considered to be hurtful or divisive or if it was simply because my name appeared in the article and thus it seemed like I agreed with the content of the article. Perhaps I'm being vain to assume people misunderstood me or even cared what I said. I don't particularly think my opinion is one of any authority in the scene. Some dude asked me questions and I answered them. The problem for me is if people did misunderstand me and felt slighted, then I should clarify myself.

I do believe that what I actually said in the article but not necessarily anything else. I tried to mention in my conversation with the reporter as many of the rooms I could think of including the Druid which was one of the shows that preceded the existence of Dr. Jokes and all of their kin. The Druid and Rouge Lounge are different than the alternative rooms, but they are just as vital.

I like the weird, alternative comedy-leaning rooms because they allowed me to explore concepts and were willing to go with me on my longer story-telling style. As well, like I also said, a comedian needs to do all kinds of rooms. You need to be able to win over crowds that don't innately like you because you're weird and adorable. As Lars Callieou has pointed out to me before, referring to something that Jerry Seinfeld said: "Good crowds help you explore; tough crowds help you edit."

My start in stand up comedy in Edmonton entailed going to the Druid comedy night (hosted by Lars) where I got my emotional teeth kicked in for months. I struggled to write short jokes that got quickly to a punchline and my round about pseudo-Stuart Mclean story-telling style didn't work great with a 5-minute set when a crowd can easily get distracted.

That's when I discovered Dr. Jokes where I was given more time for sets and I could explore premises and stories. It would give me some of my favoured bits that I still enjoy doing.

I still continued to go to the Druid and if forced me to come up with quicker jokes and I'm so thankful for that.

In the end, I do all these shows so that way I can go into the clubs and on the road and bring the best I can there. I would love to work consistently at the clubs, but I want to be good enough that they want me there. As Jim Gaffigan has said, "be so good that you are undeniable". I appreciate the clubs because they bring comedy to all sorts of people. They are a vital part of the engine of giving comics a chance to live and survive doing what they love.

The best part of stand up to me is that if a person feels like they have a point of view that they'd like to share with a crowd (perhaps a crowd of people that would normally disagree with them) you can. You may even plant the seeds to change minds. The only requirement is that you be funny. And you can't become as funny as you can be holed up in the rooms that you feel safe in.

What I'd like to end off this post is something positive. I know this may be hard for some of you comics to swallow but I'm not responsible for your cynicism.

I am thankful for the Druid. It's the first stage I ever performed on after I decided to become a standup comic. It has taught me some critical writing skills that I still need to work on. It also helped prepare me for road shows.

I am thankful for Dr. Jokes for allowing me to explore and giving me a place to figure things out.

I am thankful for Rouge Lounge because it was my great challenge for a long time. My style is weird to them there. That room was my Moby Dick if you will. I still remember the first time I did well there and I am always happy when I do.

I am thankful for the Comic Strip and the opportunity it is in this city. Major headliners come through and you have a chance to perform in front a diverse crowd. When shows are full there, it is so exciting to perform. Plus their joke battle show has lead me to find some of my best bits.

I am thankful for the Empress comedy show and the Underdog comedy show because of the opportunity to play for an engaged audience. I don't have to fight the crowd and I can experiment with some really weird ideas.

I was about to write a list of people to thank. But I realized that that I would likely get me in trouble. Just know that I try to learn from all of you and I appreciate it. Whether its comedy stuff or otherwise. Maybe I'll even tell you in person something instead of some note on the internet.