Second annual Edmonton Comedy Festival promises lots of zingers
Saturday, Oct 13, 2012 06:00 am
Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival isn’t the only one this year having fun. It just gets the most media attention.
However, the second annual Edmonton Comedy Festival is revving up for a sock-it-to-me week of laughs, jokes, and offbeat punch lines running Oct. 17 to 21.
It’s the brainchild of CTV roving reporter Graham Neil and CHED co-host Andrew Grose, a 15-year veteran of the national comedy scene, and they have already proved it’s not a one-off event.
It’s grown like a prairie wildfire to 24 high-calibre comics sharpening their wit. It’s definitely an event people can get excited about and Neil rattles off a diverse lineup such as Atomic Improv, Nikki Payne, Jay Mohr, Derek Edwards and Paul Myerhaug to name a few.
The first year brought out a strong yield of comedians and the entire event met everyone’s expectations. Neil gives Grose a lot of the credit.
“Andrew has gone to every comedy festival in Canada. He knows all the comics and he did an amazing job of booking a good mix of talent. We wanted people to leave saying, ‘I saw a great comedy festival,’ and we wanted comics to not say ‘the Edmonton comedy festival is a joke.’ By the end of the festival we were legitimized.”
Ironically this festival was born out of tragedy. Neil’s brother Don died of cancer three and one-half years ago. Edmonton’s godfather of comedy, Donovan Workun of Atomic Improv, attended the funeral. It was there that Neil and Workun conceived the idea of a comedy show to raise money for a scholarship in Don’s name.
They rented Festival Place and when the grapevine started buzzing, eight other local comedians hopped on board.
“The show sold out and there was a standing ovation.”
In the dressing room the local comics hashed the show and started talking about future gigs they were booked at – Just for Laughs and the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.
“Wait a minute,” said Neil. “Edmonton comics are going to other festivals. We’re the Festival Capital of Canada. Don’t we have a comedy festival?”
Edmonton did – about 10 years ago, before it folded. The general consensus in the dressing room was to start a new festival.
“A few weeks later I ran into Mayor Mandel and he loves stand-up comedy. We started talking and he invited me to his office. Naively I thought the mayor would sign all the paperwork. But he just told me who to call.”
Neil’s brother Don had worked at ATB Financial and many employees attended the Festival Place comedy night. The financial institution immediately jumped on board as title sponsor.
Neil, who is starting to forge his own path in comedy, is extremely proud of the local talent.
“We’re bringing in some international comics, but we haven’t lost sight of Edmonton comics and it’s important to put them out there. We want the people of the province to know how funny they are.”
But it’s almost a given that people are less likely to appreciate what is in their backyard as opposed to the visiting talents of Vegas comedians.
“If you’re in one of the shows, you’ve earned the right to be there,” was Neil’s comment.
In a warm-up to the main body of the festival, Grose and Neil are staging a new event. The Funniest Media Person kicks off Monday, Oct. 15 at 8 p.m. at River Cree Casino.
St. Albert’s own Josh Classen (CTV) along with Neil, Grose, Tracie Gray (CISN), Jonny Sullivan (The Bear), Chris Scheetz (CISN), Mike Ross (GIG City), Dan Tencer (CHED) and Morley Scott (CHED) are competing for bragging rights at the next media scrum.
These dynamic personalities have been writing and tinkering with material for weeks – except for Classen. Or so he says.
“I haven’t started anything yet. I don’t have an act. Everybody’s been trying to give me tips. I’ll probably cobble together something at the last minute,” Classen said during a tongue-in-cheek moment.
As CTV’s top weatherman, he’s family-friendly, original and the consummate professional. It’s hard to believe he doesn’t have anything prepared for the Monday show.
“He’s all smoke and mirrors,” chuckles Neil. “He likes to rap and he’ll probably mix it in with comedy to put it over the top. He’s just trying to psych everybody out.”
The comedy festival is a great place to laugh hard, party hard and make new friends.
“It’s an age-old situation. If you feel down, people don’t say ‘I need to see a ballet or introspective theatre.’ They want to laugh. Life is a challenge and to see six international headliners in the funniest shows of the year will make you feel better. Winter’s coming and things aren’t that good, so drop by for a few laughs.”