By Skye Anderson
CALGARY — Everyone deals with stress differently. Some people increase their blood alcohol content to decrease the weight on their shoulders; others roll one up, escaping into a haze that eliminates their worries. But one of the best and rather healthiest ways to relieve stress is through laughter.
As Calgarians slide into yet another economic downturn, one way to grin and bear that rough ride is with the YYComedy Festival happening Oct. 12 – 17. Showcasing a diverse collection of comedians the festival is also hitting a number of watering holes (Broken City, Vern’s, Oak Tree Tavern and the Nite Owl) in addition to the city’s established comedy clubs, before wrapping up the week long hilarity romp with a blockbuster Saturday night at the Jubilee Auditorium.
The YYComedy Festival first debuted in 2012 and mainly consisted of acts that were connected to Calgary in some way, explains co-founder and producer Harry Doupe. “The second year we opened that up, we broadened it, to make it acts that we wanted to put together on shows.”
One of those well-rounded shows features the sarcastic extraordinaire, Bonnie McFarlane (Letterman, Tonight Show, Howard Stern). Originally from Cold Lake, McFarlane now resides in New York; this is her first Calgary appearance since the ’90s. Opening for her is Trevor Wilson, who won both the Best Male Stand-Up and Best Taped Live Performance at the Canadian Comedy Awards, and Mark Little winner of the Best Male Performance in a Web Series for his work on Space Riders: Division Earth.
Stop Podcasting Yourself
For the past three years, Stop Podcasting Yourself has won the Best Podcast at the Canadian Comedy Awards. Hosted by Graham Clark and Dave Shumka, a live taping will take place Oct. 15 at the Loose Moose Theatre.
Each podcast begins with a prelude and theme music that belongs to a classic video game. Clark and Shumka then bust in with an introduction before rolling into the episode where they invite a guest on the show and proceed with an “anything goes” attitude leading conversations about sex, TV shows, milk, unemployment, surfing, polygamy and cats.
Doupe recalls, “The first year Graham contacted us and said, ‘I don’t know how it will go, but I am from Calgary originally and I have never had the chance to do the podcast in town.’ So we did it the first year, it sold out really quick.”
Calgary Stand-up All-Stars Show
YYComedy is putting on the Calgary Stand-up All-Stars, Oct. 16 at SAIT’s Orpheus Theatre. Described as a gathering of Calgary headliners, Doupe says the performers are either from Calgary or originally started out here, “It’s one of the mandates of the festival, to try and promote Calgary stand-up as much as we can.” Doupe is confident that this year’s line-up is the best so far.
Levi MacDougall, who recently opened up for Demetri Martin earlier this year, began his comedic journey at the Loose Moose Theatre. Since then, MacDougall has won two Canadian Comedy Awards and recently was hired as a writer for the Conan O’Brien Show. He will be part of the all-star line-up alongside Ryan Belleville. Although born in Ontario, Belleville started his career at the Loose Moose Theatre as well, achieving a professional standard by the age of 17. No stranger to festivals, Belleville has performed at the Just for Laughs Festival, Winnipeg Comedy Festival and the Halifax Comedy Festival.
Of course, Calgary is home to female all-star talent as well. Lori Gibbs, who’s voice can be recognized from Up! 97.7 and X92.9 will be returning to the festival this year. In 2010, Gibbs was featured in the Calgary-based documentary The Inside Joke exploring the local stand-up comedy scene. Since then she has been continuously making Calgarians laugh through a variety of media platforms.
Canadian Mary Walsh will be hosting The Gala (read below) Oct. 17 at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, just two days before the federal election.
“Timing wise, that is interesting,” Doupe says.
Creator of popular television show This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Walsh is well known for her satirical roles, in particular characters like Marg Delahunty, Warrior Princess. Dressed in a bold, red Xena-like costume, Walsh often bombards politicians with questions, saying exactly what is on her mind. In some cases, they run in the other direction once they see her warrior character trying to avoid ridicule. Those with no sense of humour, or whose mistakes have made it into the public eye, are easy prey. Walsh’s performance at The Gala may stir and sway a few minds in the audience members just before they cast their ballots.
Walsh has received numerous awards, including the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement and Gemini awards for both writing and performing.
“The big show…” Doupe refers to The Gala held at the Southern Jubilee Auditorium Oct. 17.
Mary Walsh, Emo Philips and Mike Wilmot, all comedic icons with decades of experience are on the bill with young bloods like Lachlan Patterson, runner up on the 2014 season of Last Comic Standing whose “observational comedy” has earned him rave reviews. Ivan Decker, recently named the “funniest comedian in Canada under 30” by Splitsider Magazine, will also take the stage for The Gala.
Debra DiGiovanni and Erica Sigurdson will share the spotlight that night. Both have been on CBC Radio’s The Debaters numerous times and have each won top female stand-up awards over the course of their careers.
“The people who were on it [the bill] looked at the line-up and were shocked at how stacked of a line-up it is,” Doupe says.
For more information about the festival or to purchase tickets, visit www.yycomedy.ca.AB, Alberta, stand-up comedy, YYComedy Fest