By Kyle Lovstrom
CALGARY — Witnessing the cringe-worthy slow death of a nerve-busted, cherry-popper bungling Jack Johnson covers, while the audience looks sincerely unappreciative as though frozen in a hedge-maze outside the Overlook Hotel, is enough to generate the perfect storm of empathy and anxiety in me… I’m forced to flee. Like salted cinnamon to somebody lost at sea, calling a comedy night an “open mic” is a tough sell. The potential for disaster is too real.
“When I started doing comedy 10 years ago, open mic meant playing in bars where nobody wanted you there,” says Comedy Monday Night (CMN) performer Jeremy Furlong. “People are talking over you. You can hear pool balls dropping in the background.”
But there wasn’t five minutes of amateur hour during CMN. Aside from one intoxicated fella slightly unaccustomed to an evening of listening and laughing rather than contributing at full volume (Furlong quickly put him in his place), attendees got full value for their $5 cover charge.
Every Monday at 8 p.m., Calgary’s quintessential stand-up comedy open mic night kicks off at Broken City. The show runs until about 10 p.m.; being in bed by 11 p.m. is easy for early-risers. Arrive prior to show time to secure a seat.
CMN, Western Canada’s longest running comedy open mic, began with the man who launched 1,000 comedians’ careers over the past 10 years—producer, promoter, and comedian James Moore.
“It was born out of a need for stage time,” says Moore. “Back then, there wasn’t an open mic room anywhere in the city. If you visit the Yuk Yuk’s website, there’s probably six or eight kids on that roster that got their start here. I’m proud to have been able to play a part.”
Every week features no less than two first-timers and a few lotto spots are available, drawn between comedians in the room on the night. If stand-up comedy is calling to be crossed off your bucket list, visit comedymondaynight.com and make contact. Also, take in the beginner’s guide for useful hints—i.e., don’t drop the microphone believing you’re Chris Rock when finished performing (that flashy little number unfortunately breaks microphones, and subsequent voices are lost).
Mr. Moore meticulously curates each show to satisfy, mixing just the right amount of juvenile jokesters cutting their teeth, developing comics harnessing gold, and professional grade funnymen/women.
“I got up there in 2014,” says Matt Foster, a punchy and hilarious up-and-comer. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But everyone’s got to start somewhere and this is the place to find your legs.”
Even comedy royals from beyond Canadian borders recognize what a special night Mondays have turned into.
“Bob Odenkirk has been here. Zack Galifianakis has been through those doors. Comedy in Calgary wouldn’t be where it is without a trendsetter, and a pioneer, like James Moore,” says CMN performer and host of his own show, Kris LaBelle. “James provides consistency.”
Moore’s mission to incite opportunity and construct a thriving Calgary scene continues to expand with the creation of his brand-new TV show, After Birth Alley, hosted by veteran comedian Daryl Makk. After Birth Alley goes in-depth, post game, sideline interview with performers to discuss the process of developing material, what their lifestyles entail, and whatever generally twisted thoughts lurk inside the mind space of a stand-up comedian.
CMN takes place at Broken City every, you guessed it, Monday night at 8 p.m. Also look for CMN on Vulcan Television at www.vulcantv.ca.AB, Alberta, CMN, Comedy Monday Night, open mic, stand-up comedy