By Matt Hume, October 12 2017 —
With the likes of Sled Island, Beakerhead and Calgary Film, there’s at least one local festival throughout the year to scratch every type of entertainment itch. Calgarians are dancing, learning and watching their way through the city’s bountiful and diverse festival scene. From Oct. 16–21, the sixth-annual YYComedy Festival adds laughing to the list.
Festival co-founder Cory Mack says YYComedy is a great way to celebrate Calgary’s growing comedy industry.
“I think it’s growing madly. We’ve had great rooms like Comedy Monday Night and many other things spring up. There’s way more comedians than when I started,” Mack says. “They’re making webisodes, they’re writing speeches, they’re writing for television and movies and there’s comedians living in town earning a living as scriptwriters.”
Over the past five years, YYComedy has showcased talent from across North America. This year, the festival is highlighting all-Canadian talent.
“This year we’re focusing on getting the best that are originally from Canada,” Mack says. “Some of them are expats and some of them are living here, but all of the shows we’re presenting are 100 per cent Canadian with a nod to Canada 150 and a nod to this industry that we’re a part of that people aren’t aware of.”
Mack says the lack of awareness is due to the corporate-event atmosphere of professional comedy in Canada. Many people are unable to see Canada’s top comedy talent since many performances are either private or take place in larger theatres with high price points. With the exception of the Festival Gala on Oct. 21 at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, YYComedy aims to make that talent more accessible by hosting events with strong lineups and headliners for $10–20 at transit-accessible locations, such as the Plaza Theatre in Kensington.
“We have our very first French show on Tuesday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Plaza Theatre,” Mack says. “It’s entirely in French with Mike Patterson and Jess Salomon. She used to be a United Nations civil rights lawyer and now she’s an extraordinary comedian.”
Another concept show at the Plaza is the the Prairie Stand-Up All-Stars on Oct. 20.
“[It’s] a nod to all the comedians who live among us. We’ve always had the Calgary Stand-Up All-Stars to show off, so this year we invited some people from Edmonton, one originally from Saskatchewan and one from Newfoundland that now lives in Devon, Alberta,” Mack says. “So now it’s the Prairie Stand-Up All-Stars. These are the folks that are headlining shows around you all the time.”
Of course, the larger Festival Gala is still a huge draw. Headlined by Shaun Majumder of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, the gala will feature big names with roots in the local comedy scene, namely past members of Calgary’s Loose Moose Theatre.
The Festival Gala also features Levi MacDougall, Andrew Fung, Laurie Elliott, Nathan MacIntosh, Christina Walkinshaw, Pete Zedlacher and Amanda Brooke Perrin.
Mack says the festival is a perfect time to catch a show at regular comedy rooms in Calgary, since headliners often make appearances for extra stage time.
“All the local comedy shows have a heightened presence,” she says. “People will stop by and do a set before they do their big show or gala set so you never know who’s going to be at Yuk Yuk’s or Comedy Monday Night or Catscratch or any of the local shows.”
Open mics and small shows can often be dissuading for potential audience members, considering it’s difficult to gauge content or taste ahead of time. Mack highlights the fact that the festival is curated, so festival-goers can rest assured they’re not gambling on quality.
“People are afraid of comedy and I’m here to say that when it’s curated by folks that are comedians themselves — myself and the associate producer are both comics of many years — these are all thoughtful choices,” she says. “ ‘There’s not a dud in the bunch’ — that’s what Mark McKinney of Kids in the Hall said in the first year [of the festival].”
YYComedy Festival runs from Oct.16–21. Tickets, performers and event information can be found at yycomedy.ca. Tickets for the Festival Gala are available at ticketmaster.ca.