Comedy in Northern Canada – Next Up – Episode 4


When I was growing up as a little boy on
Long Island New York the only impression I had of the Yukon was that it was like
a punchline for a cold sad lonely place like it’s like the Yukon out here or
like it’s colder than the Yukon and I didn’t even know where it was on a map
or that it was a real place like we use Yukon in Siberia interchangeable be like
it’s freezing like Siberia it was all Hoth to us at that point It doesn’t make sense for all of us to
live here it’s a crazy frozen wasteland in this weird small
town where everybody kind of knows each other and it’s dark all the time and
then sometimes with light all the time I think everybody goes just a little bit
crazy just because we’re in this like really cold barren place doesn’t mean
that you can’t find funny in that if anything it makes it funnier a lot of
people want to see comedy I think in the north people need to see comedy to have
somebody come up who’s new to Yukon see our potential and go no you guys are
funny enough you led to build a festival yeah that was very incredible My name is Richard Eden I am the
president of the Yukon Comedy Festival I was originally born in Hamilton and then
my family moved to Windsor when I was about 8
I went initially a musician artist route and I tried to be a musician for a long
time but I decided to sort of make a big shift and change in my life I didn’t see
the future with what I was doing and so my girlfriend at the time and I decided
we needed to go and find a new path so we just started looking across Canada
for work and randomly we ended up in Whitehorse I think this was a completely
sort of juxtapose of Windsor and I think that was part of the reason why we did
it so on a whim we packed our bags and came up here the mystery of the whole
thing was really really exciting for me I didn’t know what I would do up here Back in Ontario about a year before we
had moved here I really started getting involved with the comedy scene there and
so when I moved up here I decided I was gonna investigate the comedy scene
because it’s the thing that I had passion for and some connection to so I
went out to one of the comedy shows and People here are looking for laughter
they’re looking for entertainment and they want to have fun and some of the
best audiences I’ve performed for have been here and I think people here
generally respond well to comedy and you kind of have to have a sense of humor in
a place where it gets to like minus 40 and you step outside and your handle of
your door breaks off because it’s so cold you’ve got to be able to laugh of
that sort of thing what are we even doing here like the air
hurts our face why are we here there’s no fresh fruit our vegetables that we
have in the ground in the summer are root vegetables it’s expensive but it’s
funny so I think it exists and it’s here because funny people live here comedy up
here it’s critical and it’s really you know you look at the dark and night and
even just being closed up in your house during winter and stuff like that often
times people don’t want to go out and so if you’re able to go out you’re able to
go out and laugh it’s the best medicine I love playing to a Yukon audience I
don’t know if it’s because they get us or they’re just always rooting for us
they just really want to enjoy the show they’re coming out to watch you try new
stuff play new material and they’re rooting for you they’ll let you know if
you suck though they will I wish I had a big old double chin so everybody
you could see it better but might start the wrinkled beard right like like it
like we just flew to Mexico and back and A community that’s only 30
something thousand throughout the entire territory the fact that we had a shows
worth of really strong comedic talent here blew my mind I couldn’t believe it
and from that moment on I think I knew that I needed to get invested into this
comedy community so I talked to my wife about it and she immediately said there
was this guy George he’s been doing comedy here forever you should connect
with him we started the comedy scene in 2005 myself Anthony Strombetta Mike
Ellis and Chris McKnight and there was a Comedy Festival in the Yukon at that
time and it was really popular there wasn’t a local connection to it and then
we got the opportunity to be on it so we were for the first two years and
then nothing the comedy festival goes away and just becomes a different
theater festival so you know flash-forward 11 12 years and I get this
Facebook message from a guy rich Eden I assumed he was looking to get on to do
comedy, I sat down with George and I think that he wanted me to try to do comedy
and I was like I don’t want to do that I want to start a comedy festival We sold out weeks before the festival
even started people came out in droves and were vocal about how excited they
were it’s been a pretty great partnership because I can provide input
from the comedic side of things and Rich is good at building things he’s
organized he’s a marketer I think it’s comedy in general up here people are
hungry for any sort of community talent that you can bring out for a community that’s
as small as this is every month we probably have at least a comedy show and
it’s packed every single night we all want to be part of the Yukon we’re willing to
invest the time the resources I’ve been growing this beard for two years now
trying to fit in you know if you’re an Edmonton or down to Vancouver you’re
fighting for minutes right you can’t get up there and do a seven-minute set on a
Thursday or whatever right like up here usually you’ll say, ‘Kay do you have 7 to
10 minutes and you’re thinking like holy man last time I only have like a couple
like I need to find new material so it’s great that you get a lot of exposure but
you kind of run into there not being a lot of shows or a lot of opportunities
to get on stage and when you do comedy being on stage that’s where you find
your practice you know it’s really hard to get good at something that you do 10
minutes out of the month despite that the Yukon has produced some
amazing stand-up comedians that have managed to take that limited stage time
and become amazing on stage and very great joke writers so there must just be
something about being from here and it’s kind of weird wacky place that makes
people more generally funny and gives them a leg up they say like gallows
humor and I know that’s being hyperbolic but in reference to Yukon it’s like if
you choose to live up here and it’s freezing for nine months out of the year
it’s sunny for 23 hours a day for a month out of the air it’s like of course
that mindset lends itself to comedy because it’s so isolating and so dark a
lot of the year you have to find the funny
I know depression and drug abuse alcohol abuse is a big thing in the north if we
can get together as a group and make people laugh it lightens the load and it
brings the community together you know mental health you know and depression
you know is an issue up north Iqaluit has six times the national average
in relation to suicide so the importance is there I take a break they use humor
for healing right to use laughter you know for healing so you know the
importance is there the prominence you know it will come.
You know it takes time to develop that we hope we can be part of that you know
we want to be by having the Comedy Festival yearly that brings you know
comedians from across Canada up to Iqaluit and Yellowknife, gives you
an opportunity to decrease team prominence I can tell you that any time
we put out there you know the message on this comics from across Canada I want to
go If you’re making a room full of Yukoners laughs you’re gonna
make a room full of Victorians laughs gonna make Americans laugh so take our
scene seriously because comedy is universal if you’re funny here you’re
funny there it’s easy to forget that there’s more to Canada than Toronto
Vancouver Edmonton there’s huge talent pools in the north the people are great
everyone’s nice the comedy is hilarious I don’t think that just because it’s a
small community that it will hinder the possibilities maybe it’ll make it harder
but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible I just hope it continues to grow because
it brings so much joy to the comedians themselves but also to the communities
I’m super blessed to be from this weird strange place because I can talk about
it another places so there’s a reason one we’re called the Yukon Comedy
Festival not the Whitehorse Comedy Festival I want us to be pan territorial
I want this to be something that stretches across this entire gigantic
territory I want this festival to be something
that gets passed on it’s something that lives beyond me when my ideas get stale
if somebody else can take the reins on. One thing in the summertime that a lot
of people in the Yukon do is called disc golf it’s called the frisbee golf and a
lot of people think that disc golf evolved from regular golf but I think
disc golf just evolved from lonely frisbee dudes they just got tired of
going to the park every day trying to make friends to play catch with they’re
like you know what I’m gonna figure out a way to play with these discs all by
myself thank you very much just me the trees and with discs that’s all I need
you can just hear the trees whisper nobody cares you’re a grown man
playing with discs you

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