Thursday, August 25, 2011

Round 7: Almost there........

While Yuk Yuk's always outdoes themselves in quality comedic entertainment, tonight could be one of the best Wednesday night's ever.....and we aren't even at the finals!

The comedy club was FULL.  Seriously folks, full means they had to turn people away, something no one wants to do!  For the finals on August 31, call 236-5233 for reservations to ensure you get a seat, because it's going to be another sell out!

Now down to business.  Host Jason Harper warmed the crowd up, which didn't take much; they were excited to be there.  A mix of people supporting their friends and family, people who are supporting the competition each week, and others who thought "hey, comedy sounds fun tonight".  A great audience to be sure!  After Harper was done performing his magic, he introduced the first amateur of the night........

Josh Williams, who was a little rough for the wear with his voice.  Williams voice is usually silky and sounds like it is "made for radio", but tonight he sounds like a blues singer who hit one too many low notes.  Although hoarse and scratchy, Williams cranks out his best hits on coming down with a case of obesity, and his opinion on vaginas.  Williams does a good job, always walking that line of self-depreciation and self-confidence.  When you think he might be crossing that line where the audience will feel sorry for him, his charm prevails and everyone knows that he is in on the jokes and they love him all the more!  Great job Williams!  Up next is..............

Adrian Cronk.  At this time I will let everyone in on the fact that Cronk has only been performing comedy for four  months.  Think about that.  Four months and he is in the semi-finals in a competition that involved all amateur comedians in the Ottawa area.  Pretty good start Mr. Cronk!  He has an excellent voice for comedy, and has much confidence on the stage.  He discusses starting a racist clothing line, being half black, and my favourite line "kittens in comas".  He knocks them out, and while a few lines do not hit, most do!  This kid has a future to say the least!  Then comes..............

Derek McFarland.  Driving in from Kingston, Mcfarland is one funny man, and we are happy he made the trip!  I loved his bit on the 4th best strip club in Newfoundland!  He did a great job of his dislike for Dora The Explorer as well!  McFarland has an easy going style, but a big personality, making him very likable!  Great job Mr. McFarland!  Then came out...........

Brad Sproule, in one of his best sets.  Sproule has great lines on what to say when people ask him "which kid" is his.  Police may have been called is all I am saying.  The audience now knows how to "get" with him, and his complaints about plenty of fish.  This audience is definitely in like with Mr. Sproule tonight.  Then comes.........

Ken Strangway.  The audience is not into him at the beginning, but after one minute are on his side.  He likes big women and is not afraid to say so, although perhaps details of his three way in Dallas is a bit much!  Good line:  "When did my abs turn into ab?"  A very good job Mr. Strangway.  Lastly comes.....

Greg Stringer.  As reported before this young lad is going to be a superstar, or at least as good as Alex Wood!  He again discusses what it's like to be a 17 year old, and that Stephen Harper and "his ways".    He does enjoy staring at people in wheelchairs, which makes him a little creepy as well as funny, which is always a good combination for a comedian.

Wow, six really good comedians performed.  The audience is happy.  But wait, there's more!

The professionals came out hard.  Rookie pro Jessica Salomon did a great job discussing her dislike for perfectly bi-lingual people, face erections, and my always favourite "complimentary sleepover".   Recently back from New York, Ottawa native Graham Kay blows the audience away with his lesbian haircut, once complaining friend, and French people.  The always great Dave Atkinson has the audience with his poofy hair which will soon make him look like a Unicorn, being unemployed, and the never fail bit on women's menstruation!  All great, but only one can move on!

Lucky for the audience, Thea Vidale, who is starring in PRIDE all weekend stopped by to do a few minutes, and everyone is enamoured!  Catch her all weekend at Yuk Yuk's Elgin location!

Drum Roll..............................................................................................

Moving on for the amateurs are Brad Sproule (3rd), Josh Williams (2nd), and Greg Stringer (1rst)

Moving on for the professionals is Graham Kay.

Join us next week for the final showdown, where these fine comedians join:  Chris Timms, Matt Watson and Nick Flores for amateurs, and Matt Carter and Trevor Thompson (who tied) for the professionals.

Once again, tickets are $12.00, so see you on the 31rst!  236-5233

j hayward

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jenn's Thoughts: The Audience

Tonight I came from watching a great show at Yuk Yuk's Ottawa.  I ran home because I had to write this blog about one of the forgotten parts of comedy:  the audience members.  

Who watches comedy?

Overall live stand up comedy is not as popular as it once was.  This can be attributed to globalization, Youtube, shorter attention spans, and economic recessions.  If one is to pay their $10-$20 tickets, the expectations are quite high.  Tonight at the lovely Prescott location I did something I have never done:  I ignored the comics.  The comics were on stage performing their bits, making with the funny, and all eyes were on them...except mine; mine are firmly planted on the audience.

Tonight is a full house, and the audience is:

  • varying ages, mostly 30's and up;
  • couples or women, no "male friend dates";
  • all white.  ALL white.
  • having the time of their lives!
The audience members attention is fully on the comic, not on their blackberry's or other devices.  During the headliner act, Ian Sirota, they are all laughing very loudly.  Not just laughing mildly but full body, shaking all over, guffawing while stating "it's so true".  The audience is enamored to say the least.  Each person has a smile on their face.  Let me say that again:  EACH PERSON HAS A SMILE ON THEIR FACE.  Think about that, think about where else you could see everyone smiling.  Here is my list:

  1. Family Pictures:  Um, sure they are all smiling for the camera, but no family is so great that  the smiles never leave, unless they are all taking effexor mixed with seroquil with Abilify for dessert.  Point is:  there is always someone grumpy off camera!
  2. Something to do with children:  those who have children can attest that the smile children can make you smile with their innocence and charm; however, four minutes later they have you muttering "eff my life" under your breath.
  3. Sex:  No one is smiling at the same time; one is working while the other one is smiling, then vice versa.  Simultaneous orgasms are a myth people.  (this comes from years of experience and observations)
So it is up to the comedians to bring their game each and every time they are on stage.  Each and every time.  If their is an audience of 2000, or an audience of 20, they should bring everything they have and always give a great performance, or at least try to.

I have seen venues, usually fringe or alternative, where the audience is sparse.  Comedians usually blame the promoter, and this is where you can tell the difference between someone who is there for themselves and those there to perform.  If the comics complain and really just fool around on stage, it is more for them, but if they still perform their jokes and work to get laughter out of the smaller group of people, then they are becoming performers.

I recently produced a show with Heidi Foss, Jen Grant, and Judy Croon. Due to miscommunications with the conference we were working with, 28 out of the  300 people showed up.  What a change in expectations of the comedians, not to mention myself!  All three women demonstrated exceptional professionalism and put on an amazing show.  All 28 women there had the time of their lives.  This audience was what mattered to the comedians, the 28 people in front of them, not the 272 who didn't show up! 

So if you are a comedian, acknowledge to yourself that without the audience, you are just a guy or gal saying some words on stage.  Treat them with respect:  they paid to come and watch YOU.  You are the person who is going to light up their face all night, and you are the one who has the ability to make a difference in their lives.  

If you are an audience member, thank you for coming.  Also, demonstrate the same respect:  put your cell phones away and don't talk while the comedians are on stage.  But thank you again for coming, thank you for supporting an art form that some say is dying.  It's not, by the way, not even close.  As long as women like Foss and Grant exist, and genius' like Mark Forward perform it never will be.

The audience, the forgotten heroes of comedy.   We appreciate you, your money, your smile and your support.  Thank you.

J Hayward

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Round 7: Drama in the Semi's

There was nothing but great comedy mixed with a little melodrama to make the first semi-final round exciting!    Before I let you know the deets, here is a reminder of how the scoring works.  There are judges, and each of these judges score the comics on four elements.  Then all four scores make a total score out of 100.  All four judges total scores are tabulated and averaged out, making one final score.  The judges do not talk to each other about what score to give, it is 100% their opinion on how the comic did in each of the areas.  If one comic is deemed to be original they may get a higher score in that area, but maybe the audience response was lower.  And so on and so forth.   Now you are up to date on the hard work the judges must perform, let's get to the show!

The show began with the timid and quiet Alex Wood as MC.  Kidding about the timid and quiet, Wood jumped on the stage and woke the crowd up with his electric  energy and voice.  Although he looked like he just rolled out of bed and put on the first undershirt he could find, he is always one of the best comics around.  Put a clean shirt on him, and this kid is going to go far!  Wood warms the crowd up, and introduces the first comic of the night................

Nick Flores, who lacks the energy of Wood (everyone does) but gives a great performance.  He starts off by discussing his first winter in Canada, and moves on to discussing having a Nazi as a lab partner.  Flores has a gentle style and is charming to watch.  The audience listens, laughs and cheers wildly when he is done.  Well done Flores!  Out next comes....................

Kris Kingsbury, a Calgary native.  Kingsbury has a relaxed style, hand in his pocked, and starts by discussing DQ Strawberry Milkshakes.  He then mimed out trying to suck out the little strawberry bits, obviously trying to make it look like fellatio.  Half the crowd loves it, but alas, he has his back to the other half so they don't get to see his expert skills.  He moves on to discussing MSN Chat, 3D TV for porn and the KKK.  He does great, but goes over his time significantly, a no no in comedy.  Likely because he was excited and nervous, but regardless, and crowd loves him and then it's time for..............

Paddy Mack!  He starts by saying "any hockey fans" here?  (we are in Canada Paddy, way to take a risk).  :)  He then moves on to some risky material about heaven and the dude who gives up pubic hair for lent.  The crowd likes it and the risk pays off.  He moves to some other material about dogs and his sympathy for toilet seats.  Great job Mack, a local rising star!  Next out comes..........

Skip Phillips, who gives one of his greatest performances.  Very solid delivery and great stage presence.  He does choose to do jokes about Vanier, a fairly generic topic, but gives a unique spin with pimped out bikes.  One notable line is "etch a sketch for a GPS".  He  then discusses doughnut breath, intervention, and his riskiest material, Cleveland Steamers.  Everyone enjoys the performance, but dark materials is always a risk with judges.  Good for Skip for taking the risk, because people enjoy him very much!  Then comes................

The charming Matt Watson.  He charms while discussing his sister's sex texts, Lucy the worst customer ever, and how he hates his job as a waiter.  Perhaps the audience is made up of people who have been servers in past lives because they all get his jokes and hoot and holler as if they have been there!  He discusses a zen garden and gets huge chuckles and then goes into a rant on how much harder it is to ask women out.  This rant seals him a place as the front runner because he at this time seems unbeatable!  The last amateur is................

Chris "Guy" Timms.  He has interesting family dynamics which make for good comedy.  His sister is the best hide and seek player around.  He discusses the war amps and his dad, how drinking is fun, and boldly states "I am a lot like Jesus", possibly the most interesting line of the evening.  Not a religious crowd so whew, thought we might have another John Lennon situation here!  He ends on his continually improving bit on hockey and ends strong.  The crowd digs him!

Wood comes out and does some more killer jokes, and keeps the energy strong.  The professionals are next, of which their are three:  Matt Carter, Trevor Thompson, and Geoff Mackay.  While watching all three, I assess them in my head.  By assess I totally mean judge them.  One by far is the most charming, one by far has the most original material, and one has the best dlievery.  I won't say which is which, but I am saying the judges have their work cut out for them.  

Carter has a good voice for comedy, and the highlights are his jokes on Afghanistan.  Thompson hits the stage with local life about buses, student rivalries and hippies with better business sense than him.  MacKay  riffs on burnt toast, Australia, Baby on Board signs, and our current justice system.   They all do good, and before I give the results I will say that it was CLOSE.  So close we ended up with a tie!  Drama, a tie, oh what to do........

Peter Gunstra hits the stage while two people tabulate the judges scores.  Two people folks, two people.  Then the results are in and.......................

Amateur:  Flores, Timms, and Watson move on!

Professional:  The tie brings Carter and Thompson to the stage!

Friends, you do not want to miss the finals!  Tonight was one of the best nights of comedy on a Wednesday, and the finals will be THAT MUCH BETTER!  Space will go soon, so reserve your spot now to cheer for your favourites!  236-LAFF.  Tell them JH5 sent ya!

Until next week........

Jenn H. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Round 6: The end, part one

Last night was particularly exciting in the world of comedy, as their were only amateurs, 8 to be exact, competing for the chance to move on to the semi-finals.  The last of six preliminary rounds, it was a nail biter to be sure!

Customers were greeted first by a beautiful ticket seller (aka me), then seated by the manager/owner of the club.  I like Yuk Yuk's for it's personal touches, such as having the owner greet the customers!  The crowd coming in was not a warm crowd, but could be won over, with some work!

The person to warm them up was none other than Ottawa's finest Egyptian comedian, Wafik Nasralla!  Nasralla began by discussing how friendly New Brunswick folks are, then moving to jokes about being Arab and about being blind in one eye.  He has the crowd and finishes off by discussing his mom swearing, and the night is ready to go!  First up was......

Mr. Aaron Power, and yes, that is his real name!  Power had the unlucky spot of first up, and did very well considering.  He riffed with original jokes about commercial jingles and leprosy, and about photographic memories.  Not great guffaws, but steady laughs for a steady performer!  Second up was...........

Matt Watson, dressed conspicuously as a door to door Morman!  Kidding aside, the well dressed shirt and tie Watson brought HIGH energy to the room, and had the audience captivated from the get go because everyone agrees that it would be gross to have their sister accidentally sext them!  He moves on to his love of his workplace (yeh, he doesn't like it so much) and the crowd is WITH him!  Third up was.....

Red haired comedian Jimmy Cassidy, who works his magic with the young ladies in the crowd!  He discusses how "gingery" and good looking he is, about his apartment and his wily mother.   Cassidy does very well, but for some reason the crowd is not vocal in their enjoyment.  It was odd and very unfortunate for a great talent such as Cassidy.  People, if you like the jokes you need to laugh OUT LOUD!  Very important in comedy.  Following Cassidy was...................

Jean Taillefer, who gives the best set of his life.  Having seen him perform often, I have never seen him more relaxed on stage, nor deliver his jokes with such precision.  He discusses his pet peeves such as interac cards and miscommunication that can occur by people with accents!  He ends discussing Yodeling fellatio, and the crowd enjoys it.  Up next was..............

The very young and very talented Greg Stringer!  By young I mean around 17, and by talented I mean very much so!  Stringer riffed on his jokes about being a young person, pedophilia and Harper and "his ways".  Stringer brings freshness, and not just in his face but in his clever writing and smart delivery.  He does a great job!  Up next is........................

The only female tonight, Ms. Emily O!  Ms. O began by discussing her mental health issues, and her love of crocheting, especially bondage gear!  She also does a great accent and impression of her deaf Scottish father.  A good job by Emily!  Up last was......................

Ernest Szoko, who discusses internet dating, photoshop, and about how great it would be if he was gay.  He does a good job, but is fairly new to comedy so slightly uncomfortable on stage, but that comes with time, practice and patience!  Great job though!

While the owner tabulates the judges scores, Alex Wood comes out and not just entertains the audience but destroys the entire room.  He is what I am now calling never fail, because he just doesn't have bad sets anymore!  Faves tonight was his discussion of hippo's and his always funny bit on applying for a job at Chapters!

But wait, the winners are.........................and it was CLOSE folks....................

1.  Greg Stringer
2.  Matt Watson

Kudos go to all the comedians tonight, they did a great job!

Stringer and Watson join the other many comedians in the semi finals on August 17th and 24th.  A full list:

August 17


Chris Timms
Paddy Mack
Kris Kinsbury
Nick Flores
Matt Watson
Adrian Cronk

Trevor Thompson
Geoff Mackay
Matt Carter

August 24th:


Ken Strangeway
Derek McFarland
Josh Williams
Brad Sproule
Greg Stringer
Skip Phillips

Graham Keay
Jessica Salomon
Dave Atkinton

The semi-finals are not to be missed!  They are expected to sell out, so reserve your tickets today at 236-LAFF!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Round 5: Descent

Last night another large crowd descended upon Yuk Yuk's Ottawa to watch local professional and amateur comedians vie for a chance to move on in the Steam Whistle Presents "Yuk Yuk's Pro Am Comedy Competition".  A full house for sure, and some of the crowd are a bit overly festive and have to be taught a few of the rules of a comedy club:
  1. Turn off your blackberries.
  2. Stop talking while performers on on stage
  3. Sit down, this isn't a "stand in the back of the room blocking people's way and talking and reading our texts" kind of show.  It is a sitting and relaxing while you get entertained kind of joint!
Now that we have some etiquette reminders, let's get on with the show..................

Host and MC Dave Atkinson warmed up the crowd by discussing shawarmas and delivering on much of his great material!  He does a good job and the crowd is ready for the  competition!!  Starting it off was....

Doug Cheron.  A fixture around the comedy scene in Ottawa, he has a mix of dark, dirty and at times awkward material.  He begins by discussing the similarities between a money bank and a sperm bank, and moves on to discussing how  dating for him is like a belt around his waist.  Cheron's set was hit with many groans followed by tepid laughter.  The crowd is unsure what to think, but give him great applause at the end.  Out next is.......................

Brad Sproule.  Sproule comes out stronger than I have seen him before.  He discusses the  many ways he makes others awkward at dance recitals and delivers  most of his material to great response.  There is a small section where the laughter slows down a bit, but he picks it back up for a good finish.  Out next is....

Nick Flores.  Oh, Mr. Flores, how I deplore your rape joke, but I am alone on this, the audience LOVES it!  Florence has the chance to go far in comedy.  He has the right mix of darker material mixed with charm and personality.  He is young, and unafraid to do jokes on rape, the holocaust, and more.  He even refers to one joke as "his retarded cousin".  He is popular with the crowd, and leaves them happy and cheering!  Out next is..........................

Kamar Haragon.  Haragon focuses on darker material himself such as how large his penis is, and the hygienic challenges of bar soap.  Haragon performs a joke about Asians that the crowd does NOT like, but otherwise he is very well liked and his material hits some good laughs.  When done out comes last amateur of the night...........

Brian Wherrett.  He is very new to comedy and has some cleverly written material on subjects starting with his appearance and moving to some other observational material.  He is a bit monotone and quiet and stage presence is not at it's peak; however, this would explain lots of people just beginning comedy! If he keeps performing it will come, and he has the intelligence in writing already, so look out for Wherrett in the future!

Atkinson then moves straight into the professional comedians.  Out first comes..............

Peter Gunstra.  Gunstra is a staple at Yuk Yuk's Ottawa, and wows the crowd with his jokes on sex rehab, clever takes on penis size and ring toss, and pregnant alcoholics.  My favourite Gunstra line is "who stole the front door?"!  He does a solid job and leaves to great applause.  Out next comes...................

Matt Carter.  Carter is fresh off his appearance at Just For Laughs in Ottawa, and expectations are high.  He does not let the crowd down, with his jokes including how to best get rid of a cell phone, and how to get a free baby!  It is also happy for the lady folks in the audience to learn that the good looking young man is not in fact gay.  Carter leaves to a very satisfied audience, and out comes......................

Wendi Reed.  Reed is a veteran of the Ottawa comedy scene and delivers a solid set.  She has an original voice, and begins with some rowdier stuff and ends with discussing dating a First Nations man.  She has some newer material on the price of inflation and about a foster child in the Dominican Republic.  Reed is a great comic, and the crowd is delighted!

Overall the show was great, but only three advance:


Nick Flores and Brad Sproule


Matt Carter

Congratulations to all who made it through, and to those who made it out.  Stand up comedy is a two way street, and without audiences to hear the comedy, there is no comedy to hear.  

Like what you heard here?  Don't like it?  Let us know in the comments below and you will be entered in a draw for free tickets to a Wednesday night show!

Until next week,
jenn hayward