EDvent/ Edmonton Comedy Festival, 2011

Etown gets its laugh-on with the first annual Edmonton Comedy Festival, and it's been a long time coming according to the event's sold-out crowds...


AT times the tool in front of us was somehow more entertaining than the stand-up chatter itself, but mostly when the emcee served as the night's intermission. Not that this Saturday night performance of the 1st annual Edmonton Comedy Festival was not worth our 25 bucks and two hours, but this guy was a discreet diversion of the guilty pleasure kind.
Yes, I know...another festival! But this is one Edmonton's
been waiting for for a long, long time. The first annual
Edmonton Comedy Festival!

Draft beer may have amped his nuisance, but it couldn't be the sole fall guy for his abrasive over-laughing and (actual) knee-slapping, taunting the patience of his own company. People!

But enough about that guy, because my buddy and I were there for something entirely different. Coast to coast comics testing our senses of humour with their scripted and seemingly impromptu punchlines as part of the 5-day ECF (presented by ATB Financial, btw), yet another Etown festival, but one that had us wondering, "What the fuck took so damn long?!"

"We have some of the best comedians in the world right here and it's about time they had a festival stage in their own backyard," said Graham Neil, President of the ECF, and that guy from CTV News. You know, he does the entertainment segments...'member?! "We have a rich comedy history in the city from the late, great Leslie Nielsen, to SCTV, to Die-Nasty, to national headlining comics including Andrew Grose and Sean Lecomber."

"What the fuck took so damn long?!"

And now, to carry on the tradition, the it's-about-time Edmonton Comedy Festival. From last Wednesday (Oct. 19) to this past Sunday (Oct. 23), a half-dozen venues (including Northlands Park, the Westin, and the Citadel) hosted something like 30 acts from across the country, including Mike Bullard, Gerry Dee, Debra DiGiovanni, John Wing, Joe Flaherty, Erica Sigurdson, and Edmonton's own comedy troupes Die-Nasty and Caution: May Contain Nuts.

Flaherty, an original performer and writer of SCTV, hosted the Edmonton Homecoming Gala at the Citadel's Maclab Theatre to kickoff the inaugural ECF on Wednesday evening. It, like all two dozen shows held during the city-wide (as well as St. Albert) festival, was sold-out, excluding the free V.I.P. Kids Show on Saturday morning and the cover-only Sidetrack Reunion Show that concluded the event on Sunday night.

My tipsy buddy Lonnie with Graham Neil,
local news personality and the man responsible
for the inaugural ECF.
So it seemed natural for me--someone who loves to lol and who hearts this here town--to check out this new, hopefully annual, tradition.

And so I did. But it wasn't until day four when my buddy and I headed to the Southside to sit at the same table as that aforementioned douche and wash down my BBQ sauce-soiled potato skins with rum 'n' Coke, while Lars Callieou, Brad Muise, Darcy Michael, and Big Daddy Tazz (in that order) fed us their humoured tales of fatherhood, dating, and daily shenanigans in the life of a gay pothead.

Every seat was occupied during the Paul Sveen-emceed performance at the Four Points by Sheraton's Our Duke of Argyll Pub (7230 Argyll Road), admittedly a joint I didn't even know existed. And that's coming from a guy who likes to get his drink-on, so..... It was an intimate hideaway that easily suited the bloated, yet appeased crowd, all of which I'm sure had no regrets about shelling out the $25 price tag.

In fact, my buddy and I were impressed enough to return to the event the very next night, which also happened to be the final day of the 2011 Edmonton Comedy Festival. We got to On the Rocks (11740-Jasper Ave.) at around 7:30, apparently early enough to slip past the $5 cover charge. We ordered the drink specials and got a bite to eat as we waited for the ECF wrap-up party.

Mr. Sveen took to the mic 15 minutes past schedule, serving as emcee again, and sharing nearly all of last night's routine with this somewhat older crowd. Saskatchewan's Boyd Banks was up first, reminiscing about Edmonton's late, great Sidetrack Cafe, and missing the mark with his quips on abortion and Hitler. I guess it just wasn't his night.

One of the dozens of nationwide comics
who showed up at the ECF was Darcy
Michael, one of 'dem "undercover gays."
Sveen repeated his last-night jokes & jabs before the local Atomic Improv--made up of Donovan Workun and Mark Meer--involved the slightly more inebriated crowd with their improvisational games, asking us to shout out colours, job titles, and names of towns to help them along. They were clearly the highlight of this dim show.

Then it was time for local comic vet Tim Koslo, who struggled to keep some of us interested, including when he "reluctantly" agreed to resurrect some Jamaican-Newfie character clad in denim, from his "Sidetrack days." I hate to sound like a dick, but I guess you get what you pay for.

It wasn't until halfway through that I realized I was sitting right next to Graham Neil that night. I look back now and know that even though three quarters of the acts that night were less than appreciated, it was only part of the big picture here. And that's the fact that Edmonton now, and finally, has its very own comedy festival, which I'm sure will only grow each season, much like the Fringe or Folk Fest have. That's something I can appreciate.

"It's great to celebrate all of that and make some more history ourselves in the process," Neil stated. "And remember laughter is the best medicine unless of course you have a rash that won't go away. Then seriously go to a doctor."

Gross. And, I am.

Below is a clip featuring Edmonton Comedy Festival President Graham Neil and local comedian Andrew Grose telling is about the first annual event...


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