‘Just don’t vomit on anyone.’
These were the words of wisdom echoing in my head as I took to the Cinnamon Bear stage last Sunday (Oct. 20) to try my hand at standup comedy for the first time.
While I’ve put myself in some pretty nerve-wracking situations over the years — chucking a grenade in the Army Reserves and drunkenly stumbling through the wrong neighbourhood of a Colombian metropolis chief among them — nothing could ever come close to preparing me for the titanic wave of anxiety that washed over me in the moments before my first joke.
There I was, mic in hand, bright lights bouncing off my glorious autumn-themed throwback shirt, and all I could do was drip sweat like the world-class athlete I most surely am not.
And then, miraculously, I got my first laugh, and all was right in the world.
“It’s an energy that I can’t describe in any way, shape or form that comes from an audience that gives you your laugh,” said Tara O’Doherty, who, like me was a standup noob before enlisting in Cinnamon Bear’s amateur comedy contest. “You chase that dragon for the rest of your life. It’s the best thing I’ve ever felt.”
Amazingly, 11 out of the 15 comics participating in the four-week competition had never taken the plunge into standup before, but you would never know it from their performances.
Normally, amateur and comedy are two words, that, when put together in a sentence, usually inspire visions of awkward, cringe-inducing sets that are fun to watch in the same way a train wreck or guilty-pleasure episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is. (You better redneckognize!)
But, according to comedian and contest host Megan Fullerton, Whistler seems to have a healthy stable of funny folks to support a standup scene in the resort.
“The surprise to me was all the different people who came from all walks of life; it was every age, and we had almost an even division of male to female (comics),” she said. “We had everyone from Geoff Swan, who turns 65 in November, to Kyle (Killeen) who’s in his 20s and delivers pizza for Dominos, and everything in between… Every single comic that went up was unique, it wasn’t cookie-cutter, and no one knew what to expect.”
The majority of the competitors — myself included — enrolled in LB Productions’ month-long crash comedy course at Millennium Place, which was led by Fullerton, as a way to hone their sets and prepare themselves for the big show. A second course will be offered in the New Year. (Check out www.lbpentertainment.com for more info.)
While most grizzled standups bemoan the growing popularity of comedy courses offered around the world — ‘you can’t teach funny’ being the common school of thought — Fullerton’s classes were useful in highlighting the potential pitfalls of live performance and sharpening our collective funny bones.
Add to that the tremendous support of the lively Cinnamon Bear crowds — minus the obviously intoxicated heckler who was dealt with in short order by the first comic to hit the stage and promptly removed from the premises — and it’s clear that Whistlerites have a growing appetite for amateur comedy in the resort.
“The crowds are definitely hungry for standup here, and it’s certainly filling a really big need, especially for people who want to try comedy,” said Fullerton. “I hope this is the tip of the iceberg for people coming out and realizing they can get up there and try it in a relatively safe environment.”
Check out O’Doherty, Swan, Killeen, Derek Mendonca, Jack Punshon and wildcard entries Emily Wood and Emily McDonell in the finals on Sunday (Nov. 3) at Cinnamon Bear, starting at 8 p.m. Squamish funny man Kelly Dyer will be headlining the show.
I’ll also be there in all my retro-shirted glory trying really hard not to barf on anyone during my act. Maybe don’t sit in the front row.
Celebrate over 10 years of savagery at the Heavy Hitting HorrorFest
After a one-year hiatus, Whistler’s most gruesome homegrown event, the rebranded Heavy Hitting HorrorFest returns in all its depraved glory.
Featuring over 15 local and international filmmakers, this fiercely independent festival has become a must-attend for Whistler’s Halloween junkies.
Whether it’s grindhouse, gore or psychological horror you’re after, head on over to the Fairmont Wednesday (Oct. 30) is your spookiest attire for the re-emergence of this uniquely-Whistler event.
Online tickets are sold out, but some may still be available at the Whistler Visitor Information Centre in the Village for $50.
Red carpet is at 6 p.m., with the screenings starting at 7:30 p.m.
Be inspired by legendary skier Ingrid Backstrom
In her globe-spanning career, Seattle’s Ingrid Backstrom has become one of freeskiing’s most recognizable figures, starring in 13 ski films over the years.
Join her at Millennium Place Monday (Nov. 4) for an up-close and personal glimpse into the life of the legendary extreme skier.
The North Face Speaker Series event starts at 7 p.m., preceded by a VIP reception at Whistler’s North Face retail location in the Village.
Tickets are $20, available at www.ticketfly.com.