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What’s the deal with stand-up, anyways?

By Bryan Moxon, October 27 2015 —

All great stand-up comedians used open mic comedy nights to hone their acts and perfect their craft. So what’s the local scene like for aspiring Calgary comics?

The longest-standing venue in the city is Yuk Yuk’s, currently located in the Elbow River Casino. They hold open mic shows on Thursday of most weeks.

“Yuk Yuk’s open mic has been going on for the better part of 30 years in Calgary,” booking agent Kelly D’Amour says. “Back in the day, for anybody that was just starting out it was terrible for them to get any kind of stage time because Yuk Yuk’s was the only place that had open mics.”

Comedy Monday Night at Broken City was next to arrive on the scene. Launched by James Moore about 10 years ago, it has become western Canada’s longest-running weekly open mic and is a Calgary stand-up comedy staple.

The show, hosted by a rotating guest MC, sets the standard for Calgary open mics. Local comedians take stage for most of the night, but the evening always finishes with a seasoned headliner. And since Broken City launched the event, open mic opportunities in the community have grown immensely.

One of the more significant shows to start in Calgary since Comedy Monday Night’s launch is Jupiter Comedy, which began four years ago. It takes place on Tuesdays at Nite Owl and Wednesdays at Oak Tree Tavern. Show co-founder Eric Steel says Broken City’s open mic inspired him to start running a comedy show.

“Comedy Monday Night was the first example of an open mic that was done really well and was the model we built our show around,” Steel says. “If you build a proper show, even if that show is based around amateurs, it can still be good. And the proof is in the pudding — these shows are popular. You can say the model works because people are coming to the shows every week andthey’ve been around for a while. We’re looking for high quality, we want people to laugh and that’s the main goal of what we’re doing.”

A newcomer to the Calgary comedy scene is Crash Test Comedy, which started just under a year ago and runs on Tuesday nights at Vern’s Tavern. Co-founder Ben Cannon says he’s seen significant growth in Calgary’s comedy scene, even through tough economic times.

“While ginormous global economic forces seem to crumble around us, there is this pocket of growth in Calgary comedy for some inexplicable reason. More people are starting shows and getting stage time and thus we have more shows with better comedians,” Cannon says.

All of these comedy nights have open mics available if you want to try your hand at being funny in front of a large group of people. Otherwise, amateur comics perform at the events and admission is typically a $5 cover charge. Who knows — you might be watching the next Jerry Seinfeld.

For more information about comedy around the city, visit calgarycomedy.ca

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