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Courtesy John Sutton

2016 FunnyFest brings belly laughs to Calgary

By Shelbi Bartlett, June 9 2016 —

The 16th annual FunnyFest Comedy Festival will bring laughter to Calgary until June 12. The festival showcases both veteran and up-and-coming stand-up comics as well as comedy workshops.

Director Stu Hughes founded FunnyFest in 2001.

“I thought we could change the world one laugh at a time, so I became a social entrepreneur and started the festival,” Hughes says. “FunnyFest aims to be a catalyst for physical and mental well-being through the gift of laughter.”

Hughes says the festival contributes to the community by providing the opportunity for charities and other groups to attend shows for free. This year, FunnyFest provided complimentary tickets to people who have been displaced by the Fort McMurray wildfires, as well as first responders.

FunnyFest brings stand-up comedians from all over North America to Calgary. Notable comics include Kelly Taylor, Tim Koslo, Michael Beers and Sean Lecomber. This year’s festival will also showcase aboriginal talent, including Paul Kuster and Lawrence Fehler.

Each show features six to 10 performers, which ensures “something for everyone,” according to Hughes.

The festival consists primarily of stand-up comedy, which Hughes says is the “purest art form” since stand-up comedians have to direct and write their own material.

“These guys are on their own. They’re alone up there against the world. They have to spit in the face of the devil,” he says.

With over 500 applicants a year, Hughes says it is difficult to chose  performers. Each comic must meet six criteria — audience reaction, originality, stage presence, style, time and coherency. That being said, Hughes says he can tell within 30 seconds to a minute if someone is going to be funny.

“One of the things we teach in public speaking is that you’ve got to get to the point,” he says.

Now in its 16th year, FunnyFest will utilize venues ranging from large spaces like the Grey Eagle Resort & Casino to more intimate settings like Nicastro’s Public House.

Hughes promises to put the heat on performers.

“We are going to permit immolation,” he jokes. “They’re going to be soaked in gasoline when they go on stage. If they do not get 20 belly laughs, they will be lit on stage and we have sticks to keep them up there. Guess how
funny these people are going to be then? They’re going to get 40 or 50 belly laughs because they don’t want to burn to death.”

Tickets for the 16th annual FunnyFest shows are $20 and can be purchased online through
EventBrite. The festival runs until June 12.

For more information, visit funnyfest.com

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