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It's nearly go time for Winnipeg Comedy Festival

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Canadian comic Tom Green has been on the Winnipeg Comedy Festival's wish list for many years.

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Canadian comic Tom Green has been on the Winnipeg Comedy Festival's wish list for many years.

It's not easy getting Green.

As a matter of fact, Canadian TV personality/comedian Tom Green has been on Al Rae's wish list for a few years, but it wasn't until recently that the Winnipeg Comedy Festival's artistic director was able to add Green to the roster of performers at the annual spring celebration of silliness.

Green is one of several marquee comedy names that will be announced on Thursday, Feb. 13, when the Winnipeg Comedy Festival unveils the lineup for its not-so-unlucky 13th edition.

"The theme is '13 Horrible Years,' and I think we're going to have a lot of fun with it," Rae told the Free Press in an exclusive interview in advance of the annual launch event.

Green will host a taped-for-TV gala called Special Delivery (April 12), which will focus on comedians with unique performing styles or abilities. Also confirmed as gala hosts are Sandra Shamas (Food Glorious Food, April 10), Match Game host Darrin Rose (The Bro Show, April 12) and Daryn Jones (First World Problems, April 11). The host for the gala titled Grave New World: The Future Show (April 11), if confirmed, will bring an interesting musical-comedy perspective to the mix.

Other highlights of this year's comedy-fest schedule include the return of the cuisine-and-comedy evening Gastrocomique at Fusion Grill (April 9), with Derek Edwards providing the laughs, a taping of CBC Radio's The Irrelevant Show (April 9), with locals Jane Testar and Jacqueline Loewen (of Hot Thespian Action) added to the roster, the annual local-talent showcase The Winnipeg Show (April 11, hosted by Bruce Clark), tapings of CBC Radio's Definitely Not the Opera (April 10) and The Debaters (April 12 and 13), and a panel discussion titled Just Kidding? (April 13), which will explore the limits of comedic free speech in the 21st century.

The festival gets an early start on Monday, April 7, with a pair of shows -- the annual legal-community fundraiser A Lawyer Walks Up to the Bar, hosted by Dave Hemstad, and Kings of King's Head, hosted by Chantel Marostica and featuring a mix of local and imported acts.

The official fest opener, Comedy Aces, takes place April 8 at McPhillips Station Casino, hosted by Graham Chittenden and featuring Edwards, Hemstad, Jen Grant and Darryl Orr.

Elvira Kurt, a festival regular who has done a stellar job of warming up crowds before gala shows the last couple of years, has been rewarded for her efforts by the inclusion of her one-woman show in this year's lineup (April 9).

Kids in the Hall regular Kevin McDonald will host his annual film retrospective, KevinFest, at Cinematheque, with this year's theme being None-Hit Wonders -- movies that were initially dismissed but, in retrospect, deserved a better reception (included on the bill are The Man With Two Brains, Duck Soup, The Producers, The General and Ishtar).

Rae said this year's roster of fest-connected shows at Rumor's Comedy Club is the strongest to date, featuring full headline performances by Edwards, Hemstad, John Wing, Sean Lecomber and others.

The 13th Annual Winnipeg Comedy Festival runs April 7-13. A full schedule and ticket information are available at www.winnipegcomedyfestival.com .

Rae said he's particularly pleased with the quality of young comedians signed for this year's festival.

"There were incredible showcases of talent in Toronto this year, particularly out of Yuk Yuk's, in terms of a whole wave of new comics," said Rae. "I was wondering a few years ago if there would ever be a new slate to rival Brent Butt and Derek Edwards and their generation, and I'm beginning to see a new class that has finally arrived.

"These comics that we're putting on our galas -- and for most, this will be their first festival appearance -- are really moving up. There's a very competitive and very strong standup scene in Toronto right now, the strongest I've seen in five or six years."

Rae added that Winnipeg's comedy scene also continues to produce an ever-growing roster of promising young performers.

"There are more slots and better slots than ever for local performers," he said. "It's something we really want to support; I think a healthy local comedy scene helps the festival. We don't take any credit for the strength of the local scene -- they did that on their own -- but we certainly support and encourage it."

Veteran Canadian comic Jon Steinberg will make an appearance at the Feb. 13 launch event (11 a.m., Gas Station Arts Centre), and will also offer a special pre-festival show that night at 9 p.m. at The Purple Room at Frame Arts Warehouse (318 Ross Ave., tickets $10).

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 13, 2014 C3

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Updated on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:17 AM CST: Replaces photo, changes headline

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