Persistent winter-like weather and an unwelcome mid-April snowstorm may have kept a few people away, but the Winnipeg Comedy Festival is still on track to match last year's attendance.
Artistic director Al Rae said Tuesday that this year's fest, which concluded Sunday, saw a decline in attendance at gala shows at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre, but more sellouts than ever at some of the festival's smaller venues.
"It wasn't a record-breaking year, but it wasn't a disappointing year, either," said Rae, who noted that final ticket-sales numbers are still being tabulated. "We're certainly on target for last year's number (total paid attendance of 10,232)."
He added that weather -- or, more specifically, a fed-up population's inclination to stay home as cold temperatures linger -- has affected attendance at many local events this year.
"I've talked to other producers in town, and a lot of events have been struggling a bit. This enduring winter has hurt everybody," he said.
Among the sold-out shows this year were two tapings of CBC Radio's The Debaters, the always-popular Winnipeg Show, a taping of CBC Radio's Definitely Not the Opera, the all-female The No Bro Show and the week-ending Best of the Fest.
"I think that may be a record for the number of sellouts," said Rae.
From an artistic standpoint, Rae said he was particularly pleased by the success of diminutive Winnipeg-born comic Tanyalee Davis, who made several appearances -- including the headline slot in the Size Matters show -- and the huge audience response to The No Bro Show.
"It's nice to help to dispel that slowly dying prejudice against women comics," he said. "The laughter in the Gas Station was through the roof -- I think it was probably the single biggest response we had at a Gas Station show throughout the week."
Rae also pointed to the inclusion of Manitoba comics -- whose sets were recorded by TV crews for online viewing as part of CBC's expanded comedy-fest programming package -- as openers for the taped-for-TV galas as one of his personal highlights this year.
"They did exceptionally well," he said of the gala-warmup efforts of Paul Rabliauskas, Matt Falk, Big Daddy Tazz, Dan Verville and Chantel Marostica. "They all knocked it out of the park; CBC people were very impressed."
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With this year's comedy fest wrapped up, it's time to clear out the notebook and let loose the annual collection of favourite one-liners from a full week of funny business:
"If you ever see a 65-year-old guy beating the crap out of a 72-year-old guy in front of a legion, that's a younger bro finally having the best day of his life."
-- Darrin Rose, on long-simmering sibling rivalries.
"I'm not so fat that no one will have sex with me; I'm just fat enough that no one's bragging to their friends about it."
-- Peter White, on carrying just a few too many waistline pounds.
"I'm newly single. I'm not mad; I get it -- the guy she left me for has Jets tickets. So I'm like, 'Wow, those are P2s -- good call.'"
-- Jordan Welwood, on romantic realities in Winnipeg.
"Attitudes have changed so much that if I saw you doing a line of coke off a slice of white bread, I'd be, 'Dude, white bread? Are you trying to kill yourself?'"
-- Dave Hemstad, on the obsession with healthy eating.
"As you probably know, 'Winnipeg' is a Cree word that means 'muddy water.' Pretty amazing that the First Nations people, thousands of years ago, were able to predict what would be flowing out of our faucets."
-- Bruce Clark, on local water woes.
"They have a weird nickname for me backstage -- they call me 'Funding.'"
-- Aboriginal comic Paul Rabliauskas, happy to be part of a CBC-sponsored comedy-fest gala.
"I'm huge in Japan."
-- three-foot-six comic Tanyalee Davis.
"When you're 22, you will chug a beer anywhere, anytime. When you're 32, you will only chug a beer when your wife just called and you're already supposed to be home."
-- Darrin Rose, on graduating from 'bro'-hood to manhood.