Chad Anderson is tired of waiting for his big break to come along.
"I’ve come to realize that I don’t think that’s how it works, you gotta go out and be like, ‘Here I am,’" says the Cree comedian, who got his start in standup when he moved to Winnipeg from The Pas in 2008.
Anderson is taking matters into his own hands with an hour-long live comedy album that proves laughter is the best medicine — even when the ailments include systemic racism and the death of a family member.
● Wee Johnny’s Irish Pub
● Friday, Sept. 13, 9 p.m.
● Admission $10
He lauches Live at Wee Johnny’s on Friday, Sept. 13 at, you guessed it, Wee Johnny’s Irish Pub, with a release party that will feature a slate of local comedians. Anderson’s debut — which is on Comedy Records, a Toronto-based label dedicated to putting out standup and sketch-comedy albums — feels like a big career moment.
"I’m very happy with the outcome," he says. "Hopefully people like it and hopefully the right ears hear it and I can get a few more opportunities to perform outside of Winnipeg."
Anderson has always had a knack for making his friends and family laugh, but he got his first opportunity to try it in a room full of strangers at Rumor’s Comedy Club when he came to Winnipeg. He showed up to an amateur night armed with five minutes of material and tips from a Google search of "how to do standup comedy."
"I remember the first time getting on stage and being so nervous," he said. "But then, when the crowd laughed at my first punchline, I remember this wave of calmness… and thinking this is what my life is missing."
Anderson, who works as a plumber by day, has become a fixture in the local comedy scene over the past 11 years and performs regularly at Wee Johnny’s and the Handsome Daughter. During that time, he has seen some positive changes in Winnipeg’s comedy world.
"I feel like the community has just taken a turn for the better… I feel like it’s gotten more inviting," he says.
"When I started, for Indigenous comedians there was myself and Paul Rabliauskas and Florence Spence — just three of us in Winnipeg for the longest time, and now there’s so many different races and genders... and different kinds of comedy shows around that aren’t just standup."
Anderson’s own take on comedy has also shifted over the past decade. He used to try to imitate comedians like Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and Russell Peters, but has since leaned into his own identity — one that is laid-back and doesn’t shy away from weird or cheesy material.
"I feel more confident and comfortable onstage and there’s no rooms or shows that I get booked on or asked to do that I’m scared to do anymore," he says.
That newfound confidence was pushed to the limits when he was invited to perform in Mary Walsh’s original production, Canada, It’s Complicated. The touring show created by the This Hour Has 22 Minutes veteran takes jabs at Canada’s history with sketches, satire and a lot more singing and dancing than Anderson expected.
"On the phone, they asked if I could sing or play instruments and I said ‘no,’" he recalls, adding that after three months of touring with the show he still wouldn’t add singer or dancer to his resumé. "I don’t think I’ll be doing many more musicals in my career."
Anderson has returned to his roots with Live at Wee Johnny’s. The album includes anecdotes about growing up as an adopted Indigenous kid in a white family, the confusing racism he experienced when he moved to Winnipeg and the death of his father.
"For me, being able to laugh at those things and to be able to find the humour in the situation helps me to move on from that pain," Anderson says. "And I’m a firm believer that when I laugh at racism or racist people, I’m taking that power from them. I’m showing them how ridiculous what they’re saying or what they believe is."
Tickets to Friday’s album release party are $10 at the door and the show starts at 9 p.m. Live at Wee Johnny’s is available for purchase on iTunes.
Eva Wasney reports on arts, culture and life for the Winnipeg Free Press.