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Rolling in the aisles (and the alleys)

Oddblock comedy fest's second year a standup success

ZACHARY PRONG / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Chris Cubas performs at The Park Theatre for the 2016 Oddblock Block Party Comedy Festival on August 25, 2016. The festival runs until Sunday and will see over 50 performers at 29 shows in 6 different locations.</p></p></p>

ZACHARY PRONG / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Chris Cubas performs at The Park Theatre for the 2016 Oddblock Block Party Comedy Festival on August 25, 2016. The festival runs until Sunday and will see over 50 performers at 29 shows in 6 different locations.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/8/2016 (472 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The weather was perfect. The sidewalks were alive with activity. The venues were (mostly) full. The laughs were loud and plentiful.

The second annual Oddblock Comedy Festival wrapped up a jammed weekend of shows with a pair of Sunday night performances at the Park Theatre, and it’s clear from the buzz created along South Osborne Street during its four-night run that the event has secured its late-August place in Winnipeg’s summer-long festival season.

“We’re thrilled with the way it turned out,” said local comedian John B. Duff, co-founder of Oddblock along with Park Theatre owner Erick Casselman and talent booker Kevin Mozdzen. “We had some venue changes this year (new show sites BMC Market, GameKnight Games and Riverview Community Centre replaced first-year locations Luxalune, Monticchio Ristorante and Deseo Bistro), and now that those shows are done, I can say that the new venues worked better.”

Preliminary attendance figures show attendance at more than 1,900 for the second-year festival, compared with about 1,200 for the inaugural event. Eleven of Oddblock’s 27 shows were either sold out or within a few seats of capacity. A volunteer force of 35 helped keep this year’s festival running smoothly.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/8/2016 (472 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The weather was perfect. The sidewalks were alive with activity. The venues were (mostly) full. The laughs were loud and plentiful.

The second annual Oddblock Comedy Festival wrapped up a jammed weekend of shows with a pair of Sunday night performances at the Park Theatre, and it’s clear from the buzz created along South Osborne Street during its four-night run that the event has secured its late-August place in Winnipeg’s summer-long festival season.

"We’re thrilled with the way it turned out," said local comedian John B. Duff, co-founder of Oddblock along with Park Theatre owner Erick Casselman and talent booker Kevin Mozdzen. "We had some venue changes this year (new show sites BMC Market, GameKnight Games and Riverview Community Centre replaced first-year locations Luxalune, Monticchio Ristorante and Deseo Bistro), and now that those shows are done, I can say that the new venues worked better."

Preliminary attendance figures show attendance at more than 1,900 for the second-year festival, compared with about 1,200 for the inaugural event. Eleven of Oddblock’s 27 shows were either sold out or within a few seats of capacity. A volunteer force of 35 helped keep this year’s festival running smoothly.

Duff and the rest of the Oddblock team will meet today to fully debrief this year’s event.

The festival kicked off last Thursday with a pair of shows at the Park Theatre, highlighted by Winnipeg’s up-close introduction to the careening, mostly improvised comedy of Kate Berlant. Friday saw Oddblock shift into high gear, with 10 shows spread around five different venues and open-mic standup happening all evening long at Park Alleys.

ZACHARY PRONG / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Graham Clark performs at The Park Theatre for the 2016 Oddblock Block Party Comedy Festival on August 25, 2016. The festival runs until Sunday and will see over 50 performers at 29 shows in 6 different locations.</p></p></p>

ZACHARY PRONG / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Graham Clark performs at The Park Theatre for the 2016 Oddblock Block Party Comedy Festival on August 25, 2016. The festival runs until Sunday and will see over 50 performers at 29 shows in 6 different locations.

The two new South Osborne venues — BMC Market and Game-Knight — were full and a bit uncomfortably warm for each of their shows, while the third new location — Riverview CC, located a full 15-minute walk from the rest of the Oddblock action — drew a healthy crowd for its first show (H.U.N.K.S. & Friends) but had very sparse attendance for its second (the LGBT-themed Out Loud!).

Friday’s early gala — Todd Glass & Friends, at the Park Theatre — was very strong, thanks to contributions from imported acts David Heti, Martha Kelly and headliner Glass, but also because of stellar sets by locals Paul Rabliauskas, Tyler Penner and Dan Glasswick. Later at the Park Theatre, decidedly strange standup Ian Abramson hosted a show called 7 Minutes in Purgatory — featuring comics performing via live video feed from a soundproof backstage space that prevented them from hearing the audience’s reaction to their jokes. The weird concept produced some extremely funny moments.

Saturday’s lineup was even busier, with 11 shows, a pair of podcast tapings and another walk-in/standup open mic at the bowling alley. Throughout the evening, the smaller venues were packed, with festival-goers and between-shows performers clustered on the sidewalk outside Vera Pizzeria and BMC Market to catch a glimpse or an earful of the comedy that was happening inside.

Oddblock organizers had secured a permit to set up a beer garden in the curb lane of Osborne Street outside the theatre, creating a popular gathering place on what turned out to be a series of perfectly beautiful late-summer evenings.

Among the Saturday highlights were the offbeat-comedy-focused Kooks show at Riverview, which included strong sets by Heti, Berlant, Abramson, local performer/host Tim Gray and Brent Weinbach, and the late-night Badabing Badaboom show at Vera, featuring a mystery lineup that wasn’t determined until just before showtime. Glass, Weinbach, Berlant and several others kept the pizzeria’s small audience in fits well beyond the show’s expected one-hour running time.

The festival wrapped up Sunday with a pair of shows — the bi-national Border Wars, featuring a mix of Canadian (Graham Clark, Kathleen McGee, Glasswick, Chris Locke) and U.S. (Kelly, Abramson, Chris Cubas) acts, and the closing gala, hosted by Duff and featuring excellent contributions from Weinbach, Gray, Ron Lynch, Sam Jay, Jackie Kashian and show-closer Matt Braunger.

After the show, Duff called all the remaining Oddblock performers, both in the wings and in the crowd, onstage for a "class picture" photo op. The jumbled mix of local, Canadian and international talent reinforced how effectively Duff and company have managed to incorporate Winnipeg’s ever-growing homegrown comedy roster into what has quickly become a top-drawer festival experience.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @BradOswald

Read more by Brad Oswald.

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