Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/2/2010 (4230 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
What's so funny?
That's the question Al Rae intends to answer, with more focus, purpose and variety than ever before, with the ninth edition of the CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival.
The festival's artistic director will unveil the lineup for the event, dubbed 2010: A Comedy Odyssey, today at 1:30 p.m. at the Gas Station Theatre, at a media launch event that is open to the public. And Rae says both the launch and the festival, which runs April 6-11 at various local venues, are going to explore new frontiers of funny.
"This year, we're really looking for ways to expand the definition of comedy," Rae explains. "I think there are people out there who are saying a lot of important things. The gala shows are one venue for people to see (traditional) comedy performances, but there's also some really out-there stuff that we're interested in showcasing."
With that out-there attitude in mind, Rae has added a new feature called Storytellers to the festival lineup; the shows will feature the real-life experiences and world-worn perspectives of, among others, '60s U.S. political activist John Krassner, Canadian acting legend Gordon Pinsent and his son, comedian/author Barry Kennedy.
This year's schedule also includes the return of the always-popular taped-for-radio feature The Debaters, a borders-of-comedy panel discussion titled Going Too Far, a rising-stars showcase called The Shock of the New, and the beyond-edgy staple The Dark and Stormy Show.
Also of note are a live taping of the CBC Radio show LOL, a presentation of Kids in the Hall veteran Kevin McDonald's one-man show, Hammy and the Kids, and the offbeat Aaron Berg Show, a solo performance in which the bodybuilder-turned-standup-comic explores the lighter side -- if there is one -- of steroid use.
The 2010 festival's schedule of themed gala shows will include the academically flavoured The Edumacation Show, the DIY-inclined The Home Show, an alternate-nationality show called Whose Canada Is It Anyway?, a credibility-stretching effort called True Story... , and the proclivities-probing late-night gala The Obsessions Show.
Among the high-profile names on this year's roster are Gerry Dee, Jon Dore, Steve Patterson, Cathy Jones, Tammy Pescatelli, Mike MacDonald, Lorne Elliott, Elvira Kurt, David Rakoff, Irwin Barker, Steve Brinder, Derek Edwards, Patrick McKenna, Peter Keleghan, Don Burnstick, Big Daddy Tazz and, making his ninth consecutive Winnipeg Comedy Festival appearance, John Wing.
Rae said this year's talent roster will include a larger number of veteran comedy performers and an absence of the non-comic special-guest celebrities that have been part of past festivals.
"We just found that there's a style of comedy performance we've done over the years that can be a little bit hit and miss," he says, adding that the shift will probably mean gala lineups with more straight-ahead standup comedy and less of the actors-in-character monologues that have been seen in the past.
"I think the non-comedian celebrity hosts and the character monologues have the same deficiency, which is that they don't have the same personal integrity that standup does. Standup is one of the art forms that has the highest quotient of personal integrity -- even though the jokes are made up, the point of view is always the performer's, and by the end of the set, the intent is really crystal clear. There's no separation between the material and the performer; they own each other and they rise and fall on each other, and I think the crowd responds to that."
Rae said he hopes the 2010 festival will both confront and amuse its audiences, taking a serious shot at knocking down the walls of political correctness that seem to be an ever-more-present part of 21st-century public discourse.
"There's a new form of political correctness out there that's really (annoying)," he offers. "What began as a good thing in terms of understanding that language can be very hurtful has been turned into a way to deflect from things that are actually important in the world.
"Maybe it's a personal evolution for me; I've been looking at where I am in my life and my career and I've just made this decision that in all the things I do, including the comedy festival, I want to focus on things that have some impact. When people leave the shows, they'll have something to think about -- whether they agree or disagree, it will jar them out of their everyday outlook, if only briefly."
This year's version of The Winnipeg Show will feature a contingent of local comics who are making their first-ever appearance at the festival, including Chantel Marostica, Dan Robertson, Jeremy Williamz and Aaron Merke.
"This really speaks to what's happened to standup here in the last year or two," said Rae. "There's been an unbelievable explosion of talent."
Also part of the fest's local flavour is the inclusion of a homecoming show/comedy-DVD release party for Trevor Boris (who will also host the opening-night gala) and a special festival edition of Kelly Hughes Live, a regular sort-of-talk-show event that takes place at Aqua Books. Free outreach events will take place at the Millennium Library and McNally Robinson Booksellers.
The full comedy-festival lineup is available at www.winnipegcomedyfestival.com; tickets for all this year's shows are on sale at all Ticketmaster outlets.
Cavalcade of comedians
Some of the comedians who will be appearing at the CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival include:
Big Daddy Tazz
After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.