Conversion Screening Saturday June 29th, 2013

A different kind of film deserves a different kind of screening!

 Four years ago, indie filmmakers Dominic F. Marceau, Kate MacDonald and Paul Ash decided to make a movie called ‘Conversion’. And so they did. Without government or private funding, without going through any of the usual channels to recruit talent or technical staff, without relying on a major studio for distribution and relying on technology available to virtually everyone. Now, they’re ready to reveal their creation to the world.

Conversion trailer

Flash forward and the film that defines the word “independent” is having its premiere at the Maxwell-Cummings Auditorium at Montreal’s Musée des Beaux Arts on June 29th. The fact that the filmmakers decided to have their big night at Montreal’s prestigious Fine Arts Museum is indicative of the non-traditional history of the film.

Paul Ash, known locally as the host of several successful comedy nights, including the weekly Kick Ash Comedy Show, takes the lead alongside MacDonald- the screenplay’s author in her debut performance- in the story of two thirty-something city-dwellers who desperately want to get home at the end of the night. The cast also features a number of cutting edge performers from the Montreal’s alternative comedy scene, as well as new and exciting actors proving that the city’s well of talent runs very deep indeed.

Director Dominic F. Marceau gives the city a starring role as well- the film was shot in various locations throughout Montreal and features some iconic views as well as some little-seen back alleys that give the city its unique character.

 “Really, Montreal is playing itself,” he says. “The rest of us are just interacting with it.”

The filmmakers’ plans for distributing the film are as DIY as the process of making it. Following the premiere, they plan to make it available through online distribution, charging a nominal amount for people everywhere to access it and see what a determined crew of inspired indie producers can do.

‘Conversion’ was shot using DSLR technology- a still photography camera that can capture high-resolution video. The result is shocking in its quality and shows that it is absolutely possible for aspiring filmmakers to accomplish without relying on outside funding to complete their projects.

 “I can’t say how critics or other filmmakers will respond to the film,” MacDonald says, “but I hope it gives them an idea of what can be done by someone who just really wants to make a film and is willing to work hard to make it happen. That’s really the investment that we’ve made here: a lot of hard work.”

‘Conversion’ will be screened at the Maxwell-Cummings Auditorium, 1379 Sherbrooke St. W on June 29th at 8p.m. Admission is free and donations can be made to assist in the further distribution of the film.

For further information please contact Kate MacDonald: 514.451.3469/ kate@fsquaredmedia.net or Dominic Marceau: 514.779.3437/ dominic@fsquaredmedia.net

#KickAshSaves #SaveKickAsh

This post is different from any I’ve done, and very different from anything I expected to do.  This is the obituary of a comedy show.  I’m posting this, because there’s been a number of stories circulating, accusations being made, fingers pointed and I want people aware of how things have happened from my perspective.

text smallOn Friday March 8th I received a text from Pierre, the owner of Andrews Pub.  Pierre bought the pub a year ago last November, long after the Kick Ash show started at Andrews Pub (the third venue for the Kick Ash show).  The Kick Ash show has existed for approximately four years here in Montreal.

Pierre speaks European French, English isn’t his first language and since my French is fairly bad I’ve generally only dealt with him through intermediaries.  He’s never come to see a show, so it comes as no surprise he doesn’t know me.  That did not stop me from being shocked – felt like I was kicked in my gut to read:

Hi.   its pierre.  i canculed your show  in my pub. Cause  i hear a lot of bad thing about you.  i cant keep you in my place.

I don’t claim to be a saint, but I try to live by a simple philosophy, treat others like you want to be treated.  I try to figure out the motivations of people, especially those I don’t see eye to eye with.  Hearing that there’s a “lot of bad things” being said about me, that I’m the type of person that the owner “can’t keep” in his establishment flabbergasted me.  I can’t imagine what horrible things he’s heard about me that should see me banned from a bar, any bar.

During the time of Kick Ash, Andrews has been written of several times including in web reviews and the Montreal Gazette, all favorably.  The Kick Ash Show (somewhat infamously) bore witness to a young man’s decision to not commit suicide – spawning the hashtag #KickAshSaves .  Now I’m being told that with all the positivism that we brought to Andrews Pub, I’m unwelcome – that I’m some sort of moral leper that can taint the atmosphere of Andrews Pub.  How would you react?

It’s not fair to say it was unexpected.  There had been signs.  Taking it back to last spring, a girlfriend of a one of the comics was coming around.  She was enthusiastic about the show.  She complained to me that she didn’t have a job, and one of our favourite bartenders had left Andrews, so introductions to the senior bartender (someone she knew from her time spent at the venue watching the Kick Ash Show) were made and she was quickly hired.

Things progressed normally, for awhile.  Then there was a change.  I later learned that the new bartender had broken up with her comedian boyfriend.  A campaign of hate started.  First it was just heckling (escalating to a vicious rant directed at Asaf Gerchak during one of his last Montreal performances before moving to Australia).  I also received feedback from many sources:

  • Callers inquiring about the show being told it was cancelled
  • Out of province performers (and travelling companions) refused service for out of province ID
  • She’d stand outside the bar, and tell people not to come in on her smoke breaks, because the comedy show was crap
  • An entire table was refused service, because one person (the driver) ordered water (the full order was two pictures of beer and a water – denied)
  • Free beer for the comedians was cancelled
  • The pay schedule, based on drink sales, was unilaterally changed, and then changed again, each time being reduced
  • I heard stories of her ranting about how horrible comedy was, to anyone who’d listen.  Part of one of these stories ended up being recorded and I got to listen to it.
  • One comedian, a professional live painter who tours with music festivals (who’s been kind enough to immortalize the Kick Ash Show) got word back that people were questioning the authenticity of her work (her livelihood) and these rumours were traced back to… you guess who – the bartender who serves hate.
  • Flyers I paid for and had printed were seen in garbage cans
  • During one show she disappeared for over a half hour.  We lost patrons looking to drink
  • She (not the owner) continually threatened to cancel the show
Painted by Sharon Ep1c

Painted by Sharon Ep1c

Her rudeness and threats grew, she affected turn out at the show and she intentionally tried to kill bar sales while the show was going on.  Finally I contacted the owner for a sit down.  I explained to him our difficulties, and he said he understood.  Shortly thereafter we had some new bartenders in on our show night.  The show grew again, the vibe was happy, forgiving and welcoming.  I’d brag and say it’s one of the best open mic’s in the city.

Then I got the text that said the show was cancelled.  I was stunned, particularly since the last show had gone so well.  We had near 50 patrons, all enthralled in the show.  The line up was great, including a new host and headliner – winners of the King Of The Mountain.  I was told drink sales were very good.  Why would such a benefit to the establishment be so unceremoniously axed?

I asked if we’d get a farewell show, and was told it was finished.  The Kick Ash show has run for 4 years, 3 locations.  It’s been a lot of work with no real financial gain.  The primary joy I’ve gotten out of the room is seeing and helping new acts, giving encouragement and stage time to those I like and making sure everyone got a fair chance.  I was accused of stealing my light, my mic and cable.  I had been in the habit of leaving them locked in the bar – and at times had found my gear used and abused.  I made it clear, it was my equipment.  I had also had one of their speakers fixed so I didn’t need to cart in my own speaker and amp each week – something I didn’t even get a “thanks” for.  Maybe I should take a rest.  BattleCOM deserves more of my time.  Still suggestions and offers of rooms came in.  There were some places that didn’t see me as a social leper.  I started a look around.

Then I found out.  The day after I picked up the last of the Kick Ash things at Andrews Pub, there was a comedy show at Andrews.  This was planned.  There was still some advertising for the Kick Ash Show up around the city and online, and someone was going to capitalize on it.  That person?  The bartender who hates comedy.  The room I built up is now being run by the person who’s tried to kill it for the last 6 months.  The show’s host was the only person I ever banned from the Kick Ash stage.

Another person who seemed involved is a friend who’s not in comedy but in Media Development.  He’s working on a concept and had asked my advice.  I had previously directed him to people with talents he needed, and he’s been thankful, because I’ve done right by him.  He had taken his new idea around to various locations after we chatted but had come back to Andrews.  His idea is neat.  He wants to live stream comedy shows, as well as archive the material for future use.  I told him he’d have to get permission from the performers involved or maybe he could do it on another night at Andrews.  Just keep me in the loop.

I wasn’t in the loop.  The plan was to do the show on a Wednesday, but I had loaned out my mic and light to a friend – and they showed up to no equipment.  My friend claims that the following week he was given a day’s notice, by the bartender and owner, that he could do the show on Tuesday – and that my show wasn’t there anymore.  I’m hurt he didn’t reach out.  We’ve texted each other a few times now, but haven’t had a chance to sit down face to face.

Now there is a new show in the space I developed.  A show that doesn’t pay comics like Kick Ash did.  A show that records and streams performances, which, according to the comedians I spoke with – no one was asked for their permission.  They may be under the impression, as there is no cover the bar is a public space and if you do anything in public, it’s fair game.

I have many fond memories of Andrews, of most of the staff, many of whom are my friends BUT I want to ask the comedians, and people who enjoy watching comedians – is that how you’d like to be treated?  Some of you have been asked to perform at Andrews, some already have since the turn over.  I don’t want to forbid anyone anything.

“Stage time is stage time.”  “Hell, in NYC there are pay to play rooms.”  The reason pay to play rooms exist in NYC, is because people are willing to pay to get on stage.  Here in Montreal, do you want paid shows to go away?  Do you want to start a room where the community doesn’t care if someone else comes in and undercuts you for it?  If you said no to that, then please say no to performing at this new Tuesday night show at Andrews Pub.  Say no to supporting it, to buying beers at that venue while their Tuesday night show exists.

If it’s moved to another night, like my friend said it was supposed to be on, I’m fine with that.  Use that stage time to get better, but protect your image.

I’m still on the fence about restarting Kick Ash again.  I’d like to know I have the community’s support.  I’d actually like to know there is a community that has pride in itself.

Yours, Paul Ash

Yours, Paul Ash

How To Stand-up Comedy Contest (part III)

Kick Ash November 2009 CJ WaterhouseIn this, part three about stand-up comedy contests, I’ll explain how I run my monthly comedy competition, Kick Ashiest, as part of the weekly open mic The Kick Ash Comedy Show.  Again I’ll be explaining the reasons for the choices I make. The Kick Ash Comedy Show is a weekly open mic starting 9pm every Tuesday in Andrews Pub, located at 1239 Guy, Montreal, Canada.  Acts either get asked to perform by me, or book with me by sending a message to the Kick Ash facebook fanpage. The monthly competition is Kick Ashiest, a play on the show’s name, which is a play on my name.

KAshiestFKick Ashiest

Kick Ashiest (Kick Ash’s monthly competition) runs every 5th week.  From the previous 4 King of the Mountain shows I pick my favorite two performers each week.  I occasionally ask for feedback from friends who attend the show but generally I try to take note of those that make a special connection with the audience.  It’s my choice, but hey, it’s my name on the show.  I never tell anyone that they are auditioning for me, and I’ve not corrected anyone who thinks the audience vote for King of the Mountain selects the Kick Ashiest participants (well, until now).

The goals of this competition are:
1) to show my confidence in new acts
2) to put together the best show of the month, and let people know it is the best of the month.

How it works

The show is set up with a host (most often me), an opening act, followed by those in the competition (in a predetermined, random order) and ending with a closing act while scores are tabulated.  The show ends with me naming and awarding the cash prize to the winner.

Expert Judges

Expert Judges

Scoring works on two points.  An audience vote and judges.  Yep, judges.  Most comedians who dislike ‘contests’ top three peeves are: judges, judges and vomit on their shoes.

“I’m a comic’s comic.”
“Judges don’t understand the craft.”
“Comedy is subjective, if they don’t like what I do – how can I win?”

What many comedians forget, is that every time we go onstage we’re judged.  Every joke we tell, audience members judge, if they like the joke, they laugh.  If they don’t, we get silence.  Selecting two specific people to be judges doesn’t change that, it just makes it two specific people.  That said, I ask certain people to be judges.  People I know, or who are recommended to me, as involved in the arts or even specifically comedy.  I’ve had pro comics, comedy bloggers, news host, burlesque performers and musicians all work as judges.

Judges judge on two attributes:
1) Material: how well written are the jokes?  How original and unique a take does the performer have?  Does the material flow from one subject to the other in a seamless fashion?
2) Stagecraft: how comfortable is the performer onstage?  Do they interact well with the audience, are they natural onstage or awkward?  Do they know how to use a microphone?  How professional do they seem, have they taken notes onstage?

Each attribute is scored out of 5, each judge adds the totals for each performer together for a potential of 10.  The two judges’ scores are added together for a total out of 20.

Audience vote:
The audience, via ballot, vote for their two favorite acts.  The reason behind voting for two was covered in Part II of this article.  As the closing act performs, I quickly tabulate the audience votes. Bonus points are added to the judges’ scores:
most votes: +5
second most: +4
third most: +3

So, if someone so wows the judges to get a perfect score, as well as wows the audience to get the most votes – the highest score attainable is 25.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen.

Tuesday 9pm at Andrews Pub

Tuesday 9pm at Andrews Pub

Why?

I chose the acts, because I like the acts.  I get to see the show I want to see.  I show confidence in the acts I like.  I want them to know I believe in them.

There are two judges, to account for differing tastes in comedy.  Just like every audience member, each judge will view each competitor based on their own merits.

Audience bonus points enter an element of wild card.  If someone can bring the entire audience behind them, they have a better chance of winning.

Added to the show are an opening act and a closing act.  The opening act prevents anyone from feeling like they are first up.  The closing act gives us time to tabulate the scores so we can award the winner the prize.

Did we say prize?  Maybe this is people’s why; $50!  Yep, living the dream.

The Kick Ash Comedy Show is every Tuesday, at Andrews Pub, 1239 Guy in Montreal.  Show time is 9pm sharp, doors open at 11am.

How To Stand-up Comedy Contest (part II)

Tuesday 9pm at Andrews Pub

Tuesday 9pm at Andrews Pub

In this, part two about stand-up comedy contests, I’ll explain how I run one of the two different competitions which are part of  The Kick Ash Comedy Show.  I’ll also explain the reasons for the choices I make.

The Kick Ash Comedy Show is a weekly open mic starting 9pm every Tuesday in Andrews Pub, located at 1239 Guy, Montreal, Canada.  Acts either get asked to perform by me, or book by sending a message to the Kick Ash facebook fanpage.

The two competitions are Kick Ashiest and the subject of this article, The King of the Mountain.

King of the MountainKing of the Mountain

King of the Mountain runs each week that isn’t the Kick Ashiest (the show’s monthly competition).  In a nutshell, the audience votes for the favorite two acts to come back the following week to act as host and closer (and earn a little cash).  This competition started because I was beginning to feel host burnout.  Each week, with the same regulars I found it hard to keep it fresh 52 times a year.  Rather the continually asking others to host a show with my name on it I turned it into a competition. Occasionally winners selected cannot perform the following week so I step in to fill their role and I act as the defacto replacement guy.  Also, I sometimes schedule myself a spot and get voted in as a King of the Mountain too.

The two primary goals of this competition are:
1) to have acts advertise to their networks (friends, family and fans), raising awareness of the show brand, getting a few more butts in seats.
2) have the winners feel recognized, and given a chance for advancement.
3) encourage audience members to remember the names of performers they like

A game of king of the hill in progress

a group of 3rd graders enjoying a game of king of the hill

The competition’s name comes from two sources., the city of Montreal’s name and a sadistic kids game.  Montreal is a contraction from French “Mont Royale” or “Royal Mountain”, the city’s most prominent landmark (next to Chez Paris Gentlemen’s Club).  King of the hill, for people who grew up with protective parents, is a “game” where children would pick a high spot (such as a hill or the top of the monkey bars) and whoever  held that spot at the end or the longest, by pushing down and tripping their competition, was the king.  (Losers could be identified by needing to wear hockey equipment and eating via straws).  By combining those two things we have King of the Mountain.  Every performer who goes onstage is eligible, including those who won the week before – so it is possible to build a streak.  King of the Mountain thus refers to comedy king of Montreal.

How It Works

Every nonperforming member of the audience receives a ballot through the show. (Other comics are encouraged to come support their friends).  The host is tasked with reminding the audience about the competition throughout the show and the names of those competing.  On each ballot, the audience members are asked to write down their favorite two acts, the order doesn’t matter, the spelling doesn’t matter – but it has to be two.  After the show, I collect the ballots, and within the next few days contact the two acts that received the top most amount of votes.  They have the option of returning the following week for a paid spot, either as host or to close the show.

Strengths

Why do I run it this way?  Having an open ballot encourages the performers to bring out people to the show, more friends = more votes (unless your friends don’t vote for you because the all secretly hate you).  Choosing a second performer means they’ll have to honestly pick someone alongside their friend.  A written ballot is hidden, so there is no public “clap off” or humiliation to the acts.

 Weaknesses

vote-ballot-boxThe main weaknesses to this format are related to the ballots.
1) Ballot stuffing has occurred, but generally has been easy to recognize when one person has dropped in a number of extra ballots.
2) Booking two comedians who share a social circle, is a little dangerous.  If their friends decide to preselect who’ll they’ll vote for and not judge it on the performances they see that night – it’s a bit dishonest and unfair.
3) A comic could potentially suggest to his friends to use their second vote on the worst act of the night.  To my knowledge, this has never happened, and would be hard to co-ordinate to have a large enough impact.
4) Trust.  I’m the sole person counting votes.  If people don’t trust me to be fair and honest, then why participate?

Impact On The Show

Currently, I would say this format has been a positive impact on the show.  Generally new performers are more excited to perform, audiences have seen an elevated level of quality from the comedians, so word of mouth advertising has increased.  Newer performers who win are given the opportunity to stretch themselves by closing the show or hosting for the first time.

Most of all, people are paying attention to who’s had the longest streak.  The current streak record is 4 shows…  Who’s going to beat that?

Yours,
Ash

Battle-COM Tonight in Montreal

February 8th at the Comedy Nest in Montreal

10:30 February 8th at the Comedy Nest

Tonight at The Comedy Nest on the 3rd floor of the Pepsi Forum (corner of Atwater and St-Catherine) is the second Comedy Nest Presents Battle-COM.

Battle-COM is part stand-up, part improv, part theatre, part gladiator games and all fun.

 

 

 

 

Returning

Sandiford CCG Dan Derkson CCG

Chris Sandiford and Dan Derkson survived the first Comedy Nest presents Battle-COM

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqFqVL5_kVg&w=560&h=315]

They’ll be facing off against new competitors Ryan Stick, Jason Yearow, Emma Wilkie, Tessa J Brown and Michael Lifshitz

Ryan Stick CCG Jason Yearow Emma Wilkie CCG Tessa Brown CCG Michael Lifshitz CCG

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guzwaMsfDb4&w=560&h=315]

The Battlefields

Romantic Comic Book Couple Black Role Model Sexiest Action Hero

The Comedy Nest, Pepsi Forum, Montreal.

10:30pm start time, doors at 10pm

$6 for the unwaged / $10

Underground parking and next to Metro Atwater.

See you there!

Battle-COM (v2.02)

The Geek Battle of Comedy Shows

The Geek Battle of Comedy Shows

Take a large dose of “The Big Bang Theory”, a wallop of an “8 Mile” rap battle and stir in a dash of “Let’s Make a Deal” and you have an idea of what “Battle-COM” is.

Battle-Com sees two performers skewer pop culture and each other in the name of entertainment.  Paul Ash stands between these forces playing the role of Battle Marshal, introducing the topics (Battle Fields) and players (Battlers).  The crew of Battlers fight for the right to be called a Battle Master and Battle Champion.  That’s right – they use the word Battle a lot.

This is a mental blood-sport, an ego bruiser that is judged by the audience.  When you enter the Battle Dome you know it’s not a typical comedy show.  Both sides of the stage are draped with a Battle Banner, each in a colour which matches either side of the Battle Flag you were handed as you entered.  A podium with a silver bar sits in the middle of the stage.

February 8th at the Comedy Nest in Montreal

February 8th at the Comedy Nest in Montreal

The show starts with a reverse curtain call, introducing you to the Battlers – for the audience judges their fate.  All leave the Battle Arena (stage) except the Battle Marshal and two Battlers.  A Battle is a quick affair; it’s a best 2 out of 3 (with ties gaining no points).  First round the Battlers are to be positive about their position on the Battle Field (topic).  Each Battler has approximately 90 seconds.  The Battle Marshal calls for a vote and the spectators raise their flags – colour coded to the Battler whose position they liked best.  Second round, they are to be negative about their opponent’s position – a position that was only revealed as the opponent went on stage.  If it gets to a third round, the Battlers can choose to be negative or positive – it’s a free-for-all round.  When a winner is declared, the loser exits the stage and a new Battler is called to challenge.  If a Battler manages to defeat two opponents in a row they are retired as a Battle Master and two new Battlers take the stage.  After all Battlers have had a turn a Battle Champion is determined.  In the case of no Battle Masters, the Last Battler Standing (the final Battler with only one win) is declared the Battle Champion.  If two Battle Masters have been declared, they face off against one another for the title of Battle Champion.  If there is only one Battle Master they’ll face off against the Last Battler Standing, but they’ll begin the match with a win already awarded.  The Battle Champion claims his prize, leaves the stage as the Battle Marshal declares the next Battle Field and it begins anew.

The Next Battle-COM is 10:30pm Friday February 8th at The Comedy Nest in the Pepsi Forum (Atwater / St-Catherine).

Battle-COM

  • The Battle Fields:
  • – Most romantic comic book couple
    – Most inspiring Black role-model from sci-fi or fantasy
    – Sexiest action hero from film or video games

 

 

Your Battlers:
Ryan Stick – Season Xero
Jason Yearow – Village Idiot Comedy
Dan Derkson – On The Spot, Rocky Horror Live
Emma Wilkie – There’s Something Funny
Tessa Brown – (writer)
Chris Sandiford – Try a Variety Show, Nurse Jackie
Michael Lifshitz – Conquer Your Mountains

Looking forward to seeing you there!

After the Great Canadian Laugh Off 2007

Please forgive any semblence of immodesty, this was written just after I placed third in a 2007 Great Canadian Laugh Off Semi-Final.

perplexed as to why a stranger has my camera

perplexed as to why a stranger has my camera

I arrived on Thursday, one day before my time in the “ring”. I flew in early, and really hadn’t slept but ended staying up all day catching up with friends and then going to McVeighs to do a guest spot. Having been up for 40 hours (with about an hour’s nap) I wondered if I’d pull it off. It went well and added to my confidence. I guess it also helped being in a city where people hadn’t seen me for a long while, so my material was all new. That and sleep deprivation. Andrew Evans closed the show, and we closed the bar.

I knew going in that there was only one other Canadian on my night. Kinda my fault as I requested a weekend spot (so I’d not go to Toronto too early) and the other out of towners (country-ers?) would also need to limit their travel time. Getting there I got to feel the caliber of the comics I was going to have to compete with. Though it was daunting, the green room had a feeling of brotherhood. It was a great feeling. We got to talk, joke, ask each other about where we’re from, what comedy is like there. It was a meeting of peers.

But competition is competition, Shannon and Beth came in to do the draw for the order. Before they began they asked us if anyone would like to volunteer to go first. We all looked around, skirting eye contact and looking down. Nobody wanted to just “give up” and accept, perhaps, the hardest spot of the night. As they started to make the draw I joked that I’d probably be first anyhow, but the named pulled out was Geoff Brousseau of Seattle Washington. Other positions of note, Al Prodgers of South Africa drew fifth (out of eight). Still my name didn’t come out of the can. Al was followed by Andrea Henry from Boston and then only the two Canadians were left. Mark Casey’s (the winner from Barrie Ontario’s Yuks) name was drawn. I was to go on last.

The crowd had been pouring in, the room almost full. Dana Alexander got the crowd going and we were off. Geoff Brousseau did very well, what you’d expect from someone who was here because he’d previously competed with Dylan Mandhlsohn and Paul Myrehaug at the Seattle Comedy Contest. He claims he flubbed his first joke, but I couldn’t tell. The crowd loved it. I had to keep dipping downstairs as the TV in the green room kept going out. Katie Riffey, a pro from Washington, DC, kept it going. Tony Gaud from Florida did another killer set. I began to feel the butterflies rise. I don’t like the pressure of competitions, I find that I choke or try desperately too hard.

Not all the comics hit, but the show was going well.

I walked down and watched Al Prodgers. He was calm, not over exagerated. He had a cool sounding accent, and spoke slow enough so we could understand it. He was older than most in the contest, maybe in his 50’s, and had charm. His brand new “fish out of water” material helped exploit his exotic appeal. Watching him I felt the butterflies go away. Why was I worried about competing, he would obviously win. I congratulated him as he came off stage.

I now felt all I really had to worry about was making the crowd laugh. Just my 8 minutes, the contest was over. And I trusted my eight was good.

Andrea Henry is from Boston, a city of comedy legends. She works primarily out of “The Comedy Studio“, an artist run collective who’s philosophies I looked at when starting the Comedy Dawgs. She was an incredible writer, low key dry jokes that tore into the crowd.

Just before me went Mark Casey, the winner from Barrie. Mark’s green-ness showed somewhat, especially after following such a strong act.

from David Kemp's going away party

from David Kemp’s going away party

Then it was my turn. Just before my introduction, I made eye contact with Dave Kemp. He made me smile, a little taste of home. I approached the stage so my foot was on it as Dana said my name. My set went off just as I planned it, with the exception of one “helpful” heckle. I was able to take the crowd where I wanted to go and they laughed everywhere I wanted them to. I walked onstage without any “contest” nervousness and was thus able to do what I wanted – make people laugh. It was liberating.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sz2pJqBomps&w=420&h=315]

As I got offstage, Al met me at the base of the stairs “You F u cker! You undersold yourself to me.” It was teasing between comrades. It felt good.

Finally after a wonderful guest spot by Simon Cotter, Dana reclaimed the stage to announce the winners. When she called my name, I was a little shocked, and had to be directed to get up there. I placed third! Andrea Henry received second place and Al Prodgers took first place and moved on to the finals. Later, though they don’t reveal the actual numbers, I was told the top three were very close – as they were on Tuesday, the night Peter White won third as well.

If anyone hasn’t looked to Halifax as the new hotspot for comedy in Canada yet, I think that has changed.

-Ash

PS: again, please forgive me if this has come off as immodest.

How (Not) To Stand-up Comedy: Stage Greed

Bill Hicks(originally posted February 20th, 2006)

Tonight I may have been tested.  Tested and I failed.  Failed badly.  Tonight we had our 2nd Annual Bill Hicks‘ Memorial Rant Off, an event I look forward to.  Not just for the chance to spew bile and tell the world how broken it is, but also the chance to see comedians stretch out of their comfort zone, try something new and work on new performance skills.

By warning the crowd of what they’re in for, advertising it as a special night we hope to draw people who want to hear this particular style of comedy.  At the start of the show very few people in the audience admitted to knowing of Bill Hicks.  But the stragglers who came in late did, and the crowd was educated.  We had a good crowd.  No, we had a great audience.

Many of the young comics here in the scene stepped up to the challenge, everyone did their best sets that I’ve ever seen them do.

Gingers Comedy Dawgs

Yanick Simard

Nick Simard and Cheryl Hann really stood out.  But with such a great crowd, with so many comics on the show a little thing crept into the process.  Greed.  The laughs were so great, the crowd so willing to journey with us on flights of fancy and hate, it was hard to get off stage.

Onstage at Gingers

Cheryl Hann

 

We had a special guest show up, last minute.  Mike McQueen (now based in Toronto).  I asked him to do just five minutes tight and squeezed him in just before the last act.  Mike did just that, kept to time and did a great set.

Problem is, I’m an ogre for keeping the show from running long.  I do it to keep the audience from feeling worn out.  If a crowd leaves wanting more, they’ll return sooner.  Optimum time is an hour forty-five, two hours tops.  When we burn most all our “A” material on an audience, they’ll return and may be persnickity if we do mainly jokes they’ve heard before.  With such a small audience base (Halifax NS is a big town, not really a small city), we need to encourage repeated visits.

At Gingers Comedy Dawg

Mike MacQueen

We started at exactly 8pm.  Mike came off stage (after his tight 5 minutes) at 9:54pm.  The closer was supposed to do 10 to 15 minutes… more if time was available and the crowd willing.  I had the choice to say no to the closing act, save it for another time.  Problem was, I was the closing act.  I had looked forward to this show for weeks.  I had prepared special material, dredged up older material that had not seen the light of day for years because of it’s bile.  I wanted to do this show.

Like a spoiled brat I did it.  It was 9:57pm by the time I hit the stage.  I abridged some jokes, editing on the stage trying to cut, losing myself not to the jokes but the need to get off stage.  But too much of what I wanted to do got out.  I false ended several times.  The crowd was with me.  I attacked the comfort of the audience, I yelled at them as to how they have the power to make this a better world… and if they didn’t, the possible consequences.  Then I ended on a pussy joke.

It was cathartic, but I felt like an unprincipled ass.  I was greedy for the stage attention that I did what I feel is bad for the future of the show.  Generally I didn’t do much material or the style of material that people see regularly from me, but I taxed an audience.

Time will tell (by the number repeat customers) if what I did was so wrong.

-Ash
February 20th, 2006

The 10 Major Fails of Starting Stand-up Comedians

Ask Ash: What do I need to know to do an open mic?F1000007

1)      Don’t write what you think people will laugh at.  Write what makes you laugh.  Rehashing topics that your favourite comedians joke about is called hack.  You’ll be more real and more surprising to the audience if you share your original take on something new.

2)      It’s called a microphone, it can amplify your voice so everyone in the room can hear it BUT it’s not infallible – you need to know how to use it.  Make sure it’s close enough to your mouth to catch the sound, but not so close as to distort (or fuzz) it.  If you don’t know how to hold a mic or use a stand, ask for pointers.  It’s not a bad thing, actually it’s recommended.

3)      Arrive early to the show.  If you have questions for the host / producer, try to email them ahead of time.  If you need help with the equipment (mic stand / mic / gtfots light) it’s best to ask before the show starts AND best to do it before the audience begins arriving.  The last 10 minutes before a show starts are very busy for those putting on a show, and they’ll be less able to politely answer your questions then.

4)      Know your place in the order, whether you know ‘which number’ or ‘who you follow’, be ready to go to the stage.  You should have a foot on the stage by the time the host is saying the last syllable of your name.

5)      Sit in accessible spot, if there’s a change to the running order you should be easy to find (without disturbing the show).  Don’t sit up front.  Most hosts do crowd work, and the default is to talk to people in the front row – which almost always turns out crappy or appears fake when it’s an act on the show.

6)      Prepare.  Don’t wing it.  Know your jokes, or at least the punchlines.  Few things grind a set to a halt like a long set up without a punchline.  Admitting it, though, can save you.

7)      Don’t overwrite.  Know what the jokes sound like, say them aloud to yourself as you’re editing them.  Somethings look great on the page, but sound awkward when spoken.

8)      Edit.  Don’t try to fill the time, try to get as many laughs in as short a time as possible.  Most open mics appreciate comics who volunteer to do shorter time.

9)      Keep to time.  If you plan on going short, let the host know (usually while the act before you is on, but also prior to the show start).  That way they can curb their bathroom / smoke break to be sure they’re ready when you’re getting off stage.  Don’t go long.  You see the warning light, get off.  On a show with 12 acts, and each act does 2 extra minutes, the entire show is almost an extra half hour longer.F1000013

10)   Remember, the audience is there to laugh.  All you need to do is give them the excuse.

Kick Ash Comedy Show Tuesday Oct. 23rd

The Mona LisaKick Ash kicks off again next Tuesday with our King and Queen of the Mountain – Emma Wilkie and Chris Sandiford!

Also on the bill are:
Stephanie Ein
Carlin Potter
Nour Hadidi
Jason Hatrick
Patrick Millerd
new Montreal resident Matt Shury
and Rena Hundert (of On the Spot)

Free show, cheap drinks, great laughs!

9pm show start, be early for a good seat.  Andrews Pub, 1239 Guy (below St- Catherine, near Guy Metro)