#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

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About Ash

Paul Ash is that special kind of person who sees the best in everyone, except himself. His self loathing comedy is peppered with rural charm and big city cynicism. This “muppet king of comedy” has been described as the “encyclopaedia of funny” and has an over ten year relationship with the Festival Just For Laughs, the world’s largest stand-up comedy fest.