Ode to the Comedy Dawgs

The Coast, Halifax’s indie weekly recently wrote an article on Comedy in that city. You can find it here

I wanted to write a letter to the editors to thank them.

 

 

 HALIFAX COMEDY ON THE LAUGH TRACK

The Coast, Dec. 31, 2009

I was very happy to read your article on the Halifax comedy scene online. It was a pleasure and did my heart well to see that this community is still growing and so positive. There was a lot that went into building a Halifax comedy community, especially one so supportive.

When I moved back to Halifax in 2003 there was no real place to do stand-up comedy and I’d have to thank the Improv Knights (including Bill Wood of Picnicface) for helping keep my sanity and giving me a place to perform. Catherine Robertson is correct, it is a drug.

Halifax is a music town and rightly so, with so many talented musicians bar owners didn’t have far to look for live entertainment and something that seemed as untried as stand-up comedy, with the restrictions that art form has (audience sitting, rarely mingling and of a set duration) why risk it when a band could play all night for just a little more than beer?

But then, a chance meeting on Christmas Eve, 2003 led to the birth of the Comedy Dawgs. I know my name comes up a lot in the start of the Halifax comedy scene, but the unsung hero is Joe Mauricio. Joe was from the US, and had recently been the personal attendant of a high monk of the Shambala organization. Released from service (and I don’t know how else to say this) in Halifax, he was getting back to what he did before seeking enlightenment – comedy. Joe was born in New Jersey, and it was still in his voice, he started comedy in Boston, eventually moving to New York and running a room in the Paper Moon Cafe (later to become the Boston Comedy Club). Together, Joe and I, approached Ginger’s Tavern to do a monthly comedy show – and because they were normally closed on Sunday night, they were willing to risk having something different. Joe’s comedy skills, promotional ability and his connection with the Buddhist community, got us started with a monthly comedy show. Joe is very stream of consciousness (and is now based out of New York once again), I was a traditional club comic – it was neat mix. But performing a new two hour show each month was very hard, so we opened up to look for new comics and we found two great guys (the other founding members of the Comedy Dawgs) just in time to move it weekly – Paul Edwards, still in Halifax and Mike MacQueen (now in Toronto and part of the comedy duo “Bring Back Swayzes” with other Dawg veteran Bryant Thompson).

Brian Keefe of Gingers took a chance on us, Joe moved back to the states and comedy motored on. I found Halifax to be a unique situation, being very isolated (from the comedy world at large), there wasn’t that internal rivalry that seemed part of every other comedy scene I had been part of (including the early 1990’s Halifax Rubber Chicken / Maritime Comedy Connection scene). Some experts say this rivalry drives comedians to be better, but I made a conscious decision to try to foster a sense of community where comedians support each other. Week after week new comedians came to the stage, some made me cringe but others made my jaw drop (Bryant, Mike, Peter White, ‘Stabby’ Steve Mackie, Mark Little, Nathan, Cheryl, Ian Black). There was so much untapped talent in Halifax, talent that wouldn’t have had a venue – it made me realize the Comedy Dawgs were bigger than any one component or act – it gave people hope and the ability to dream of something better. It gave laughter. It gave validation.

New people came and went, some working hard behind the scenes, Dave Kemp and a grandmother from Dartmouth Bev Moore (with her husband always in tow), the Comedy Lounge’s Gerry Farmer, all with more heart and moxie than most comedians. Nathan MacIntosh (who joined the Dawgs with Picnicface’s Cheryl Hann) moved to Toronto with Bryant and Mike to attend Humber College’s comedy program. As stated with Mike and Bryant’s success it should be noted that Nathan won the “Cream of Comedy Award” and is featured this coming week at Absolute Comedy Club in Toronto. People began to notice that comedians from Halifax were different, not just different, but good. Former Maritimers in the industry wanted to experience the a hometown crowd and asked for the chance to perform whenever they visited – even comics not from the Maritimes wanted the excuse to see Halifax crowds. Mark Walker, Andrew Evans, Tracey MacDonald… And still locals shone. Introducing Mark Little to Bill Wood was a no brainer, shows expanded to Dartmouth and even Ahmerst. Comedians moved to Halifax (note Andrew Albert), tours were arranged with Yuk Yuks.

There are way too many comedians to mention who slid through, some came to get famous, some came to get drunk, some just came to say they tried their hand at it others to feel just a little bit better about the rest of their lives. But all of them were proud to call themselves ‘Dawgs’.

With love and peace
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.