Arts & Culture(Archives)
Behind The Curtain at Keyano Theatre - Comedy in Canada
Canada is often thought of as the United States’ awkward little brother…the northern country that is beautiful and kind, but doesn’t offer the same amount of talent or creativity. A lot of Canadians rely on our neighbours to bring us laughs, but we don’t have to! We have Seth Rogen, Jim Carrey, Rick Mercer, Mike Myers, Dan Aykryod, John Candy, Leslie Nielsen, Catherine O’Hara, Russell Peters, Mary Walsh, Eugene Levy… I can go on.
Recently, Trent McClellan, a Canadian comedian who frequents Fort McMurray, stopped in at the Keyano Theatre for a side-splitting performance in January. I was lucky enough to chat with him and get some insight into what it’s like to be a professional comedian, especially a professional comedian in Canada:
Something I’ve always wanted to know about comedians: are you funny off stage?
There’s an expectation that if you’re a comedian that you’re funny all the time, that you’re ‘on’ all the time, like people are waiting for you to perform. But talking about mortgages and regular stuff just isn’t very funny.
I think I was funnier in my everyday life before I started stand-up. I was always looking for an outlet to perform; now I have one.
Does your wife think you’re funny?
Yes, my wife thinks I’m funny, but she makes me laugh just as much.
How did you get started as a comedian?
I never wanted to be famous exactly, but I knew I wanted to perform. I really wanted to try stand up but there was nowhere to do it in Newfoundland. So once I moved to Calgary, about 14 years ago now, I checked out some open mic nights. There’s nothing like the fear and terror of walking the longest 10 foot aisle to the stage on your first time. Luckily it went well.
How did you build the following you have?
In Fort McMurray there are a lot of Newfies so that helps. We’re kind of in our own special little club, we have our own language, music, food and we definitely support each other. But on a larger scale it’s all about trust which translates into word of mouth. It takes a lot of time to get grow but it works.
How would you compare the Canadian versus U.S. Comedy industries?
Working down in the States you have to make all new connections and build new audiences but at least the population is pretty condensed. In Canada we’ll travel for hours for one show, then turn around and go home where as in a lot of locations in the US you could do multiple shows in one night.
I’ve found that for the most part people are people no matter where they live. Generally everyone relates to the same things, so they find the same things funny.
Is making it in the States ‘making it’?
It depends what you want from your career. If you want to move into film, TV, producing or directing, yeah LA is the place to be. For me performing live, in front of MY audience is making it for me. These people chose to come see me perform, just me. That’s awesome.
How do you know what people are going to find funny?
Usually what gets the biggest laughs are everyday things that frustrate and anger me; if it pushes my buttons it probably pushes the audiences’ buttons too. Today I wrote a joke about a squirrel.
Sometimes things that I think will be great end up not, so there are constantly tweaks and analysis of my set. Even if something doesn’t work the first or second or even third time, I’ll keep re-working it and it can turn out to be my best bit.
What’s process of writing your set?
It’s kind of the opposite of music. Musicians usually write and compose a song, record it, then take their finished product on tour and distribute it. A comedian does it backwards. I’ll start with a set that is audience ready but after each show there are edits and changes depending on how it was received.
Comedy comes in a lot of different styles like January’s Trent McClellan and the sassy Cheesecake Burlesque Revue, February’s one man performance The Show Must Go On, and March’s fundraiser Affair for the Arts with Colin Mochrie (Mochrie is actually from Scotland, but he’s lived here long enough I think we can claim him). Each have a very distinct type of humour but they all have two very important things in common, they‘re all Canadian and they’ll all keep you laughing.
Trent McClellan recently performed and produced a comedy special called Positive Vibes at the Martha Cohen Theatre in Calgary; you can watch the trailer and buy the feature at www.TrentsComedy.com.
For more information on what kind of laughs you can expect at the Keyano Theatre & Arts Centre visit keyano.ca/theatre.
The Affair for the Arts 2016 will feature Colin Mochrie and Deb McGrath.
One man comedic performance The Show Must Go On with Jeff Leard, photo by Dahlia Katz.
Comedian Trent McClellan.