If You Want to Have a Laugh in Vancouver, Go Underground

Smaller, performer-run comedy nights might surprise you with just how funny and diverse they can be

Ed Hill performs at Fox Hole Comedy on May 1. (Lena Belova)

People who still think of Vancouver as the “no fun city” usually don’t know where to find local and independently-run events—partially because they aren’t always happening downtown.

This is especially true for our city’s underground comedy scene. Over the years I’ve lived in Vancouver, I have heard countless people tell me that comedy in Vancouver is sparse and unfunny. When you do see someone funny, they are usually just the opening act for a cringe-worthy headliner. This has also been my own experience when I go to mainstream comedy clubs like Yuk-Yuks or The Comedy Mix.

Local comedians and organizers, however, will argue that the increased diversity of performers, stand-up styles, and audiences make shows outside of mainstream clubs both more interesting and more funny. Shows organized by women or non-binary folks, for example, usually draw more diverse crowds, which makes the audience more inviting for performers. These diverse crowds then impact what kinds of jokes the performers tell in a set.

Comedian Soo Jeong, who has been performing in Vancouver for over a year, finds that the diverse audiences at local events are more open to longer, narrative-based jokes and storytelling, whereas a Yuk-Yuk’s performance “has to be punchline after punchline, otherwise you lose [the audience].”

Taylor Moorey, another local comedian and organizer who has been performing for three years, says that there would be the same faces in the crowds every night for the shows he used to run, because audiences attend to see the comedians they like, not just for random comedy events.

Even though Jeong has only been performing for a relatively short time, she has seen many new events produced by local comedians pop up across Metro Vancouver. To her, the importance of these events is in the voices of performers and of the organizers who put together the shows.

Moorey adds that these independent events are important for keeping the scene weird, experimental, and exciting.

At the beginning of the month, I got to see Jeong and Moorey perform at the Fox Hole Comedy on Main Street recently, which advertises itself as being the only weekly comedy show where women, non-binary folks, people of colour, and queer people represent the majority of performers.

Event organizer Jackie Hoffart thinks that there are a lot of other “even more diverse” comedy shows running right now, such as “The Millennial Line” and “Yellow Fever”—an all-Asian performers show—at Red Gate, “Fine.” at the Lido, and “Bloodfeud” and “The List” at the Little Mountain Gallery. Other events such as Black Out Comedy, which solely features Black performers and  used to run out of the recently closed Goldie’s Pizza’s Comedy Basement, are looking for new venues to call home.

Hoffman says that these kinds of events exist because they provide the community with “a place to feel seen, to see people who are like you, [and] who speak to your experience,” especially for “folks who don’t identify with the straight-cis-hetero-capitalist-patriarchy.”

If you’ve ever felt out of place or disconnected from the comedy at local mainstream events, keep an eye out for one of these more alternative, independent shows. You might just find your scene.

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