My life changed when a comedy club opened in Halifax in 1986. It was a Yuk Yuks and I worked up the courage to do an amateur night. I bombed. I remember my opening joke was: “Hey, do you find you only give people you meet for the first time 10 seconds to prove they’re not a jerk? Hey why are you all looking at your watches?”
When I pictured my set ahead of time I imagined a big laugh and then I would segue into what I thought was some clever ruminations of the contradictions in the Bible, or what I call “my first-year philosophy class take on everything.” I also vaguely remember a joke I was going to do about why it was Pope John Paul and not Pope George Ringo.
It didn’t matter because I got flustered after the first joke didn’t get a laugh. It bombed because one, maybe it wasn’t that great and two, I said it the whole thing in about two seconds: “Heydoyoufindyouonlygivepeopleyoumeetforthefirsttimetensecondstoprovethey’renotajerk Heywhyareyoualllookingatyourwatches.”
For some reason, a few months later I entered the Kampus Komedy contest at Dalhousie (I don’t know why they did the thing with the K’s) and won, with my main bit being a joke about Sonny, the bird mascot for the cereal Cocoa puffs, being addicted to Cocoa puffs. I can barely remember it, but I bet it was as funny as it sounds.
Anyway, I went back to Yuks. I did a little better than I did the first time, and then a little worse, and then a little better, and eventually was not too bad and earned a living at it before I got into writing for television.
I tell you this is not to brag about my medioric rise to the middle echelons of Canadian show business, but because I realized that even after Yuks first opened here, there weren’t a lot of places to see live stand up, and now, there are ton of options.
At the end of April, there’s a Halifax Comedy Festival which brings in acts every year. For me, the best shows are the ones they do at the casino. The room is set up great for stand up, and the acts get to do a little more time than at the galas.
A recent addition is the Last Laugh Comedy Club (from the people who do the Comedy Festival), a room they are calling a “pop-up” club because they’re not doing it every week. It’s in the Atlantica hotel. I’ve been to two of their so far four shows and they have been top to bottom fantastic, and the best value for your comedy dollar, in my opinion. They have a webpage or something. I don’t know, this isn’t the Chronicle Herald; I’m not writing an advertorial.
Yuk Yuks Is still here, now at the Westin hotel. And they have shows every week, Thursday to Saturday. They’ve also added (or reinstated) a Wednesday night pro-am night, which usually leans more on the pro than the amateur, so is probably worth your time.
If you’re more adventurous, the best nights might be the many PWYC (“pay what you can”) nights around the city. If something is shooting in town that employs comics either in front or behind the camera, these comics might drop in and do a set. There’s a facebook page called Halifax Comedy that lists these rooms.
My favourite is Wednesday at Bearly’s. It starts on time, 8:30 sharp, and is booked and emceed by the very funny Catherine Robertson. It usually has one or two of the professionals who are at yuk yuks come by (I drop by occasionally to do a set if I’ve written anything new, which is rare) and do some time.
Monday night Gus’ Pub is another good one. It starts early enough you could take it in and not get out too late. Also, it’s a great place to go and play VLTs and ignore the comics, if that’s your thing.
There’s a Sunday night room at Sniggly Wiggly (it was at the Goofy Moose) which is also fun, though it tends to not get going to 10 or so which is a little late if you are a productive member of society.
All these shows are a little hit or miss, but hey, you’re paying what you can, so…
Go out some night and take advantage of the abundance of comedy rooms in the city. I find television deadens stand up, I think maybe because it’s over-edited. Regardless, go see it in person: in my opinion a bad act seen live is better than a good act on a screen. Plus, you might even get to see me, doing a joke I did on Twitter that got a couple of likes. Or I might even bring back my bit about Sonny going Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.