Garden City Comedy Festival
By David DeRocco
Did you hear the joke about the $50 million bridge that cost $90 million to build? Or the one about the new four-pad arena that has already required $4 million in repairs? Or the hilarious proposal to hand over Sunset Beach to privatized interests? Once you’re done crying, there sure is a lot to laugh at in the City of St. Catharines these days. Which makes the Garden City Comedy Festival about the best thing to happen to St. Catharines since Linda Evangelista stepped into a bikini.
The Garden City Comedy Festival runs May 25 – 27 and includes three distinct nights of comedy entertainment: the six-week Niagara’s Top Comic competition being staged at Showtime Comedy and Entertainment, the Niagara All-Stars Charity Night and theGarden City Comedy Festival Gala Evening May 27 at FirstOntario PAC featuring two of Canada’s hottest headliners, K. Trevor Wilson and Darrin Rose. It’s an ambitious inaugural comedy initiative that’s finally seeing the light thanks to years of hopeful planning by its organizer.
“I’ve had the idea kicking around a while,” says Niagara comedian and festival organizer David Green. “I’ve had the name the last few years, and with all these comedy festivals popping up all over Ontario I thought it was time to have one. The timing is right.”
Green sites the opening of the Showcase comedy club and the burgeoning In The Soil Festival as just two examples of why the climate is right to launch a comedy festival in the downtown core.
“St. Catharines is really flourishing as a comedy market, not just with locals but with bigger names from across the country,” said Green, who can be found hosting the amateur comedy nights being held on alternate Thursdays at Showtime. “I’ve had more experience now putting on bigger events. We’re in the Cairns (Recital Hall) this year, next year we’ll aim for the Partridge Hall. Our five-year plan is to rent out the Meridian Centre and bring in major headliners. For now we just want to get this one up and running.”
Green and his comedy festival partners have managed to put together a stellar line-up for the inaugural event. Gala evening co-headliners K. Trevor Wilson and Darrin Rose are two of Canada’s hottest comedic properties at the moment, Wilson for his work as Squirrelly Dan on Crave TV’s Letterkenny series, and Rose for both his role as Bill the bartender on CBC’s Mr. D and his host role on Match Game.
“He’s probably the hottest person in Canada right now,” Green said of Wilson, the self-proclaimed “Man Mountain of Comedy and only two-time winner of the Toronto Comedy Brawl. “He’s just won the Canadian Screen Award with Letterkenny, was on Jimmy Kimmel and the Comedy Network just put out his special. Everything he touches turns to gold, he’s on fire right now.”
Rounding out the gala bill are Canadian comics Cara Connors ( heard on Sirius XM’s Canada Laughs), the first runner-up at NYC’s prestigious She Devil Comedy Festival, and Niagara funny-man Joe Pilliterri who serves as host. Friday night festival activities feature the Niagara Allstars Charity Night, a mental health fundraiser featuring Mark Matthews, Graham Davidson, Showcase owner Mark Sinodinos and Green. The festival kicks off Thursday May 25th with a variety show featuring comedy veteran Ben Gyatt, comedy-magic from Danny Zzzz and sketch comedy from the Suitcase in Point theatre group.
As a lead up to the festival, Showcase is also hosting the Niagara’s Top Comiccompetition, which offers amateur stand-up comics the opportunity to earn a spot on each bill in the festival. The third place winner performs on Thursday’s bill, second place performs Friday and first place earns $250 and an opening slot at the gala.
With such a great comedy line-up, Green is hoping the first year event has enough appeal to get not just comedy fans out to the shows, but also people who’ve never summoned up the courage to go see a live comedy show.
“We wanted to bring big names in who people have seen on TV, especially for those who might not go out to a comedy club to see them. If people see these big names in a fancy theatre, they’re more likely to come out. And if they come the first time, then they’re more likely to come out to a comedy club.”
The Niagara’s Top Comic competition is underway now Thursdays at Showtime. For tickets and information, visit www.gardencitycomedyfestival.com, or drop into Showtime or the PAC.