A comedy tour with a serious message sounds like an oxymoron but that’s exactly what makes The Underground Comedy Railroad Tour so unique. It provides a platform for a roster of African-Canadian comedians to showcase their talent on the figurative and literal stage during February, which also happens to be Black History Month. Now in it’s third year, the tour is going national and hitting 9 cities including Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Brampton, Montreal and of course, Ottawa.
“We wanted a title that conveyed two important messages at the same time,” explained Andrew Searles, co-producer of the show and a black stand-up comedian from Montreal. “It had to represent black history but not downplay the comedy factor. It’s about giving a voice to African-Canadian comedians because we’re not always heard or taken seriously.”
Searles sited instances where sometimes, venues will change the line-up upon recognizing that two or more comedians are black for fear of it become a black-themed show.
“The beauty about ethnic comedy is that it brings a different perspective to the middle-aged white male view,” he added. “I’ve done shows in the most rural towns in Ontario where no one has ever heard of Jamaicans. When I perform my own material, people start to see things differently.”
Searles’ material is often based on his personal real-life situations and reflects on what it’s like being an African-Canadian, going through relationships or humorous situations at clubs with his friends. Since performing stand-up comedy on a dare, he’s now been a professional comedian for 11 years and even nominated as one of Montreal’s top ten comics. With his fellow comedian Rodney Ramsey, the two have spearheaded The Underground Comedy Railroad Tour and featured some of the biggest names in Canadian talent including Daniel Woodrow, Keesha Brownie, Gilson Lubin, Patrick Haye and Trixx.
“The only way to get up in this industry is to work together,” said Searles. “A lot of artists can have egos, but with Rodney and I, we know there’s no room for ego, we have to get it done. We spilt the work and it makes it easier.”
While touring can be exhausting, he said he always looks forward to performing in new cities. During the show’s first year, comedians only performed in Montreal, Ottawa and Winnipeg. Upon arriving during an unseasonably warm St. Patrick’s Day weekend in Winnipeg, Searles ventured out with friends and ended up participating in a booty-shaking contest at a local bar.
“I figured, no one knows me here, so why not?” he said. “I actually won the competition and received a prize of $100 cash, tickets to a Pitbull concert and a massage from a salon.”
As for the Capital’s bar scene, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for any booty-shaking sightings.
On February 17th, Searles and Ramsey will perform alongside Keesha Brownie, Daniel Woodrow and Trixx at Absolute Comedy. Tickets are $15 and must be reserved by calling Absolute Comedy (613-233-8000). For more information, visit: www.undergroundcomedyrailroad.com.