Capital Comedy Review: Semi-finals, Pride and Dylan’s birthday extravaganza

One would think mid-summer may not be a super busy time in the comedy world as people tend to prefer being outdoors, but this year seems to be an exception. I suppose an argument can be made that escaping the heat to laugh in a cool basement might be appealing. Maybe that’s what’s driving people to come out and appreciate local comedy, or perhaps it’s the programming itself. Either way, if you came down to Yuk Yuk’s any night this past week you were treated to some excellent comedy performed by a number of hilarious people.

The Mike MacDonald Summer Comedy Competition continued Tuesday and Wednesday. Ninety-six people started out and we’re down to the semi finals now with the best thirty-two. If I’m being honest there aren’t ninety-six brilliant comics in Ottawa so the preliminary rounds were often funny for being awkward as much as for great comedy, but when you get into the semi-finals the shows are very good. By next Tuesday and Wednesday, the 27th and 28th, the calibre of comedy is so good you won’t recognize them as amateur shows.

Even in the semi finals there were people who were knocked out who I expected to have a great chance to win, but that’s the nature of comedy competitions. That said, some super talented people did advance to the finals and the wild card second chance show. Tuesday night, in first and second place respectively, Aaron Hill and Adam Adjokatcher advanced directly to the finals with Tim Riel and Lorenzo Patino going through to the Wild Card show. Wednesday night saw Christina Muehlberger in first place with Michael Lifshitz second, both advancing directly to the finals. Dan Allaire and Peter Saran made it through to the Wild Card show. Jeremy Hotz dropped in to perform to the thrill of the crowd on Wednesday. These shows are where great comics come from. I strongly suggest you check these people out over the next couple of weeks. 

Thursday night kicked off Yuk Yuk’s fourteenth annual Pride weekend. This year featured some of the top talent in the country as well as our own local celebrity emcee. The headliner for this years’ Pride weekend at the club was the incredible Heidi Foss. Heidi is an actor, comedian and brilliant writer. Heidi’s writing won her a Canadian Comedy Award for This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Stand-up comedy is in a bit of a boom right now, creating a great deal of interest from people who want to try performing. So much so that classes have popped up to teach stand up comedy. In my opinion, a person who wanted to give it a try just needs to go see Heidi Foss perform to better understand how to be a comic. Heidi delivers acerbic one liners mixed with great storytelling to the hilarious enjoyment of her audiences. 

We had two opening spots on the shows, Bibi Bilodeau from Iqaluit and Ottawa’s own Dianne Skoll, who both kicked off the shows very nicely, and were followed by feature act Adrienne Fish. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Adrienne over the last few years and she has truly become a bright spot on the Canadian comedy scene. Adrienne mixes great, clever material with a frenetic energy that is hilarious, infectious and engaging. The only thing I wanted more from Adrienne was time, and I very much look forward to seeing her headline her own weekend some time soon.

Last and certainly not least, the Pride shows were emceed by Ottawa’s own, the fabulous Jesse Reynolds. Jesse is a talented stand-up whose natural humour makes him funny even between his jokes. Starting out as a comic Jesse became a morning host on a local radio station a few years ago, and since then has become a local celebrity. Currently, Jesse is still involved with radio, acting, stand-up comedy and is the co-owner of Queer Sphere Expo, Ottawa’s only LGBTQ+ consumer show. 

So yeah, comedy is just one aspect of Jesse’s game but he does that well. Thursday through Saturday I watched him get hundreds of people laughing, preparing them for the other comics on the show. The crowds were by and large lovely and well behaved, but still, on occasion, an audience member would think it’s their turn and chirp in from the crowd, and when this happened Jesse shut them down quickly. 

At the end of the show, a small crowd of people stuck around to meet Jesse and without exception they wanted more Jesse. He pointed them to his and Jenna’s podcast – Jesse and Jenna’s Messy Podcast which I also suggest you check out. Find him on a comedy stage soon because I can’t imagine someone in the entertainment industry won’t be snapping Jesse up for a project in television or radio. Like, if I was in charge of ET Canada or something, Jesse would be my main guy. 

Sunday night we had a different special event in the club and I wish I could have been there but couldn’t for very good reason as my wife Erin and I were celebrating our eighteen-year wedding anniversary. Dylan Black, one of my favourite people in the city, had his annual birthday extravaganza show. Dylan has a show every year to celebrate his birthday and donates all the profits to a local charity. He’s raised thousands of dollars this way and is, in my opinion, clearly one of Ottawa’s greatest philanthropists. I’m super proud to work with him in his role as Director of Fundraising at Yuk Yuk’s.

By all reports the show was excellent. Mark Hatfield hosted for Julie Dugas, Ashley Krawchenko, Trevor Thompson, Tim Riel, Wardie Lepan, Clint Gibbons, Michael Lifshitz and Rachelle Elie. Huge thank you to Dylan Black for all he’s done for Yuk Yuk’s, the Ottawa comedy community and for the City of Ottawa as well. 

That’s about it for this past week in review. If you made it to this point, thank you for reading. I do hope that you will come out and support a show in the city at some point. I believe stand-up comedy is an important and underappreciated aspect of Ottawa’s culture and to truly appreciate this, you’re going to need to see it live at a club, or an independent room. Please do so.