Yuk Yuk’s Summer Comedy Competition and The Enduring Legacy of Mike MacDonald
At the Rotters Club in Ottawa in 1977, a Canadian comedian sensation was born. Mike MacDonald performed his routine perfectly depicting a teenager’s rock ‘n’ roll dreams, complete with an “air guitar” before it was popularized. This was the start of his road to fame and reputation as one of the most groundbreaking comedians in Canadian history. MacDonald soon became one of the leading faces of the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival and Canada’s comedy boom of the 1980s.
Throughout the 1990s, McDonald made some of the most successful stand-up specials to air on Showtime in the United States. However, throughout the years of MacDonald bringing his audiences to life, he battled drug addiction, depression and poor health. After his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, MacDonald became involved with mental health advocacy despite the taboo nature of the topic. On March 17, 2018, MacDonald passed away from sudden heart complications.
However, towards the last few years of his life, MacDonald invested in the future generation of comedians, often watching their performances and giving advice. One of these comedians is Kamar Babar, winner of the Yuk Yuk’s 12th annual Mike MacDonald Summer Comedy Competition, sponsored by Ottawa Life Magazine and beadonor.ca. MacDonald’s humble and non-judgemental attitude inspired Kamar’s early comedic days. “My fondest memory was hanging out with this accomplished comic when I was trying to learn how to be a comedian, and he treated me like a peer. He never seemed judgemental or too good to be there.”
Years later, Kamar’s acts skillfully highlight his unique perspective on life and culture. As he takes the stage, Kamar weaves side-splitting tales to resonate with every member of the audience. However, one of the greatest highlights for Kamar were his competitors. “Everyone brought their A-game,” says Kamar, “I liked all the acts I was competing against; I did not feel like I won until they announced my name.”
MacDonald’s legacy was present with each act, including a spontaneous performance by America’s Got Talent finalist Ahren Belisle. Bright young comedians like Belisle and Kamar reflect MacDonald’s spirit of humility, perseverance and passion and remind the audience of what comedy is all about. Yuk Yuk Yuk’s co-founder and Ottawa club manager Howard Wagman said, “I want to do this forever. I’m never going to stop doing this for Mike MacDonald. Ottawa produces more talent per capita than any other city in Canada. It is a great city for comedy.”
The Yuk Yuks Mike MacDonald Summer Competition is a reminder of Ottawa’s glorious comedic past and its future. With every performance, MacDonald’s powerful legacy remains. No matter the challenges he faced, MacDonald always captured audiences and brought joy, laughter and the human experience to life, a pattern which persists in each comedian who performs on Yuk Yuk’s stage.
Check out their website to learn more about Yuk Yuk’s and upcoming performances.