When Richard Eden and George Maratos were putting together the Yukon Comedy Festival, they didn’t just book people who wanted to perform — they booked people who wanted to perform in the Yukon.
People like Kyle Clark.
“My parents actually got engaged in Whitehorse,” said Clark over the phone from Los Angeles, where he lives. His dad worked in the Yukon as a miner during the 80s, and proposed to Clark’s mom with a gold nugget when she came up to visit him.
Clark’s mom is going to return to the Yukon to watch him perform as part of the festival, which takes place from March 22 to 24.
The self-proclaimed “California boy” said he’s terrified of the cold, but is he’s excited to see sled dogs and snow (“I’ve only seen snow twice,” he said) and to eat poutine.
Eden said that’s part of the goal with the comedy festival.
“We’re trying to give (performers) the most Yukon experience ever,” he said. This includes a glass-blowing class at Lumel Studios, a trip to Takhini Hot Springs, and flight training with Alkan Air.
Eden said he wants the festival to be to the comedy world what Dawson City Music Festival is to musicians — something comedians want to go to. Something that fosters a sense of community.
He had experience in that sort of thing when he and his partner moved from Windsor, Ont., to the Yukon in 2016.
Eden had done some work putting on small shows and festivals in Ontario. He wanted to do more of the same here. His first inclination was to do something musical, but he said there were so many great music festivals here already.
“My next passion is comedy,” he said. It was something he’d done himself, and done pretty well with, but he thought his real strength was in putting other people in the spotlight.
In February of 2017, Eden started scouting talent at local comedy nights.
He pulled in some comedians from Baked Laughs — the monthly stand-up nights held the Yukon Comedy Collective at Baked.
Those evenings tend to sell out, said Eden, so he knew there was an audience for it. Still, there was some trepidation about putting on a multi-day festival. He’s been amazed by the response.
“I said if we could sell 30 per cent (of tickets) we’d be in the black,” he said.
Instead, all three nights of shows sold out a week before the festival.
“I knew that it could happen. I didn’t think it was impossible,” he said. “But I was not expecting this.”
The line-up includes locals James Boyle, Shahin MoComedy Sanjari, Oshea Jephson, Steph Aubé, Steve McGovern and Jenny Hamilton.
Chelsea Lou and Dino Archie are coming from B.C.
Eden, who also works as a graphic designer, used some professional connections (he built a website for one of Clark’s podcasts, for example) to secure other out-of-town comedians including Clark, Kyle Kinane, Rivers Langley, Mr. Goodnight, and New York’s Dave Merheje.
Eden said he’s excited by the line-up, which fulfills another of the festival’s goals — to give locals and emerging comedians, such as Aubé, the opportunity to perform next to professionals.
A born and raised Yukoner, Aubé started doing comedy in July of last summer.
It was something she’d been thinking about for years. She kept a notebook full of jokes and ideas she thought were funny, but she was still scared to try getting onstage.
Then she started doing improv at the Guild Hall.
“I kind of got used to being in front of people,” she said. “It got me used to thinking on my feet and reacting to the crowd.”
Eventually, Aubé worked up a routine to test out at Baked Laughs. It was just as terrifying as she thought it would be, but she enjoyed it.
She will be performing as part of the festival at the Guild Hall on March 22 and running some of its free events.
In addition to the sold-out evenings at the Guild Hall, the Old Firehall and the Yukon Arts Centre, there are a number of free events on March 24.
Winterlong Brewery is hosting live podcast recordings of Clark’s show This is Rad and Langley’s The Goods From the Woods from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
There will also be free improv workshops at the Old Firehall for kids and adults at noon and 2 p.m., respectively.
The huge response to the festival means organizers have also been able to add to the planned offerings. For instance, Eden said a night has been added in Dawson City on March 25 (“It is the Yukon Comedy Festival,” he said). He’d like to schedule an on-the-road performance in a different community next year, to give performers a more complete picture of the territory, and an experience they’ll talk about.
More information can be found online at yukoncomedyfestival.com.
Contact Amy Kenny at firstname.lastname@example.org