Mick Dwyer has been performing in the Adelaide Fringe Festival every year since 1998, so he’s well equipped to mentor the Yukon comedians who are heading there next month.
The Yukon Gold Comics – George Maratos, Stephen McGovern, Claire Ness and Jenny Hamilton – brought Dwyer, who goes by the stage name Mikey-D, up to the Yukon to help workshop their show, A Grizzly Took My Bebe, before they take it to Australia.
Dwyer, who hails from Adelaide, is optimistic about their prospects.
“They’re funny people,” he said. “You can’t teach that. You either have funny bones or you don’t.”
Being from the Yukon doesn’t hurt either.
“Having the accent buys you a little more focus from the audience because it’s a little bit exotic,” said Dwyer. “The Yukon drawl is going to pay the bills in Adelaide that’s for sure.”
It’s what he calls “Commonwealth cousins appeal”- something that Dwyer, an Australian who’s been based in the U.K. for most of his career, knows a bit about.
“Although the British are a lot easier on Canadians than they are on Australians,” said Dwyer.
“Here’s me saying my family were Irish free settlers, and they’re like, ‘You’re still a convict.’ It’s playful ribbing.”
There are a lot of similarities between Canadians and Australians, he said.
“A friend of mine says Canadians are like snow Aussies, which makes me a desert Canuck, I guess.”
Dwyer, who arrived in Whitehorse a week ago, has found a warm welcome, despite the cold weather.
“Yukoners and south Australians are quite similar,” he said. “We’re down to earth, we don’t take any bullshit and we’re friendly, but you don’t want to mess with us,” he said. “Everyone’s really laid back, honest, real salt of the earth people.”
Dwyer has only visited Canada once before, performing at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal. But that was in the summer.
“This is definitely my most unique and pure Canadian experience,” he said.
Although Dwyer was warned that the weather was going to be brutal, he wasn’t really prepared for it.
“It might be a little bit cold in the U.K. at the moment, but I’m from the desert,” he said.
As luck would have it, he already had a friend in Whitehorse – someone he met several years ago while trekking through the Scottish Highlands.
“Without him I’d be frozen,” said Dwyer. “He’s loaned me his jacket, his toque, his gloves.
“He even loaned me some thick socks he got for Christmas and hadn’t opened yet.”
Dwyer will be getting his first taste of a Yukon audience today with a show in Haines Junction.
Four more shows are planned for next week at the Guild Hall.
A Grizzly Took My Bebe is an hour-long stand-up comedy show interspersed with sketches and song.
Dwyer helped workshop the show and will workshop his own one-man routine, Get On With It, in the second act.
It will be good practice for the Adelaide Fringe Festival, which will be a busy time for everyone, said Dwyer.
“Yukon Gold, I think there’s a chance they could get 50 gigs within the month, which is a priceless experience,” he said.
In addition to performing his own one-hour stand-up special, Dwyer will be hosting a live chat show – where he will be interviewing comedians including Yukon Gold – a kids comedy gala, and a late-night comedy bear pit “where anything goes.”
“My wife and I got six productions in total,” he said.
The Adelaide Fringe Festival is one of the biggest in the world, second only to the Edinburgh Fringe, said Dwyer.
“You’ve got a massive comedy scene, there’s a large theatre portion, there’s cabaret, there’s dance, there’s a massive music festival that overlaps,” he said.
There are several other festivals held during the same month.
“Our state government also throws in a car race through the streets of Adelaide,” said Dwyer. “Touring cars. These supercharged V8 monsters just blaring through the city.
“It’s awesome. The city comes alive and swells up with international guests and spectators and performers.”
After he leaves Whitehorse next week, Dwyer will be heading to the U.K. to pick up his wife and child, pack up his house and fly to Australia to get ready for the festival.
He hopes to incorporate a little of his northern experience into his act.
“The Yukon has definitely got some good qualities as a breeding ground for comedy,” said Dwyer. “It’s very important to have a laugh, especially with this much darkness and this much cold.”
Their first show tonight is at the St. Elias Convention Centre in Haines Junction.
Next week there are four other shows at the Guild Hall in Whitehorse.
Wednesday and Thursday the shows start at 8 p.m. and there are two shows on Friday at 7 and 10 p.m. They promise the late show will be wild, although even Dwyer doesn’t know exactly what that means.
“I don’t see how much more wild it could get,” he said. “Maybe less gaps between swear words, I guess.”
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