Laughter muscles get a workout

There was a clown in Peak Fitness. But the muscle-obsessed teenagers weren’t laughing. They were ticked off and angry.

There was a clown in Peak Fitness.

But the muscle-obsessed teenagers weren’t laughing.

They were ticked off and angry.

With her red suspenders tangled on a weight machine, the clown was interrupting their routine.

“We pay for a membership and, instead, we have to watch a play,” said one of the guys, his face red.

The clown was oblivious.

She was having fun with the weight bar, which she’d decorated with a rubber chicken.

Peak Fitness doesn’t have a No-Clowns policy, but they’re generally not spotted at the gym.

The Nakai Theatre Arts Comedy Festival kickoff was an exception.

Fumbling with the comedy fest posters, the clown was trying to tape them to the mirror, which is usually used to admire bulging muscles.

AC/DC’s Given the Dog a Bone was playing in the background.

“We have been training very hard,” said Nakai’s artistic director David Skelton, cuddling up with the clown.

“We have been toning our funny muscles and fine tuning our timing in preparation for the Canada Winter Games of comedy.”

The laugh-fest lineup is heavy on the stand-up, but will also include some sketch comedy and comedic theatre.

“I like stand-up,” said Skelton.

“And in terms of what’s available, there’s not too much sketch going on.”

The bigger festival names include Todd Butler, Al Rae and John Murphy.

“We picked our acts according to who we could afford, who’s available, who wants to come and who I know,” said Skelton.

“And the theme is humour.”

Apparently, Nakai called Robin Williams, but he was busy.

“I know he likes it here — he’s been here before,” said Skelton.

“And I truly believe he was busy; I don’t think he was just being polite or diplomatic.”

The bigger acts will rub shoulders with some local sketch comics during the festival.

And one of the theatrical comedic pieces, from Edmonton, was originally written during Nakai’s 24-Hour Playwriting Competition, and won.

The production’s not local, but the script is, said Skelton.

The other theatrical comedy is a feminist clown exploration of the alphabet by Clean Irene and Dirty Maxine, from Toronto.

By now, the clown had deserted Skelton and was playing with a giant green ball.

She was stealing the show.

“Anybody want to take my picture,” said Skelton with a laugh as cameras zoomed in on the clown and her entertaining antics.

The comedy fest is great for Nakai, added Skelton.

“It brings us a new audience and makes money.”

Shows range anywhere from $10 to $35, and festival passes are $111.

“It seems like a lot, but there’s more programming,” said Nakai’s general manager Jason Seguin.

The lineup also includes Leave it to Cleavage, comedy improv by Ellie Harvey, Diana Frances and Christine Lippa, and cheesy, local ‘70’s sketch comedy by Doctor Chucklelots and the Mickey Giggle Gang, complete with yellow Afros.

The festival runs January 11th through 13th at the Westmark and the Yukon Arts Centre.

Tickets are on sale at Arts Underground and the Arts Centre box office.

Oh, and if you’re a clown, keep a wary eye out when you train.

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