Published Oct 02, 2017It's an especially sweet Canadian Thanksgiving this year, because we all get to jumpstart the long weekend with a night of mirth and merriment.
Canada's only exclusive standup and sketch comedy label, Comedy Records, has teamed up with Exclaim! to launch the Comedy Records Showcase, which takes place on the first Thursday of every month at Wenona Lodge (1069 Bloor St. W) in Toronto. Showtime is 9 p.m.
Our October 5 edition features Jeff Paul, Jackie Pirico and Nitish Sakhuja so we asked each of them to tell us more about themselves. The results are shocking! (To anyone who doesn't know them I mean.)
Jeff Paul grew up in the village of St. David's, which lies within Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario. Now based in Toronto, Paul hosts a weekly Wednesday night show called "Dope N' Mic Comedy" at the Underground Comedy Club and he also hosts the Potato Files podcast.
"Comedy was something I wanted to do since I was a teenager," Paul says. "Unfortunately, I didn't get off my ass and start doing it until my 30s. I was going through a divorce after just a two-year marriage and was living downtown and drinking at a bar called McVeighs. I spent most nights there drinking heavily and hitting on the waitresses.
"One of them was an amateur comic who ran a weekly show upstairs, every Thursday. I mentioned that standup was something that I had always wanted to try, so she invited me to come perform. I had already been writing jokes in a notebook at home, so I was very excited at the opportunity to get to use them."
Paul describes himself as a setup/punch line comic who gets a bit dirty, but mostly depends on a well-written joke. He also says he held himself back in comedy by not fully committing to it. He realized this about six years ago, after a three-month hiatus from the stage.
"I ran into one of the very few people in comedy that I had befriended, Hunter Collins," he recalls. "He asked how things were going and I let him know how long it'd been since I'd been up, and that's when he gave me the tough love I needed to hear. He basically told me to shit or get off the pot. That showing up every three months wasn't helping me and I was just sucking up the stage for people who actually want it.
"That was the kick I needed and since that day I've been in 100 percent."
Jackie Pirico grew up in Guelph, ON but has lived in Toronto since 2014. She's in the new feature film Sundowners and performs every Thursday at the Comedy Bar in Toronto at the weekly show, "Laugh Sabbath."
"Like many Canadian comedians, I grew up watching taped JFL performances on the Comedy Network all the time," she says. "Seinfeld was my favourite show — I especially loved the episodes where Jerry was actually at the club."
Pirico moved to Montreal for school at 19 and took a waitressing gig at well-established club, the Comedy Nest, where she became immersed in the art and community of standup comedy.
"As a student of anthropology, I decided to do a year-long ethnography of the comedy community in Montreal; observing, reporting, interviewing and ultimately participating by doing a performance myself," she recalls. "I was terrified. After that, every once in a while, one comedian pal or another would pressure me to do their open mic. I'd prepare and agonize over my material before doing infrequent sets. Eventually, in the fall of 2013, I decided to make a real go of it and commit myself to 'the grind.'"
Pirico speaks highly of her parents, each of whom seemed to harbour absurdist comedians within. She says she was encouraged to ham it up before the family camcorder and explore her creative impulses, particularly if they led her to jokes.
"I would describe my style and my approach as kind of blissfully ignorant," she explains. "The angle of my jokes — my perspective, I guess — is a place of misinterpretation; like, a misunderstanding of the world around me. My persona takes things very literally, encounters the world kind of innocently, and is quite bratty at times; waveringly confident and certainly unhinged. These are all exaggerated qualities of my true self, I suppose.
"I like to disarm the crowd with my mannerisms and word/syntax choices in order to get away with saying things that perhaps not everybody could get away with," she adds. "I cover pretty ubiquitous topics: animals, pets, sex, gender, babies, dating, health, religion, but through the lens of very specific and very personal experiences and memories, and it's all in the voice of the persona I described earlier, so that's what makes my act unique."
Nitish Sakhuja was born and raised in Rexdale, ON but now calls the east end of Toronto home. His next major project is a web series called Best Buds.
"I've been into standup comedy since I was a kid," Sakjuja explains. "Loved watching the Just For Laughs galas on the Comedy Network. Didn't really think of making it a career until I was a year-and-a-half deep into a double degree math program at the University Of Waterloo.
"Dropped out with no future in sight," he recalls. "Started working in a call centre for CIBC and constantly made everyone laugh. It felt like I was in high school again. They actually pushed me into doing it. One night I went to a club and just watched. After a few weeks I finally got up. Best. Decision. Ever. Haven't looked back."
Sakhuja says that growing up an Indian kid in Toronto has totally informed his comedy and outlook in life. He doesn't pinpoint how precisely, but he knows it's there when he takes the stage.
"My approach is a fun and laidback style," he explains. "I probably just smoked a blunt, so I'll be talking to the audience like they're my boys and we're politicking out in the backyard. I cover everything that goes on in my life. Experiences, friends and family, relationships, drugs and even pants sometimes."
Come see these people living their comedy dreams on Thursday October 5 at the Wenona Lodge.
A ten-dollar ticket includes a pint of Steamwhistle; you can buy tickets in advance here.