Published Feb 26, 2018Sometimes March is when Easter happens, sometimes it isn't. Eggs become chocolate. Jesus is a bunny rabbit? It's a funny month in many ways especially because hey, look, we're kicking March off with a comedy showcase.
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 at 9 p.m. sharp!
Our March 1 edition features Heather Macdonald, Pat Thornton and Ryan Belleville, so we asked each of them to open up and let us in.
Heather Macdonald originally hails from the small town of Heidelberg, ON but now calls Toronto home.
"I work at a hospital full time and my days there can be stressful and challenging," she says. "For my boss: in a good way, obviously! I love my job! But I've always had this creative side of me that I hadn't really dipped into since I was in high school."
Growing up in a German Mennonite town in one of the only local families of colour (who loved watching Seinfeld together) really influenced Macdonald's perspective and comedic voice, which she has developed in Toronto.
"A few years ago I started going to and watching a ton of comedy in the city, got an itch and took improv at the Second City as a creative outlet," she recalls. "I loved it, but felt I was better suited to something a bit different, so I took Dawn Whitwell's Comedy Girl class at the Comedy Bar — highly recommended — and quickly fell in love with performing standup and getting my dumb ideas out there.
"My approach to standup is really just me blabbering on about what I think is funny," Macdonald explains. "I don't tend to avoid any certain topics or try to force in topics that I think I should be talking about, but usually if I find something amusing, I'll write a joke about it. To be honest, my jokes are mostly about me — my life, my job and dumb stuff people say to me. So if you're on board with me, if you're into queer women of colour, then you'll have a great time! If you hate all of that in a comic, well, come out anyways."
Beyond our showcase, catch Heather Macdonald host a weekly show called Comedy on College, every Tuesday at the Pour Boy in Toronto.
Pat Thornton grew up in Mississauga but has been a Toronto staple for some time. He is one of the funniest people in the world and has been immersed in comedy for most of his life.
"Saturday Night Live broke my brain open when I was 10," he says. "Been watching loyally ever since. Mr. Show was very important to my development; it opened my eyes to the L.A. comedy scene, where people were trying everything.
"I didn't really know how to get started in comedy," he admits. "I went to the Humber School of Comedy and even though they kicked me out, I met like-minded people and figured out how to start."
Growing up in a Toronto suburb himself, Thornton says that many comedians emerge from such places because their brains are warped by how normal and boring they can be. "You joke your way out," he says.
"My approach is pretty traditional: I face the audience and speak into a microphone. Some of my topics include body wash, watermelon sparkling water, my dog named Chicken and the Toyota Corolla."
Look out for Pat Thornton's first standup album, Chicken!, which will be out soon.
Ryan Belleville grew up in Calgary, AB and currently lives in Toronto. He's a series regular on the hit CBC show, Workin' Moms.
"I always loved comedy from a very young age," Belleville says. "I would stay up late to watch PBS and all the great British comedies like Blackadder and Monty Python. We also spent a lot of time in the U.S. and I was hooked on the comedy classics on Nick at Night. Every night they showed Laugh-In, the original Saturday Night Live, and The Carol Burnett Show. I adored all of these.
"My parents are highly respected theatre actors, but truthfully, I never assumed that I would make a living as a performer," he admits. "At the age of 15, I went to the Loose Moose Theatre in Calgary, which is this fantastic, world-class comedy theatre. So many of Canada's great comedians and writers came through there and its primary function is improvisation and education. Anyone was welcomed to the classes and stage time, if they volunteered their time to other parts of the theatre.
"Loose Moose absolutely changed the course of my life. At 15 I was struggling in school and was mostly occupied with smoking cigarettes, drinking, and mischief that sometimes crossed the line into criminal. As soon as I got on stage, I was hooked, and spent almost every weekend of my teenage life at the Moose performing and volunteering."
Belleville says that growing up a liberal, artsy guy in Calgary gave him a unique outlook on life. He knows that some still view Alberta as Canada's most conservative, 'hick' province but then points out that Toronto elected Mayor Rob Ford.
"Growing up around people that you don't always agree with politically is a good thing," he says. "It helps you understand where they are coming from, and helps you keep an open mind."
Like many of his peers, Belleville says he has trouble describing his approach to standup. After 20 years on stage, he says his act is constantly evolving.
"There is more substance to it than I had when I was younger, because I have more life experience to draw from, but it is still very silly," he says. "I talk a lot about relationships, but sometimes I'll just talk about animals, or a story from my youth, or something that pisses me off about the subway. I love silly comedy, and moments of connection. I love a perfectly written joke, but I detest anything that feels like a comedian is trying to look clever, or that the audience is laughing at it because they want to look clever.
"Comedy should come from the gut. Like a belch. Have I answered this? My act is like a belch. Or gas."
Come see these people release some jokes on Thursday March 1 at the Wenona Lodge.
A ten-dollar ticket includes one pint of Steamwhistle; you can buy tickets in advance here.