A veteran of stand-up comedy in the city, Downey was the host of popular weekly Toronto shows Open Mike at Spirits and Standing on the Danforth. The shows helped launch the careers of young Toronto comics and were attended by the likes of Robin Williams, Lewis Black and Patton Oswalt.
Downey's battle with ALS had left her unable to speak or perform in recent years. A fundraiser that had been planned for her will still proceed tonight at the Eton House in Toronto, with more information available here.
Find reaction to the news from the Canadian comedy community below.
Jo-anna Downey helped me be the comic I am. Hope wherever she's gone, she's able to let out that laugh again that's been silenced too long.— Mark Forward (@MarkForwardd) December 2, 2016
Jo-Anna Downey had a laugh that could fill a stadium. She gave so many of us a chance. Forever indebted, forever in love. RIP Mama Jo ❤️✌️️— Darcy Michael (@theDarcyMichael) December 2, 2016
Very sad to hear of the passing of Jo-Anna Downey. A true supporter and influential woman to all in the comedy community. RIP— kyra williams (@kyraugh) December 2, 2016
RIP Jo-Anna Downey. Great comedian. Great person. Toronto Comedy Icon. pic.twitter.com/HqaaHQQSOe— Comedy Records (@ComedyRecords) December 2, 2016
The incomparable, hilarious Mama of Canadian Comedy died today. Myself and the whole comedy community are heartbroken. RIP Jo-Anna Downey pic.twitter.com/XTXhpeWOzv— Martha O'Neill (@Martha_ONeill) December 2, 2016
RIP Jo-Anna Downey. You kicked my ass, gave me validation, and then showed consistent love and support. That's how it would go in Toronto.— Chris Locke (@chrislockefun) December 2, 2016
We are saddened to hear of the passing of Canadian Comedy legend and mentor Jo-Anna Downey. Our condolences to the Downey family.— Comedy (@comedynetwork) December 2, 2016