A newbie, a veteran and Zach Galifianakis walk into a bar
The city of Calgary is being spoken of in the same regard as some of North America’s stand-up comedy hot-spots, and it might be due to a bar downtown that serves up fresh stand-up every Monday night.
“We have something here in Calgary that’s pretty cool and pretty unique,” said James Moore, SAIT alumni, founder and producer of what he says is Western Canada’s longest running open-mic event, Comedy Monday Night.
Broken City is the bar that’s been hosting Comedy Monday Night for almost 13 years. Although Broken City might seem like a bit of a dive, according to Moore it’s the perfect venue for stand-up comedy because it’s a bar that was built for live entertainment.
“It’s kind of rough, knicked corners, older building, almost like the King Eddy [The King Edward Hotel] it has soul and character,” said Moore.
“13 years ago there were no examples of what a good open-mic would look like,” said Moore.
According to Moore, stand-up comedy is very different from a lot of other performing arts in that every comic, no matter their level of skill, needs an audience to practice in front of. Because of this, polite laughter is scarce at all sorts of stand-up shows, not just at open-mics.
And although modern technology has given performing artists of various disciplines, like in music and acting, the ability to hone their craft by watching and listening to themselves. Moore said comedy is different in this regard.
“People’s perception of comedy has changed a lot, the nature of it hasn’t,” he said.
Comics now have the ability to easily record themselves at events like Comedy Monday Night to polish their jokes in writing, but the key to growing as a stand-up comic is the same as it’s always been, by performing in front of a live audience and seeing what’s funny.
“I don’t care what people say, there’s nothing scarier than trying out a new joke,” said Moore.
Moore said he knows from experience what it’s like to bomb in front of an audience. Because of this, he doesn’t want first-timers to have a bad time and never come back to Broken City because their first attempt at stand-up wasn’t a hit.
Anyone that wants to perform at Comedy Monday Night needs to read Moore’s guide posted to the events website before they can ask to book a slot.
“We’re preparing you to succeed, we’re committed to developing new comedians and professionals,” said Moore.
He recommends that for anyone looking to perform stand-up at an open-mic to read his guide and to also read The Comedy Bible: From Stand-up to Sitcom–The Comedy Writer’s Ultimate “How To” Guide by Judy Carter.
“If you let it [The Comedy Bible] sink in, you’d be way further ahead,” said Moore.
Comedy Monday Night has led many people that delved into stand-up out of curiosity, to success, such as Calgary comics Trent McClellan and Amanda Brooke Perrin. McClellan recently joined the on-air team of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, and Amanda Brooke Perrin was able to move from Calgary, to live in Toronto. She then moved down to Los Angeles, as a professional stand-up comic and has opened shows for the likes of Jim Gaffigan.
In addition to being the foundation for many a comics’ careers, Comedy Monday Night has garnered the attention of professionals in the stand-up comedy circuit for being the example of what a good open-mic can look like.
“If you were to talk to professional touring comics, Comedy Monday Night is the best open-mic comedy night in the whole country,” said Moore.
Over the years, Comedy Monday Night has hosted drop-in sets from The Hangover star Zach Galifianakis, Bob Odenkirk who played the role of James McGill A.K.A. Saul Goodman, a fan-favourite criminal lawyer in the hit-series Breaking Bad, Trevor Wilson, the mastermind behind the hit Canadian sitcom Letterkenny and Hannibal Burress, stand-up comic and co-host of The Eric Andre Show.
For those looking to step up to a mic and give stand-up comedy a try, check out Comedy Monday Night’s website and follow their guide, and also drop in at The Gateway’s very own open-mic night taking place on Wednesday, Nov. 15.