Monday, July 16, 2007

Just For Laughs comedy festival and (self) promotion

It was a surprise to learn last week that the Homegrown Show at the Just For Laughs festival is sold out. In the past couple years, I bought tickets the day of, yet this year they were gone by last Thursday, before the festival even began.
I’m not heartbroken about it. There are far better (and pricier) shows that I can now justify shelling out the bucks for.

To be honest, the Homegrown Show is a bit of a glorified open-mic night, with similarly uneven performances. The competition aspect of it is pretty silly since comedy is so subjective. (Someone ‘wins’ a television special; a runner-up wins, um, status as runner-up? I don’t know if they win anything, maybe a few hundred bucks?) The winner and runner-up were usually at best the third ‘best’ comic of the night, I think; in fact, most were middle-of-the pack. Again, subjective, but I look for pulling off original material, or even a near-solid set with really edgy stuff, not crowd reaction alone.

That’s not the stuff that comes neatly and safely t.v.-ready, of course. Generally, the winners and first-losers were chosen mostly by reputation -often they already had t.v. exposure, hence my previous sarcasm with ‘wins’. I know I’m not the only comic with that view of the winners, and it’s pretty much universally agreed amongst us that competitions are dumb.

But hey, that’s why comics worship Bill Hicks, while the masses gobble disposable nonsense like Dane Cook (”The comic for people who think Good Charlotte is punk” -beautifully put, Nick Carter).

Nonetheless, I enjoy the Homegrown Show because of it’s unevenness, which makes the evening more interesting, and because it provides a sampler of breaking comics from across Canada, many of whom will be returning to the fest and having “Comedy Now” specials in years to come (speaking of which, tune in for my Ottawa buddy Wafik Nasralla this Sunday).

Oh, and I like that it stirs my sense of profound moral outrage.

Since you and I won’t be seeing it this year, though, you can read about the Montreal stage of the Homegrown competition here (with a bonus dose of moral outrage, natch)

My theory of why the show sold out so quickly this year is that Myspace and Facebook have made everyone their own promoter. Comics all have their own artist-specialty MySpace pages, and once everyone realized no-one reads (or even bother sending) bulletins anymore, everyone moved to Facebook, where every virtually comic has set up ‘fan club’ groups from whence they can advertise their shows far and wide.

This is a great thing on the whole, with the caveat that comics who are still doing mostly (or even entirely!) open mics at this stage of their ‘career’, have NO business with such self-indulgent tripe (the fan groups, that is, but I still join ‘em, so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings *sigh*, especially since I’m a bit of a promoter too now).

The growth of the internet has made everything easier, and may save some forest growth too. When I promoted comedy stages in Ottawa about 4 years ago, I still postered for hours each week, and when I began my own stage, I thought I was really cutting edge having an email list (in fact, some comics thought that was silly, but then again, they still live in Ottawa).

I’m starting a comedy stage at the end of the month, Comedy On St. Laurent, and I plan to use Facebook as my main avenue of promotion. Of course, I’ll press the flesh with flyers too, but postering is a waste of time, energy, money, and paper.

Has this whole post been a slow, somewhat melodramatic (the outrage) build to a shameless plug for my new comedy stage?

Yes. Yes it has.

Comedy On St. Laurent
3 Minots, 3812 St. Laurent above des Pins
Every 2nd Sunday starting July 29th, 9 p.m.

$10 pitchers! $2.50 shots! only $5 cover!
Opening show headlined by JFL vet Mike Paterson!
See ya there! (not at the Homegrown Show)

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