Side effects may include laughter

There is an uprising in Peterborough. The pandemic is spreading, and if you plan on catching it, which I think you should, seek it out at night.

You’ll find it in dark rooms with low ceilings; you’ll find it where you find people roaring; you’ll find it where there is beer.

Please don’t be afraid, we want this plague to spread.  Don’t worry if you catch it because we have the best medicine.

This incoming wave of roar-inducin, knee-slappin, belly-laughin disease is comedy; and Peterborough, it’s comin’ for you.

It is certainly no secret that Peterborough has an incredibly active arts community, from music to theatre there is always, and there will always continue to be, something new.

We have Artspace for the visual artists and Market Hall for the dancers, Showplace for the musicians and The Theatre Guild for the actors (all of these are of course among many other venues). But where oh where do the comedians go?

After speaking with many different comedians, it seems that there are few constant places for them to go to make people laugh.

While speaking with Steve Kearns and the Homeless Man, Kirk Scott—two local stand up comedians—they mentioned they had a room booked at one location and with a week before their show were told they the venue had been double booked and got bumped.

I have to wonder, why did the comedians get bumped? Who were the competing against and why was it more important that they get the venue instead of Kearnsy and The Homeless Man?

On the other hand, Sean Quinlan, another local comedian who has been doing stand-up for seven years now, thanks BE at the Trend and owner Simon Terry for making this a space for comedians to go.

In fact there is an open mic night every Thursday night at BE at the Trend, a great opportunity for stand-up comedians looking to get a little practice.

Comedy is an art.  Just as any musician composes music and just as any artistsbrings paint to page, comedians bring laughter to people.  “We want to make you laugh, but also challenge you to make you think,” says Quinlan.

Art invokes emotion, which can be sadness or anger or angst or any other deep feeling emotion; but it can and often does invoke happiness and laughter.

There is so much talent in this city, but to make it in this profession comedians are leaving Peterborough to go to Toronto. I say let’s keep them here, let’s bring the Torontonians to Peterborough. That is exactly what Linda Kash does.

On the third Thursday of every month at The Venue, Kash hosts a dinner theatre night called Improv with Linda Kash. For this event, Kash brings in the best of the best comedians from Toronto, people like Colin Mochrie.

“What I’m trying to do is bring a local performance to each show,” explains Kash.  This is an amazing opportunity for locals to learn and continue to shape their craft.

Kash and her late husband Paul O’Sullivan, both with a background in improv comedy, came to Peterborough and started a school called the Peterborough Academy of the Performing Arts and began teaching improv to kids and teens. “We knew that there was a niche here to fill because there wasn’t anything like it,” explains Kash.

The talent here is real and is being recognized; three Peterborough comedy teams made it through the first round of CBC’s Comedy Coup. This is a national competition and it is incredible that these comedians and artists are being recognized across Canada.

“The goal is laughter,” says Dan Smith, local comedian who is competing with his team in Comedy Coup, and is also a member of the improve group known as the Citiots.

Having made the Gordon Best their home, the Citiots can be found there the third Friday of every month.  That makes two local and monthly comedy events in Peterborough.

While talking with Quinlan, his advice to stand up comics was this: “even if you are not performing, go watch and take it in.” Just as with any other art, it is a lifetime pursuit and there will always be opportunities to grow and learn.

“Never stop taking classes.  I will never be an expert and I have well over 10,000 hours,” says Kash. “The triumphs are what you live off of and talk about in the bar, but the mistakes make you learn.”

There is a certain comradery within the comedy community, which Quinlan expresses great gratitude towards.  Having taken classes with Paul O’Sullivan, he says, “it helped me learn the art part of comedy breaking down premise, punch line, premise, punch line.”

To keep making the comedy scene bigger in the community, these comedians work as a community. It is just as important to grow and learn from each other as it is to grow and learn from the experts.

While all of these comedians have a very different style and approach they all have one thing in common, and that is to bring the comedy to Peterborough and keep it local.

“Bring the fame here, create a scene and make it happen in Peterborough,” declares Kearns.

To use a cliché, laughter really is the best medicine and these comedians need something to cure.

So go out and support your local comedians! The Gordon Best for the Citiots, The Venue for Linda Kash, BE at the Trend for Sean Quinlan and other stand up comedians and on December 5 laugh with Steve Kearns and Kirk Scott at their Christmas Comedy Toy Drive at Dr. J’s!

There is always something going on in this community but it might not always be on the “big” stage.

Look for those dark rooms with low ceilings and follow that roar, because if you listen you will hear.

About Caleigh Boyle 32 Articles
Caleigh Boyle, double major in English Lit and Cultural Studies is passionate about the arts, words—both spoken and written—and can often be found at Chapters buying more journals than she needs.