You’ve started doing Happy Endings at Shelf Life Books. What is Happy Endings?
It’s a storytelling comedy series. It was actually started by a guy named Brent Constantine who’s a Calgary comic that moved to Vancouver and when he left I took over the show because I loved seeing it. There’s nothing like it in Calgary right now. It’s sort of loosely based on things like The Moth in New York. It’s basically just about finding weird interesting personal stories that sometimes people have never told in front of an audience before. Two shows ago I did a story about how my first online girlfriend when I was about 15 turned out to be a guy. A comedian named Scoot Laird told a story about his parents’ terrible divorce and how he realized in retrospect that this one person who came to live with his mom had basically been brought in to give false testimony. What’s interesting about the show is that in addition to them telling these stories which are usually about 10 minutes long at the end of the story people get to ask questions — anything they want about what happened. Sometimes that’s because the storyteller didn’t realize themselves what was the most interesting part of the story. We’ve definitely had people pass over details where then the audience is like “but wait what what’s up with that guy? Is he dead or what?”
Do people ask a lot of questions?
Yeah it’s often as substantial a part of the show as the stories themselves…. When Brent started the show there were six people telling stories and the shows would go on for like three hours. So we eventually realized that four was really the sweet spot so we do two and then there’s an intermission and then two more.
Those stories you mentioned don’t sound all that funny.
Well I mean that’s part of it. I’m a big believer that comedy one of its main functions is to help us deal with stuff. It’s so much better to go through life laughing at these dark terrible things than…. I don’t want to give you the impression that every story that Happy Endings does is dark and terrible that’s more my temperament than anything else. I think that’s the big challenge. These stories themselves aren’t just innately funny the people that come on the show are great writers and great comedians and that’s a big part of the show trying to bring in a big variety of people people who have different backgrounds and aren’t just standups. For example in our upcoming show we have a journalist we’ve got a playwright and sketch performer and then two standups. Their ability to find comedy in these stories is very much them. Sometimes we’ve also had some great stories that were just sort of simple stories that aren’t even that innately dramatic like one by a writer named Kyle Francis who’s also a standup and performer with Kaboom… Hooray! He told a story about impressing his girlfriend’s Mormon dad and how hard that was. Last show we had on Meg Farhall who’s a sketch performer and she told a story it was really just simple it was just about her family’s neuroses and it was more about them as characters than the story itself. It’s just a really interesting mix of people and stories.
How do you find the people? How do you pick them?
It’s all happened pretty organically fortunately. We take recommendations from people who’ve been on the show already… and then of course some of it’s just knowing who’s circulating around. Annalise Klingbeil is the journalist who’s on the next show and I know her from her writing. My girlfriend in particular is a big fan of her writing and she’s also been to Happy Endings before so she’s got some knowledge of what it’s like. So you just kind of keep your ear to the ground see who’s doing interesting stuff locally and odds are that if they’re working hard at whatever they’re doing they’ll probably pour that same effort into putting out a good story.
When is the next show?
How often are they running?
We run right now bimonthly. So I’m not sure if we’ll actually end up having one in July since it’s a bit… certainly for myself I’m not going to miss folk fest for anything. I actually did perform a set last year during folk fest so I biked down to Happy Endings and then biked immediately back to folk fest and missed the rest of the show which is probably a bit gauche. But yeah right now we’re running bimonthly.
How do you find time for this? You’re still doing Kaboom… Hooray! and The Premise Show?
Yeah The Premise Show is part of Kaboom… Hooray! Well it’s one of the shows that I produce through Kaboom… Hooray! It’s funny only in comedy am I an alpha organizer and seem like a person that has his shit together. In no other area is that the case.
What is it about comedy that makes you so focused?
I don’t know there’s just a bunch of slackasses. I mean one thing that I love about comedy and this is true of Happy Endings too is that as written and pre-scripted as it might be what’s always cool with any comedy if you’re doing it well is it’s delivered to an audience in real time. So you can’t pretend that they’re not there so I think standups get very used to living in the moment even though they are writers and they do rehearse their stuff and they do work really hard on putting out a consistent product. Still half the fun is getting onstage every time and not knowing where it’s going to go. I think that naturally lends itself to a disposition that maybe doesn’t make for great producers all the time.
Can you tell me about The Premise Show?
It’s about standup and improv. What’s really struck me in the last few years doing comedy is that we’ve got all these great little comedy scenes we’ve got improv we’ve got standup we’ve got a very small sketch scene that Kaboom is a third of and they all kind of do their own thing. They live off in their own little corners and my personal belief is the scene is just not big enough individually to start building the audiences that they want. So I’ve been really interested in improv for a while and especially when Kaboom writes sketches we often do an improv workshop just amongst ourselves to generate new sketch ideas or work out scenes. I thought that would be an interesting way of bringing in improv and showing them some standup and also showing standup audiences what’s going on in the improv world. So The Premise Show is a place where standups do about 10-minute sets and then off of that the improvisers create scenes.
How often is that happening?
It’s at Yuk Yuk’s and it’s monthly. If we do a June show that will likely be our last one until September. Like theatre people would rather be out in the sun that in air-conditioned comedy clubs.
You’ve got to bring The Premise Show to a patio or something.
Oh man that would be great. I would love that. It’s something we don’t have in Calgary that I wish we did. They have that in Toronto and I think they might have one in Vancouver they do have some patio comedy shows.
That would be great.
Yeah it would be so comfy.
Throw up some lights everybody drinks some beer and watches the show.
Hell yeah. Drinking the beer is half of why I do comedy in the first place.
It’s half of why I do anything really.
I might be an alcoholic actually now that I think about it.
Kaboom…Hooray! is still doing its regular show as well at Yuk Yuk’s?
Yeah we do that the first Wednesday of every month so our next show is June 4 and that will be our last show for the summer except that we’re doing a run at the fringe which will be fun. We’ll be at Festival Hall which will be a really nice venue for sketch. We’re going to put together a few programs of sketch sort of our “best of” from the year and then rotate that through the fringe run and also have different standups come in. That’s the one nice thing about all of these show is that all three of them are completely different shows every time with different acts different scenes… it’s never the same. Sometimes especially with standup if you’re a regular standup audience member you’ll go to shows and you’ll start seeing the same people and you’ll start hearing the same material over and over. A big emphasis in all three of these shows is that you’ll never have heard this stuff before.
Learn more at kaboomhooray.com