The YYComedy Festival promises a week of laughter with some of Canada’s best comedic talent

Six years. That’s how long The YYComedy Festival has been entertaining Calgary audiences with world-class comedy, and it just keeps getting better, becoming a veritable who’s who of comedic talent hitting town each autumn. And, with a lineup carefully curated each year in part by co-founder, Cory Mack, the festival is gaining wider acclaim and a loyal following and bringing in bigger acts.

Last year they brought in Janeane Garofalo – how did Mack manage that?

“I just made a phone call.” There’s your answer.

Mack is proud of the fact that they’ve managed to stock the festival with great talent from day one, adding that Kids In the Hall member “Mark McKinney said (of) the first year, ‘Not a dud in the bunch!’ ”

That’s definitely seems to still be the case with this year’s lineup boasting Shaun Majumder, Debra DiGiovanni, Steve Patterson and Graham Clark, to name just a few. This year the festival is taking on more of a theme, a “Canada thing,” says Mack. With such an emphasis on Canadian talent, it’s the perfect showcase for both local and national comedians, some of which audiences would only experience in a corporate gig setting. According to Mack, “If you’re not at a corporate gig or if you don’t catch (these acts) when they come through to some of the great comedy venues that we have in town, it’s an opportunity to go see them in a theatre setting, which is different than seeing them in a Calgary club, which is different than seeing them in a corporate setting, too. It’s kind of fun to put (the performers) on a theatre stage and let them go for it.”

One of the headliners at this year’s festival is popular comedian and one of the stars of This Hour Has 22 Minutes Majumder – an addition to the festival that has been, literally, years in the making, with the organizers biding their time for when he’d become available. “We were waiting for six years (to book him), so from the very beginning … and this year he said ‘Yep’! So we’re super excited because he’s always at the top of his game and hasn’t been here for a couple of years, and I think Calgary should see him – he has lots to say, he promises me,” Mack says with a laugh. “He promised me he’s going to tear it up.”

Majumder will be headlining the Saturday, Oct. 21 during the YComedy Festival Gala at the Jubilee Audiutorium.

DeAnne Smith is another headliner this year — performing this Friday night at the Plaza Theatre — and whose recent viral video about dating has been making the rounds on social media.

“Yes! Viral video!” exclaims Mack. “She’s always a hit, she’s performed all over the world, and Just For Laughs, Chicago and Montreal, and she has been at the festival before, but she keeps getting bigger and stronger and really just fantastic.” And with the Plaza Theatre only holding around 370 seats or so, tickets are a hot commodity. Just sayin’.

With so many talented comedic performers hitting the stage during the festival, it’s like Sophie’s Choice for Mack to pick some that she’s particularly looking forward to, but I made her pick some anyway.

“Christina Walkinshaw has never been to Calgary, she’s making a big splash on Just For Laughs, she has My First 50 Tinder Dates blog (amongst others) –  she’s a firecracker, big on social media and brilliantly funny. Ali Hassan who’s the host of CBC’s Laugh Out Loud is going to be here, he also hosts Q once in a while, but he’s got a show called Muslim Interrupted … Dave Merheje who’s the new character on Mr. D on CBC, he’s been at the festival before. And we’re happy about the Sirius XM Comic showcase – we’ve got a lot of the finalists and the people who have done really well from around this area. As a title sponsor they’re extraordinary about strengthening Canadian content and getting comics’ voices out there.”

Some of the success of the YYComedy Festival can be attributed to the ever-growing local comedy scene, with comedy clubs bringing in talent weekly and allowing them to hone their skills. “All the local shows stack their rink,” explains Mack, “We have lots of people dropping by shows to practice their gala sets and their big show sets … and I believe having this festival for six years has encouraged other big comedy machines to come through town, more people book their own shows here than they did back then, Calgary audiences are open to comedy and they love it so they’re seeing big scale theatre comedy more and more.” A fact that is evidenced by the success of regular comedy showcases such as Broken City’s Comedy Monday Night with James Moore, where comedians of all levels of experience can take the stage, and indeed, they do, with such big names as Zach Galifianakis and Nick Offerman having performed sets when in town.

With a variety of shows happening this week, including the festival’s first french show taking place on Tuesday featuring Mike Matterson, Jeff Solomon and Alex Orlando acting as host, there is sure to be something for everyone. The festival culminates in that gala on Saturday night with eight comedians performing including local comedian/actor and host of the gala, Andrew Phung.

“He’s had a great year with his Canadian Screen Award for Kim’s Convenience,” says Mack, before noting the other comedians who will be participating, including, “Pete Zedlacher who has moved from Toronto to Calgary, he’s been on Just For Laughs several times; Laurie Elliott, she’s been all over the world from South Africa to Sweden, she’s quirky and funny; … and Nathan MacKintosh, who was just recently on (The Late Show with) Stephen Colbert, he was on Conan last year, he’s rockin’ hard across the country.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Mack says.

it really is.

The YYComedy Festival runs until Sunday at various venues around Calgary. Check out their full schedule for information and tickets, and also check theYYSCENE Facebook page for your chance to win 2 tickets to The YYComedy Festival Gala on Saturday night!

Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and has continued to bring event listings to Calgary through theYYSCENE and her event listings page, The Culture Cycle. Contact her at