For those of you that missed it (and you're far from alone if you did) last week (Oct 3-6) the Canadian Comedy Awards and Festival took place in Ottawa. There were prizes given out in many categories, shows all around town, helpful talks to attend and really good baked potatoes with all the fixings at the after party (seriously. Really good potatoes.)
We're still not quite at the level of national celebration/media coverage enjoyed by the Junos, the newly-minted Canadian Screen Awards or the Giller Prize (what better to write about than writers I guess?) But I believe we're getting closer thanks to the efforts of producers like Tim Progosh and Gary Rideout Jr. and a small army of devoted volunteers like Brian Nasimok, Kyra Williams, Jen Fitzgerald and AL Connors. Maybe most importantly though, the funny award winners are starting to take the awards more seriously and realizing it's ok to be proud of being recognized by your peers, even if we're not recognized by the general public.
Full disclosure, I was fortunate enough to be one of the prize recipients: "Best Male Standup" and received my second "Beaver" (that's the name of the trophy. Grow up) in this category in the past three years. I was more than a little surprised to win given the fact I was up against some fantastically funny guys, all of whom are friends of mine: Pete Zedlacher, Mark Forward, Peter Anthony and Ron Sparks. And there are many other very funny men in this country who could easily have been up for the award having had great years in comedy themselves.
Given my surprise at winning (I actually didn't even vote for myself) my "acceptance speech" on Sunday night was along the lines of "thanks a lot....and I'm sorry for this", a theme carried through by many of the night's winners with one happy exception being Naomi Snieckus, winner of Best Female Performance in TV or web series for her work on the show Mr. D (also an award winner). Naomi gave an eloquent speech saying why she was so proud of what she does for a living and why we all need to support our own industry.
The poignancy of Naomi's speech was driven home by the fact that despite the incredible level of comedic talent assembled in Ottawa last week, no national spotlight was shone on the shows as they were happening. And worthwhile events such as a discussion I was honoured to moderate with Tim Long, executive producer of The Simpsons, former head writer for David Letterman and bona-fide Canadian comedy-dream-come-true story, was sparsely attended by the public and perhaps more surprisingly also sparsely attended by aspiring Canadian comedy writers who could have benefited greatly from his experience.
Perhaps most confusingly, comedy fans across Canada (yes, there are many) who might have wanted to see what happened last week and which talents are considered to be at the top of their game will not get that chance because this country's own "Comedy Network" chose not to televise the festival and awards, again. Instead, they showed the American Comedy Awards this year.
This is basically like the Oprah Winfrey Network choosing not to run any shows with Oprah Winfrey in them.
On the bright side though, with the new tools at our disposal in MAKING OUR OWN comedy productions, the decision-making process of which Canadian comedians get exposure not just to Canada but to the world is being put firmly in the hands of the funny people themselves and taken away from people who have no experience in comedy writing or comedy performance (or any outwardly visible sense of humour). Non-funny people should not be in charge of comedy decisions. Slow me down if I'm going too fast here.
So in conclusion, on behalf of all the brave souls who make a living out of making people laugh in this country thank you to the Canadian Comedy Awards. While the general Canadian public still may not recognize us, at least we're starting to recognize each other. But we need to do better helping to promote not just ourselves but also our talented friends. We need to keep improving our work by working hard, sharing what we know and learning from those who know more than us (which includes performers staying to watch other performers instead of leaving immediately after their own set) And if you happen to be someone who works for the Canadian "Comedy Network", kindly understand that this country's comedy awards should be the flagship special on your channel every year. If you don't understand that, you shouldn't work for the Comedy Network.
Good talk everyone.
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