One of the Fest's all-important volunteers, Martyn Bird (L) along with FunnyFest Godfather Stu Hughes at King Henry VIII

Welcome to Calgary FunnyFest Coverage! For Update #2, click "Logue." For Update #3, click "Epilogue!" Thanks!


(Filed May 12, 2004) CALGARY--When we left Philadelphia International at 8:15 AM Tuesday aboard Northwest Flight 6798, the temperature was about 86 degrees... Fahrenheit... and heading toward 90. And when we touched down at the airport in Calgary, the flight attendant announced that it was snowing. For our Canadian readers, subtract 32, then multiply it by 5/9. (Since your stinking public education system is far superior to ours, you do the math.) Okay... sorry... Here ya go: 86 minus 32 equals 54... and 54 times 5/9 (which is 0.55, effectively) equals... 30 degrees... Celsius.

To put it another way: When we left Philly, it was 30 degrees Celsius and when we arrived in Calgary, it was 30 degrees... Fahrenheit. So, to translate: When we left Philly, it was HAWT, eh?! And when we got to Calgary, it was cold, yah?

We screwed up... badly. We didn't really pack for this kind of weather. So, when FunnyFest organizer Stu Hughes picked us up (personal service, or what?) at the airport, we were somewhat underdressed. And exhausted.

When we met, at Meeting Place A (The Calgary Airport, no doubt wholly remodeled for the '88 Winter Olympics, has three meeting places, cleverly labelled after the first three letters of the alphabet. And lots of seniors, whom we assume are employees, cruising around on those beeping golf carts, wearing spiffy white cowboy hats... it's surreal, to be sure. Moreso when one is operating on inadequate sleep.) Hughes had comic Reggie McFadden in tow. Reggie had just flown in from NYC. When we all proceeded out to Hughes' vehicle, we spotted Vancouver's Grant Damsgaard waiting for a lift. We were all part of a second wavelet of comics to hit Calgary for week two of the two-week standup orgy.

REGGIE MCFADDEN embraces volunteer coordinator JEAN GRIPPING at the King Henry

Toronto comic ROB TRICK goes the extra mile at the King Henry by stripping from the waste (thankfully) up.

Comic and Chucklemonkey publisher KEN PRINGLE poses with a non-naked ROB TRICK

We breezed through customs. The stern customs agents were stationed in glass booths at the head of a large, fluorescently-lit room. We stood in the queue and tried to choose one that looked the least stern. (Although we were entering the country legally, we don't like leaving the U.S.A. and we don't like entering foreign countries. It's not that it's dangerous up here or anything, we're just hyper-aware of crossing international borders. These Customs people take this thing seriously, as they should. And, in this post-9/11 world, it doesn't pay to muck around with Customs!)

As it turns out, we needn't have worried about a thing. Our agent asked one question only: "When are you leaving?" THANKS! You have a nice day, too!

We exchanged pleasantries, exchanged some U.S. currency and, before we knew it, we were headed south on Autoroute 2, in the backseat, while Hughes fielded a cellphone call from a Calgary Herald entertainment reporter in the front seat. (Hughes was in the front seat, not the reporter.)

He pumped the quality of the comics (us included) and he walked a fine line between exhorthing Calgarians to come to the comedy shows and dissing the Flames (National Hockey League, you know). Talk about your scheduling conflicts: This Fest, normally held in mid-June, has been moved this year to early May. Dontcha know the damn Calgary Flames have made it to the playoffs this year?! On this night (Tuesday), they were in San Jose for Game Two of their semifinal series with the Sharks. Flames mania is gripping Calgary. The capital C with its hair on fire is in windows and on banners everywhere you look. Small Flames flags adorn every fifth car. It's been a while since they made the playoffs.

Hughes tossed us each a packet as the car cut through the fine snow. In it were a few very practical items (A map of the city, a show schedule, contact names and numbers) along with some swag-- tickets to the Calgary Tower tour, coupons for free burgers and gift certificates good at a local restaurant. We also found a small, paper Canadian flag and a matching Canadian flag pin, in case a Canadian Pride rally breaks out!

Mysteriously included was a packet of AIDS information (complete with a Lifestyles Premium Lubricated Latex condom). What's with the AIDS info? Why is AIDS Calgary Awareness Association handing visitors pamphlets on "The myths surrounding HIV and AIDS?" (Trivia: AIDS and STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) translates into French as SIDA and MTS!) Be sure to use them condoms while you're here, people! And pay special attention to "utilises correctement!" My AIDS awareness is tres high!

Our suite here at the International is right in the heart of downtown Calgary. (Swell accomodations, to be sure!) and we're assured that it's just a short walk to the site of the welcome party to be held at the King Henry VIII at 4PM. That gives just two hours to hose off the airplane funk and get ready for the evening.

The meet-and-greet at the King Henry featured free food and, as Hughes referred to them, "tasty beverages." (Around here, that means one thing: Beer!) There was supposed to be a show here at 9PM, but, because those over-achieving Flames were dropping the puck at 7PM Mountain Time, the show got bumped back to 5PM! It eventually got under way at about 5:20 or so, and an unsuspecting Happy Hour crowd were treated to the comedy stylings of Will Davis, Ken Pringle, Vince Flueck, Rick Mann, Grant Damsgaard, Rob Trick and Tommy Savitt. Savitt closed out his set just in time for the singing of "Oh, Canada," so his timing was impeccable. (As was the timing of the Flames, who took only 20 seconds to put the biscuit in the basket! Final score: Flames win, 4-1. They're up 2-0 in the series.)

Overheard at the end of the bar, during the singing of OUR National Anthem (the American one): as the bartender and one customer were singing along, lowly and haltingly, the customer proclaimed loudly, "I think it's good that we know the words!"

Soon we were on our way to the site of our first show, at the Sheraton Eau Claire, careening through post-rush hour Calgary with Hughes and Damsgaard in the front seat. We were running a bit late, but not so much so that we couldn't help a stranded motorist: At a major intersection, a young lady with a dead automobile was pushed to safety by Hughes, Damsgaard and an unidentified pedestrian. Upon seeing the distressed damsel, Hughes jammed on his brakes, jumped the curb, parked on the sidewalk and hustled on over and began pushing. Hughes gave her a pair of free FunnyFest tickets before we were back on our way to the Sheraton

By showtime, there were eight people at the Barclay's Wet Lounge, the stylish cocktailery just off the stylish Sheraton lobby. (Eight people, that is, if you don't count the half-dozen or so comics that were also in attendance.) The bar at the other end of the lobby was packed, of course, with foaming Flames fans. We were assured that this would probably be the last time we'd be victimized by hockey fever. Game Three is Thursday night at 10PM at the Saddledome here in Calgary. Game Four was supposed to be Saturday night, but the Saddledome had already booked Pauly and the Greaseballs (!?), so they bumped the game to Sunday afternoon! Thank God for Pauly and the Greaseballs, eh?!

Our show featured Robert Hawkes, Bob Angeli, Grant Damsgaard, Brian McKim, Traci Skene and Hot Nuts & Popcorn (more about them later!) It went surprisingly smoothly for a show held in a near-empty lounge. Just 24 hours earlier, the venue was packed and, we were assured, the house was rocking.

Next we shuttled on over to the most far-flung of the five FunnyFest sanctioned venues, the Comedy Cave. It's also the most comedy club-like venue of them all, since it is a real comedy club! A good-sized house was paying rapt attention to Big Daddy Tazz, a good-sized Manitoban comic, who was closing out this particular show. Also featured before we got there was Rick Mann, Reggie McFadden and Tommy Savitt. We suspect that other comics went up, too. That's one of the hallmarks of this fest: There's a certain looseness, an informality. Bills are not set in stone. Spots are swapped, comics are wedged in here and there, if it's not too disruptive. (In fact, we cashed in early on this Tuesday night, even though earlier it was agreed that we'd go on at the Daniel Sponagle Centre, where an 11PM show was scheduled. As we had been up since 3AM Calgary time, we were in no condition to perform anywhere!)

We were dropped off at the International, grateful for the chance to chip away at a sleep deficit that had been building since the previous Wednesday. We were exhausted from the schedule of the last seven days. The crowning achievement of which was driving back from Sarasota, straight through for 19 hours, to New Jersey, with only enough time to pack, sleep for seven hours and catch a plane on Tuesday morning to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Stay tuned.



BACK TO THE TOP Editor Brian McKim is tiny figure in center in this shot from the International balcony.


(Filed May 14, 2004) CALGARY--Festivals are like snowflakes... no two are alike. They each have their very own tone and mission and scope. If they have one common characteristic, it's that added element of pressure brought about by performing in the presence of one's peers. Performing in front of one's peers (unless one toils in NYC or LA) is something one might only experience in a fest or a contest (or a contest within a fest). But each fest is unique.

And so it is with FunnyFest. It has its own tone, scope and mission. This week there are approximately 30 comics in Downtown Cowtown. Maybe 20 of them come from out of town. A good number of them are local comics, with varying degrees of experience, who are pulling double duty--as comedians and as the much vaunted volunteers.

(Hughes stresses to the media-- and anyone else who will listen-- that FunnyFest is an "all-volunteer festival." And he frequently adds that the "emphasis is on the fun.")

In past FunnyFests, there were many more venues. 2004's version is scaled down. Many of the comics who have been to past FunnyFests agree that this year's slim and trim Fest is better for it's less ambitious schedule and relative geographic concentration.

New Orleans' TOM GREGORY (L) and Vancouver's GRANT DAMSGAARD at the Eau Claire Market "nooner" Editor BRIAN MCKIM (L) and BIG DADDY TAZZ obscure the FunnyFest sign at the Sheraton Eau Claire

VINCE FLUECK (L) and RICK MANN mugging at the Daniel Sponagle Centre

Tunde Dawodu (L) and TOMMY SAVITT hanging out in front of the women's room at the Daniel Sponagle Centre

Some of this year's contingent have been here all four years of the FunnyFest's existence. And by this Fest's end, some will have been in town for the full two weeks. As such, the odds of being here and not running into each and every comic (repeatedly) are nearly zero. (We've been to other fests and been unaware that a friend or associate was also there! Montreal is one such festival where the pace is so swift and the schedule so brutal. None of that going on here!) The opportunities for interaction with your fellow comics are many and said interaction often turns out to be more than superficial. We picked a good festival to forget to bring our business cards. (A last-minute packing crisis led to leaving our biz cards in a belly pack back home! We hand-scrawled our URL and our address on a handful of expired Fest tix for anyone who might want to stay in touch! Now that's thinking!)

This is more like Comedy Camp. In fact, it's reminded us, on more than one occasion, of the atmosphere that surrounded our SHECKYmagazine.COMICS-Only Reunion-- when we exhorted our readers to converge on Vegas for three days in April, 2001, to celebrate our second anniversary and to revel in being standup comics. The difference being that the Reunion had absolutely NO PERFORMING and this gathering has lots of it.


Not only did we solve our biz card problem (sort of), we also solved our winter clothing debacle by heading over to the Women in Need Society Thrift Store on 14th St. By this time, something had to be done, as the only clothing we had with us that might be considered warm were matching denim shirts. So, up until such time as we could obtain an overcoat or sweater, we walked the streets of Calgary wearing what could legitimately be described as matching uniforms.

Our original plan was to purchase a warm garment or two and, upon our departure, re-donate the garments back into the garmentless community. But the sweater that Traci bought is really nice and Brian's cool, plaid overcoat was a steal at only $8 Canadian! I think we'll wear them home (or at least as far as Salt Lake). Rick Mann also mis-packed. He actually bought a new jacket. Someone was heard to suggest that future FunnyFests should offer incoming comedians a choice from a box of overcoats and sweaters-- it seems that every year the wacky Alberta climate and the general stupidity of the comedians results in garment insufficiency.

On Wednesday evening, we performed at the 8PM show at Barclay's Wet, in the Sheraton. We weren't originally scheduled, but we were inserted at the last minute. Reggie McFadden was put up first (after emcee Damsgaard kicked off the whole affair). He was mainly there to pump up interest in the two-night series of Reggie McFadden Comedy Jam shows down at the Comedy Cave. It was to be a taste of Reggie. The In Living Color cast member is a veteran, a supremely confident and immensely likeable performer who has that "buddy" thing going for him with almost any crowd. (The crowd says to the next performer, "We already have a new best friend... Who the fuck are you? Go away!" The next performer in this case was Traci. It took a full minute to get the crowd to get over Reggie-- not such a bad thing if you've got a half-hour, but this is Festival Rules we're playing under here. Sets are often only five minutes long and perfomers often find themselves, for one reason or another, in situations unlike that of a weekend room. Pissing away the first 20 per cent of your set is frustrating, to say the least!) Fortunately, there was a healthy house of comedy fans-- NO Flames competition tonight! Traci's set-- and the rest of the show-- went exceedingly well.

For my part, I used the five-minute set constraint to work on a television set that I've been honing lately. Since I don't live in a city that offers 5-min. showcase opportunities, I rarely get the chance to do it. So this was useful.

After the show, we were shuttled over to the Daniel Sponagle Centre, the only venue we had not yet scoped out. It's over on the other side of the Bow River, five minutes from downtown, in a somewhat suburban area, tucked inside of a curious little brick building. Inside is what could only be described as a coffehouse (sans the means to make coffee), with theater seating and a stage tucked into the corner.

We were told that, when it's packed, it's a great venue (it holds 50, maybe). Trouble is, for whatever reason (the 11PM weekday showtime?) it wasn't packed. On this night, six people showed. (On one recent evening, no people showed!) No matter to the gang of comedians who eventually gathered here. No long faces were in evidence. A partylike atmosphere prevailed. An odd, roast-like tone was set by Executive Producer Stu Hughes' opening remarks and a somewhat bizarre "show" was still going on when we comandeered a shuttle with a half-dozen other comics and headed back to the International.

We were both scheduled for this soiree. Traci took one look at the setup and begged off. I went on, but didn't exactly enjoy myself. We have no problem performing in front of six people (We did that Tuesday night when the hockey game conflicted with the Barclay's Wet show!) but when there are four times as many comics (and comics' friends) in the back of the house as there are audience members in the front of the house, the situation is far less than ideal (for us, anyway). It makes for a very schizophrenic show when the comic is torn between doing a set (a normal set like one in a club, for comedy patrons) and doing some sort of a frat-party/open mike/last-comic- on-at-1AM type set. Some comics dig that setup. Some even make a reputation on it. We are not two of those comics. To some of the comics, their Sponagle sets might be the hightlight of their trip to Calgary. Comics are like snowflakes...


These here comics are good people. We know this because they've been consenting to do the Free Funny Show at the Eau Claire Market. Nearly every day of this festival, four comics are expected to do five minutes of comedy at the Eau Claire Market... in the Food Court... at noon. After a night of drinking strong Canadian lager (and inhaling God knows what else!), they drag their butts out of bed and head on over to the Market to do what they are dead certain will be a humiliating and, to some, a demoralizing experience. For the good of the FunnyFest. It's been chewing up comics and spitting them out all Festival long. And still they go. The idea being that it will help ticket sales by promoting the FunnyFest to an unsuspecting group of chowing lunchbreakers, out of towners and vacationers.

The goal becomes to get up on the makeshift stage and do as little real material as possible.

And now it was our turn in the barrel, so to speak. We met fellow victims Grant Damsgaard and Tom Gregory and, with grim determination, we all agreed that we'd do what it took to endure what is, technically and aesthetically, a hellish and unwinnable situation.

When all was said and done, Fest coordinator (and standup comic) Nick DeBrey declared this day's Free Funny show "the best one of the Festival!" Mainly because we had all managed to escape with our dignity and-- wonder of wonders-- a good portion of the crowd had a good time! To the left of the stage, a gaggle of schoolkids (on a field trip to Downtown Cowtown!) had gathered to watch the spectacle. Emcee Skene and "closer" Gregory provided the highlights of the program by each bringing up one of the schoolkids to tell a joke. Each was introduced like a real-live comic! Each responded by doing their best to mimic a real-live comic (which is what the four of us was doing, by coincidence!) and the crowd was tickled! And the two schoolkids achieved instant hero status among their peers. (The added bonus was that it made us look like nice people... Calgarians put a premium on people niceness.)

While watching the evening news later on (on Channel 7, CICT Global Calgary, I think), we saw the piece they put together on the FunnyFest. Apparently the local TV news operation had sent a crew over to Wednesday's Free Funny show. In addition to your usual shots of the hapless comic onstage doing material (one from in front, one from behind, cut to the laughing audience member, cut to Stu Hughes spinning out his soundbite), they taped some footage of Reggie McFadden, wearing an apron and masquerading as a Jugo Juice employee. Visually, it was better than the usual. And it was a like a mini-feature on McFadden, complete with snippets of his Letterman shot and a brief snippet of one of his In Living Color sketches. A real coup, publicity-wise for Hughes. (We asked Reggie later on whose idea it was to go behind the Jugo Juice counter-- he took credit. Special praise is due to McFadden for figuring out a way to avoid going up on that damn Food Court stage!)

As the 8PM show approached, we realized, much to our horror, that we had been all wrong about the potential for a Thursday night hockey game/comedy show conflict! When we stated that the Flames would faceoff at 10PM, we were going on information gleaned from the Toronto Globe & Mail. T'ronto's on Eastern Time, eh?!! Whoops! It hurt the Wet crowd a little. And it resulted in a 3/4-filled room for our show at the Comedy Cave. Not sellouts, but great crowds nonetheless. And Barclay's Wet had nothing like the devastation wrought by Tuesday night's hockey debacle! The Comedy Cave is full time comedy club, not just a venue for yocks during the Fest, so it's not as affected by things like having your hometown hockey club being the first Canadian team to make it to the Stanley Cup semis in EIGHT YEARS!

The Cave crowd was treated to a show packed with comedy from Rick Mann, Brian McKim, Traci Skene, Tommy Savitt, Big Daddy Tazz with Reggie McFadden closing out the whole affair. We discovered that, much to our horror, we were again scheduled to appear at the Daniel Sponagle Centre on this evening, at 11PM, after our Comedy Cave show. We had no intentions of going on. And we knew that there'd be plenty of other comics to round out the bill and take up our slack. And we briefly thought about just going over there and merely hanging out, but we didn't. We didn't want a repeat of Wednesday night: Even though Traci made it clear that she wasn't going on, the emcee introduced her anyway! And, in spite of her protestations that she wasn't going up, there ensued a full two or three minutes of intense, but well-meaning, harassment in an attempt to get her to relent! (Even to the point of bringing up her husband briefly to express her regrets and re-confirm that she would not be appearing! Skene, desperate to nip the harassment in the bud, came up with an excuse that was most likely to resonate among the gathered throng: she was too tipsy to perform! She would like her fans to know that, in actuality, she only had one beer and was not, in point of fact, drunk. For the record, she states that she would much rather be known as a liar than a drunk any day!)

We instead headed for the 39th Ave. train stop and glided back to center city on Calgary's modern light rail system (cleverly named "Train!"). We were good for nothing anyway. Having risen early, endured the Eau Claire Market show and done a couple of touristy things (including venturing to the top of the 626-ft. Calgary Tower!), we were ready to cash in early! We walked the four or five blocks from the rail platform back to the International, through Calgary's clean and (we were assured) relatively crime-free streets, our third day of five now ended.



Canada's National Librarian, Roch Carrier. What exactly does a National Librarian do?


(Filed May 18, 2004) NEW JERSEY--"The winters of my childhood were long, long seasons. We lived in three places-- the school, the church and the skating rink-- but our real life was on the skating rink."

So goes the quote from Roch Carrier that adorns the back of Canada's five dollar bill. (On the obverse is a portrait of the rather stern Sir Wilfrid Laurier, PM from the turn of the last century.) But the "hockey side" of the fiver depicts chidren skating, a kid on a toboggan and four other kids playing hockey.

The nanny culture up here is so ingrained that the hockey-playing kids on the fin are all wearing helmets! I am sure that Monsieur Carrier, born in Quebec in 1937, never once wore a helmet while worshipping at la patinoire! See photo above for proof!

If you needed any proof that hockey is a religion up here in Canada, there it is. And, for those of you following along at home, Calgary is one win away from dispatching those heathens from San Jose and heading to the Stanley Cup finals (probably against the Flyers, even though Tampa Bay is favored).

We're safely back in the States. We passed through Customs at the airport in Calgary late Sunday morning and got to our gate extra early on the off chance that we might bully our way onto an earlier flight. But Delta would have none of that! In the post-9/11 era, there are fewer flights and tighter restrictions ($$$-wise and otherwise) on changing tickets and switching itineraries. We take advantage of the wait and spend the last of our Canadian dollars and reflect on the previous two nights at the FunnyFest.

L to R: PAUL KUSTER, AMY TROFIMUK, DEZ REED and KELLY TAYLOR outside the Sponagle on a warm spring Calgary night.

TREVOR CAMPBELL and ROBERT HAWKES ("Comedy Bird of Prey") in the "green room" outside Barclay's Wet Editor BRIAN MCKIM (L) and NICK DEBREY outside the Daniel Sponagle Centre on the FunnyFest's final evening

Our emcees for the evening (Friday) were none other than HOT NUTS (L) and POPCORN (In reality, ERIC and DEREK FLORES)


The scope of the FunnyFest narrows considerably these last two nights: On both Friday and Saturday, there are two shows at Barclay's Wet and a show at the Sponagle. These are the shows that attract the biggest crowds all week.

The Barclay hosted two "Best of the Fest" shows each night. We were scheduled to be on all four. And we were, as usual, welcome to hop onstage at the Sponagle shows, which were unofficially billed as free-for-alls-- a last chance to do a set, hang out amid the gaggle of invited comedians and do a short set in front of a packed house in a very informal setting.

The pre-show atmosphere at the Wet was a mixed karmic bag, as there was lots of positive energy and excitement among those who managed to get in and lots of bummed out people who were shut out. (Attention Calgary comedy fans: Use the free tickets on the weeknights! Attention FunnyFest officials: Put something on the freebies that says, "We make most of our money on the weekends, so good luck trying to get into a show with a free ticket on a Friday or a Saturday night... and rearrange your priorities while you're at it and put comedy above hockey!")

After the rabble was settled down and the shows started, however, all was forgotten. The audiences were responsive, some might say rabid, and the performances were consistently top notch. Eric Amber and Derek Flores, who, under the name of Hot Nuts & Popcorn headlined the majority of the Wet shows at this year's FunnyFest, took over emceeing duties for first show Friday and Saturday. They are well suited to the task, as they are adept at keeping the energy level at ridiculous levels. The two started out in Calgary but each now lives in a different Canadian city these days (Eric in Montreal, Derek in Toronto). They've been at this a while and have taken their HN&P act all over the world. They're pursuing separate improv and acting opportunities now, reuniting only occasionally for events like FunnyFest. They bill themselves as a "neo-vaudevillian" act, but they were more like a standup comedy team along the lines of Skiles and Henderson or Times Square Two-- an energetic, almost manic comedy team which has no straight man. They were ideal for the FunnyFest, since they were able to do a ton of Calgary-centric material as well as material that was enjoyed by folks who were from all corners of the Great White North.

The lobby of the Sheraton (our de facto "green room") was a comfortable enough place and it afforded the comics a suitable area to congregate, swap stories and data and get to know each other. The Wet also had a spot or two where comics could easily watch part or all of the shows without getting in the way of commerce.

Although each member of the contingent was slotted for all four Wet shows, we opted not to do all four (Traci did two, Brian did three), causing some consternation among the other comics. Why, oh why would we not take full advantage? Well, it's like this: In a festival where there's a ton of industry in the audience, any comic would be a fool to pass on a showcase. Indeed, at some fests, comics are like Navy Seals when it comes to protecting their spots and fulfilling their obligations and availing themselves of any and all opportunities to perform. But, in a gathering like this one, where the emphasis is not on industry but on performing, camaraderie, etc., we figured that it would be best to defer to some of the folks who'd been here all 15 days or who had been doubling as both performers and volunteers. And, in the case of the Sponagle: since we begged off of most of the weeknight shows there (with the corresponding thin crowds), it just wouldn't have been right for us to "cherry pick" the nice, fat crowds on Friday or Saturday night, now would it?

We got some funny looks, though. Our motives were questioned. Whenever a comic acts contrary to what is generally thought to be how a comic should act, eyes narrow-- What are they up to? Nothing at all, really! Have a nice set! When the finall tally came in, Traci did six sets and Brian did eight sets. Over five days.

Some of the comics who populated the FunnyFest venues since May 1 have returned to their respective homes. A healthy number are still in town, however.

Dez Reed, who headlined the Wet all last week, is back in town for the weekend, after having left Calgary briefly for a corporate gig or two. The Saskatchewan native is somewhat of a legend up in these parts, due no doubt in part to the fact that his website (see below), proclaims him to be "the world's funniest man!" Also due to the fact that he is the Guiness Book of World Record holder for Longest Original Stand Up Comedy Performance by One Person. (Set on August 8, 1997, at The Dunn Inn, Consul, Saskatchewan). Indeed, there were some who speculated that he might try to break that record on Friday night! (Turns out he stopped far short. Buzz on the next day was that the Sheraton officials were somewhat peeved, not at the length of his set, but at the choice of material. Somewhere in the Sheraton Corporate Handbook, it says that lengthy routines on fist-fucking are frowned upon!) It was the kind of set that pisses off management but cements his reputation among his fellow comedians, Canadians and non-Canadians alike. Let's arrange a comedy steel cage death match between Reed and James Gregory, the Georgia comic who proudly claims to be "The Funniest Man in America!" The winner gets bragging rights to all of North America!

The Sponagle Centre was the default party site, the FunnyFest's answer to Montreal's Delta Bar. On Saturday it was packed with comedy fans and all the comics who remained in town. We caught most of Saturday's show and said our goodbyes. We're told it was still hopping when Exec Producer Stu Hughes departed at 5 AM. As we had planned to hitch a ride to the airport with Reggie early Sunday, we departed at a respectable 1 AM.

We applaud FunnyFest Executive Producer for his efforts in promoting comedy in Western Canada. The hit on the Global television was a real coup. We're disappointed in the folks over at the Herald, however. In Friday's paper, with a standup festival taking place under their noses, they ran an Associated Press feature on Lewis Black! Of course, we've got nothing against Black ( has interviewed him!), but why run an interview with him in the Calgary paper when there's plenty of comedy going on right in your fair city, amid a festival that's drawing comedians from all overt North America?

Soon after getting settled at our gate, we were joined by a pair of comics who were also headed back to the U.S. Since we had all just passed through U.S. Customs minutes earlier, the discussion turned to the how vastly different each comics' experience was upon entering Canada over the past two weeks. Some of us sailed through, some were questioned in detail, others only quizzed for a minute or two. Some of those who were questioned concealed the real purpose of their visit. Some came totally clean. To our knowledge, only one comic paid the $150 CD fee for a visa. We were advised by counsel that, since we weren't paid any money for our appearances, no such visa was required. Sounded logical to us. Oddly enough, however, the one U.S. comic who came totally clean was sent on his way without so much as a tap on the wrist. One comic was threatened by a Customs official that he would be escorted to the border if he was found to be up on a Canadian stage. More than one comic we spoke to expressed some sleeplessness at the prospect of crossing into another country under such uncertain circumstances. Indeed, we find the simple act of leaving America to be somewhat stressful, regardless of the reasons or the vague prospect of any financial hardship! Why all the inconsistency? Why all the confusion? It would seem a simple matter for someone connected with FunnyFest to investigate the matter, determine the legalities, alert the future festival participants and apprise any and all concerned of the exact ramifications of crossing into Canada for an affair such as this one. (Maybe even going so far as to send each a one-sheet, detailing the Fest's legal standing with regard to importing foreign funnymen, which could be produced in the airport "Interrogation Room," should things get that far.) That would be better than having all of us wondering if we might have to sleep in the Calgary airport for five days. Or shell out a chunk of money we don't have to. And we urge any American festivals to extend the same courtesy to any invitees from Canada or Australia or England or wherever! What adds to the frustration of all of this is that even the Customs officials seemed unclear on the laws! How does that work?

We met some swell people. And we were grateful for the opportunity to see the city of Calgary and meet some Calgarians! We applaud Hughes for his tireless efforts to organize FunnyFest and we wish him well. We were impressed with the high caliber of the acts at this fest. And we look forward to meeting up again with the comics we met the past five days! See you all in Montreal, maybe?

If you'd like to read more about the participants in the Calgary Comedy Festival, click on these links.


Hot Nuts & Popcorn

Big Daddy Tazz

Calgary FunnyFest

Dez Reed

Rick Mann

Ken Pringle

Tom Gregory

Tommy Savitt HOME Back to the Top