When Little Mountain Gallery closes on Dec. 31, there will no longer be any dedicated comedy venues in Vancouver, prompting increasing numbers of comedians to create their own independent shows in bars, restaurants and studio spaces.
Vancouver comic Alannah Brittany is one of the many stand-ups keeping the comedy scene alive with her show Vancouver Special, which runs on the first Friday of each month at Slice of Life, a shared studio space in east Vancouver.
“It’s definitely a busy lifestyle, but where there’s a will there’s a way,” said Brittany, who also works in healthcare. “There are days where I’m exhausted, but comedy is this bright spot for both comics and audiences, so it doesn’t feel like a job.”
The closure of comedy clubs is the latest blow to a comedy scene that has struggled since the start of the pandemic. The loss of performance spaces and the hiatus of live performing caused by COVID has revealed the fragility of comedians’ livelihoods, prompting many to re-evaluate their careers. Whilst some have decided to stick to their day jobs, others have re-emerged with a new found determination to create opportunities for themselves.
“The comedy clubs not being here is actually a good thing, it brought out the producer game in people and there’s around seven or eight self-produced shows that have popped up in Vancouver,” says stand-up comic Dino Archie.
Archie has been particularly vocal about comics creating their own opportunities and has even organized his own headline show at the 1,100-seat Vogue Theatre on Jan. 8.
While Archie can use his experience and sizeable fan base to pull off this kind of show, self-producing shows is much more challenging for less established comics like Brittan,y who have to juggle comedy commitments with full-time day jobs.
“Producing and promoting shows require very different skill sets to performing,” says long-time independent producer Suzy Rawsome. “It takes a lot of energy just producing, so hats off to anybody who is performing at the same time.”
Dedicated venues alleviate some of these responsibilities, but Vancouver comics have little choice but to go it alone as the return of dedicated venues remains unlikely.
There have been murmurs from Yuk Yuk’s about opening a new venue, but their CEO, Mark Breslin, has ruled out opening a new location until unrestricted audiences can be guaranteed. The best hope of a new dedicated venue lies with the management at Little Mountain Gallery, but finding somewhere affordable in Vancouver is a big ask for the non-profit organization.
The only thing that can be guaranteed at this point is that comics will continue to keep the scene alive out of a love for the craft.
“Comics are like cockroaches,” Archie says. “We’re coming back and we’re creating our own shows.”