A new comedy troupe is stepping outside the box currently occupied by Yukon’s comedy scene. The Yukon Famous, otherwise known as Jason Westover, Patrick Keenan, Elissa Ciullo and Chris MacFarlane, plan to perform comedy in various styles and genres, including a mix of stand-up, sketch, improv, monologue, music, dance and media.
“We don’t want to be boxed into a specific genre which makes us a true ‘variety’ group,” Westover said. “We also want to collaboratively work with other artists and organizations and to be malleable enough to perform for all age groups and venues.
“Right now the city is in sort of a stand-up comedy frenzy. It’s everywhere and that’s to the credit of those artists and producers in the city who have made stand-up a sustainable and marketable product. But other than that, and the local production companies that produce comic shows or one-shot events for their season, there’s no other group that provides an alternate source of comedy. We’re hoping to be that alternative. It’s important to stress that we are not a ‘sketch’ group or a ‘stand-up comedy’ group, or an ‘improv’ group. We are hoping to be all of the above and to think outside the box with creating new forms of comedy that have yet to be hatched. Our collaborative nature also extends beyond our troupe to other companies and artists.”
This includes Outside artists, who may find it hard to come by opportunities in the North. Each troupe member has been an independent performer in Whitehorse, but by coming together they bring a set of complementary skills together.
“Patrick is an awesome musician and a very creative writer,” said Westover. “Elissa acts, writes, has film experience and is extremely versatile. Chris is another musician, has improv skills, acts, and is very strong in character work. And I bring acting, stand-up and improv experience.”
Last spring Westover was in a bit of a life funk.
“Work was catching up with me, I had gained some extra unwanted weight, and was feeling the drag of winter,” he said. “Artistically I was just floating around without direction, as many of us do at certain times. One day I woke up and decided to do something about it.
“I think we performers often talk about creating some sort of troupe now and then, and I thought it was as good as time any, especially since I was looking for something different to tackle rather than the same rotating wheel of acting and stand-up. I reached out to Pat, Elissa and Chris, all of whom I had crossed paths with in the past, but never performed with regularly. To me they were extremely talented performers who were kind of off the radar in the artistic community and that presented an opportunity to create a fresh product with a new group of artists.”
The others were very interested and excited to get involved.
“Those early meetings were a real feeling-out process for us,” said Westover. “We had different approaches to comedy and we’re fundamentally different people, which I believe works in our favour. After lots of healthy discussion about what this group would and could be, we had a broad idea of our direction.”
Westover stressed that although he reached out to the other members initially, the Yukon Famous was never intended to be “his” group.
“The idea from the beginning was a shared ownership with democratic collaboration,” he said. “Especially now as we move toward our first show. The Yukon Famous is everyone’s creation. We’re building it together and that’s very exciting.”
The troupe’s first show, Awkward First Date, takes place on Feb. 1.
“It’s a Valentine’s theme where we and the audience are really meeting for the first time,” Westover said. “Who are we? Will they like us? Do we all get to kiss at the end of the night? There’s only one way to find out!
“People can expect a show that’s familiar yet completely different from the expectation of a local comedy show. What I mean by that is, we are seasoned performers in this town. Folks have seen us performing stand-up, or acting, or music, and they know what we bring to the table. But the comedy being performed is completely different. We have a variety of sketch, monologues and improv that’s brand new and different than anything we’ve ever done and that’s nerve-wracking and exciting all wrapped in one. It’s what keeps that artistic blood flowing. We are dedicated to bringing the best product we can to this show. We’re hoping to keep the audience on their toes with a plethora of acts. Our hearts are on our sleeves and if you’re an audience member we hope that comes through.”
Westover said people can expect a well-rounded event that includes entertainment from host Jenny Hamilton and local band, Major Funk and The Employment. Brandon Wicke, current manager of the Guild Hall and an accomplished playwright and actor will also be featured. Wicke has created a 10-minute play that he will perform as part of the evening’s entertainment.
The show takes place at the Fireside Room in the Yukon Inn. Doors open at 7 p.m. The band starts at 7:30 p.m. and the comedy starts at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at BrownPaperTickets.com, or by contacting [email protected]
“We are proud of our troupe thus far and we will be grateful to every person who buys a ticket for this show,” said Westover. “We hope to continue the journey of discovery as The Yukon Famous and be a part of this great artistic tapestry that has been forged in the Yukon.”