The prize, a battered gold pan streaked with red, was held aloft, like a trophy.
George Maratos stepped up to the microphone like a gunslinger to announce the comedy Standup Standoff was about to begin. This was no laughing matter. Former champion Tristin Hopper was back to protect his title.
The format of the comedy showdown was modelled after Toronto comedian Craig Brown’s Comedy Showdown. The event inspired Maratos, a comedian of five years, to start his own comedy competition.
I found Baked Café an unusual choice, the space can be very limited, the seating squishy at best and … booze? A comedy night without alcohol is like having a nightclub with lights on.
Luckily, Maratos had thought of everything. It was a licensed event, with proceeds from the social lubrication going toward Northern Lights School of Dance.
The evening was divided into three topics: tourists, money and summer. Each round, judge Jason Seguin, owner of the café, The Bent Spoon, would eliminate two comedians, leaving three for the finals.
It was tense in the beginning. Comedians smoked just outside, watching their competition anxiously as the crowd at Baked built.
First: Tourists for two minutes. The time clock in huge green letters ticked down. Al Macleod started the crowd riffing with, “Germans are adventurous. They know nothing and yet off into the wilderness. Gotta love ’em.”
Hopper played on tourists with “backpacking mice, crawling into my house!” And Jenny Hamilton, Morgan Whibley, Logan Larkin, Andrew Stratis and Steve McGovern riffed on, “Japanese tourists are different. They come in the winter, to conceive under the Northern Lights. Why?”
There were two young Japanese tourists sitting front row and center. They left shortly after. Maratos and Seguin both remarked they hoped they hadn’t left because of the comedians.
Stratis and McGovern were eliminated.
Next: Money. Go! Three minutes this time, Whibley, left arm encased in bandages from a “self-stabbing”, sweated it out with good effort for a newbie. Hamilton brought the show down with, “You spend on things that matter. Like lube. You never use Vaseline, because as my 8th grade teacher said, it’s like putting gasoline in your vagina. And I’m worth more than a $12 fill up!”
Macleod and Larkin were knocked out.
The finals: summer for four minutes. Whibley lost all composure and talked down the clock. Hopper, decked out in slick, beige, too-short, wool pants with a tie and suspenders, swaggered up. He nailed it, beating Hamilton with a joke about smallpox.
Hamilton was second, with sneaky cat rants.
As Maratos handed Hopper the “Gold Pan of Hilarity,” he said, “I hope we don’t see more photos of Hopper abusing the Gold Pan. I hear he has a girlfriend now, so there’s hope!”
Maratos anticipates Standup Standoff to occur every last Thursday of the month at Baked Café.