Play Makers: CBC’s The Debaters Finds a Northern Following

”It’s a boxing match for people who can’t fight but like to joke!”

That is how comedian Steve Patterson describes The Debaters, the hugely successful CBC Radio comedy show now in its third season.

“Think of it as a political debate that’s actually worth listening to,” says the show’s host and debate mediator.

It seems apparent that Yukoners agree, as the three-hour September 28 taping of the show at the Yukon Arts Centre has been sold out for more than three weeks.

It’s a testament to The Debaters’ growing popularity that it has outsold a recent Hollywood legend’s one-night show here in town.

Patterson attributes the show’s success to its improvisational format. Comics are forced to think quickly on their feet.

Each show is 30 minutes in length, and consists of two 15-minute debates comprised of four rounds. In each round, two stand-up comedians are given a topical matter to debate.

One serves as advocate. The other takes the contrary view.

Members of the live audience ultimately decide who won the debate by applauding for the performer they think did the best job.

The comedian who gets the loudest round of applause wins.

Patterson says the show’s part funny, part fact approach is the perfect recipe and offers comedy the average CBC listener can enjoy.

“Something is being created right in front of you, and unlike a play that has been performed hundreds of times before, this is something that is new,” explains Patterson from his home in Montreal. “Sometimes it is a topic no one has any vested interest in that becomes the most humorous, that’s the beauty of it.”

Past Debaters topics that comics across Canada have gone toe-to-toe on have included Curling & Aliens, Karaoke & Air Canada, and Darth Vader & Stay-at-Home Dads.

Patterson recalls the Friendly Giant vs. Mr. Dressup debate as one of his most memorable. Comedians Neal Grahn and Dan Redican exchanged comedic blows over which CBC children’s television icon was the greatest.

“The Pie vs. Cake debate was a good one too.”

Those Yukoners lucky enough to have tickets to the show will be treated to three hours of comedy. Six shows will be taped live and 12 comedians will perform.

Most of the comics are being flown in from Edmonton and Vancouver. However, local stand-ups Al Macleod and Anthony Trombetta will be throwing witty punches on a topic that promises to spark controversy and laughs: whether Dawson City or Whitehorse is the “real” Yukon.

Upon hearing of the sold-out show, Patterson, a regularly performing stand-up comedian, said he may try to do some stand-up in town on the Monday night before if there’s a venue willing to host.

The Debaters show takes place Tuesday, Sept. 28th at 7:30 p.m. at the Arts Centre.

No ticket? No worries. The show will be aired on CBC Radio One in the near future.

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