Four Whitehorse comedians are putting their stand-up routines to a rigourous test this month. They’re aiming for laughs, and if they get silence, or coughs, they’ll know they’ve got to continue tweaking their show.
“It’s good to have audiences, because you know instantly if the joke works,” George Maratos says. He’s one quarter of the comedy troupe Yukon Gold Comics and they’ll be performing their new show A Grizzly Took My Bebe in Haines Junction on Friday and in Whitehorse next week.
Having watched plenty of comedy himself, Maratos knows the discomfort of watching a comedian’s jokes bomb.
“Bad comedy is really hard to watch – especially for friends who come out to see you,” Maratos says.
But if friends laugh, their laughs are real laughs, so says Jenny Hamilton, Maratos’ friend. She’s also a member of the Yukon Gold Comics, along with Steve McGovern and Claire Ness.
“A friend can’t fake a laugh three times in a row,” she says.
So friends are one of the tests a comedian can use to gauge a show. But the real test is someone who doesn’t even like you.
“There was a guy that came to see our XXXmas Comedy and Burlesque Show (on Dec. 28) and he came up to us after and said, ‘Wow, I haven’t seen you guys in, like, a year – you’re really good. I thought you were going to suck,'” Hamilton recounts. “So, we’ve come a long way.”
And they’re going a long way, yet. All the way to Australia to perform in a month-long arts festival among 900 other acts from around the world.
The troupe found out in the summer that they had been accepted to perform at the Adelaide Fringe in Australia and since then they’ve been fundraising and working on new material to perform.
They’re still fundraising – they’ve got $30,000 of the $50,000 needed – but their show is now ready.
A Grizzly Took My Bebe features the different comedic styles of Hamilton, Maratos, McGovern and Ness, with each performer stepping into the spotlight individually for 15 minutes.
They all do stand-up routines, except for Ness.
“I do songs, musical comedy and character pieces,” Ness says, with Maratos interjecting, “… that are hilarious.”
Maratos is pleased to be part of a troupe that is genuinely funny.
“It feels good to sit back and watch and know there’s a good energy and the jokes are funny,” Maratos says. “So it’s pretty exciting to be involved. You can be confident taking the show to the (Adelaide) festival knowing that people have put a lot of time into it.”
The Yukon Gold Comics have been giving the new show a test-run in the Yukon, starting in Dawson City and Watson Lake in early January.
The upcoming shows in Haines Junction and Whitehorse will feature seasoned Australian comedian Michael “Mickey D” Dwyer performing the second hour, which is a treat for local audiences and a giant boost for Hamilton, Maratos, McGovern and Ness. While Mickey D is in the Yukon as part of The Guild’s lineup of presentations, he will mentor the troupe, helping them cut out elements from their show that don’t work in general, and won’t work in Australia, in particular.
Funded by The Guild, his visit is part of the support that the Yukon Gold Comics have been receiving from the community, helping them reach their goal of participating in the Adelaide Fringe, which, by the way, has a purse of $27,000 that will be awarded to the winning participants.
The Yukon Gold Comics have also been receiving support in the form of financial donations. They’re grateful to be more than halfway towards their goal, but still need to raise $20,000.
“And we’ll take change, anything that jingles – it adds up,” Hamilton says.
The Yukon Gold Comics are performing their new show A Grizzly Took My Bebe in Haines Junction on Jan. 25 at the St. Elias Convention Centre. The next day, they’ll be teaching two youth workshops on Jan. 26: improv at 10 a.m. and clowning at 11 a.m.
Their Whitehorse shows are at The Guild Hall Theatre on Jan. 30 and 31 at 8 p.m., with two shows on Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.
The Adelaide Fringe runs?Feb. 15 to March 17.