BY TARA McCARTHY

It’s only Wednesday, but the tables at Coasters are packed as a constant flow of local comedians take the stage.

And while comedy nights at the downtown bar are nothing new, this time it’s a battle of the funniest. For a number of weeks it’s been elimination after elimination in the Yukon’s own Last Comic Standing.

The evening is based on the popular reality television show and Chris McNutt hosts the war of wits every other Wednesday night. He says the idea behind it was to revitalize the comedy scene.

It began with seven contestants and McNutt says the calibre of comedy has grown.

“People are bringing their ‘A’ game. The comics are bringing it, where maybe in the past you might think ‘Well, I’ll try some stuff out, I’ll go out there and ramble’ and now it’s 10-minute sets and it’s tight.”

Only three remain for the big final on Dec. 3 – George Maratos, Rob Stalkie and Tristin Hopper.

“I thought Tristin was a dark horse from the beginning. He hadn’t been doing it for as long as the others, but this is his thing. George has been doing it a long time and Rob’s a real natural,” McNutt says of the trio.

“It’s good to see the different styles because that’s what’s so great about stand-up. It’s the most free performance medium there is. You’ve got a microphone and you do whatever. There are no rules – just make people laugh.”

Hopper says he’s only been at it for a few months.

“I lived in Montréal beforehand and I’d always show up for amateur nights. I just kind of sat there timidly while amazing comics went up. I guess the Yukon seemed much less threatening. And I don’t know where they got these people,” he says of the elated crowd.

“The girls I paid to laugh were stellar.”

He admits to carrying around a notepad and incessantly jotting down ideas. Stalkie shares the same routine, but after about a year at it, he says he tries not to take it too seriously.

“You’re going out and trying to make people laugh. If you get too serious about it and look at people like ‘Hey, you’re supposed to laugh there’ … that’s not funny,” he says with a smirk.

Maratos is the veteran of the bunch. He’s taken the stage at a handful of comedy events, but says this one is slightly different.

“It’s all the same guys, it’s just now we’ve made it into a bit of a game. I think the audience likes that. They like that there is a challenge,” he says.

“I hope none of these comics feel tainted by this whole judging system because that’s not what it’s about. It’s about letting Whitehorse know they’ve got good comics in town.”

To find out who will win the prize of two airline tickets to Vancouver and be crowned the Last Comic Standing, head to Coasters on Wednesday, Dec. 3 at 10 p.m.

PHOTO: MORGAN WHIBLEY morgwhib@hotmail.com