The Yukon stand-up comedy scene can be fickle. Some years comics will perform to packed houses that turn people away at the door. Other years, not so much. Whether it’s a lack of comics, audience, or both, northern life can bring a number of challenges that make live comedy difficult to maintain.

Richard Eden, George Maratos and the Yukon Comedy Collective are hoping to change that with their inaugural Yukon Comedy Festival, which will take place in Whitehorse March 22 to 24 and in Dawson City on March 25. The festival will feature comics from the United States and Canada, including homegrown Yukon performers. Comics will range from up-and-comers to touring professionals. 

A goal of Maratos and Eden is to use the Yukon Comedy Festival to help put the Yukon on the national comedy map.

“I’m aware of the fluidity of the ups and downs, but with the festival and collective we now have this foundation and structure. Were trying to bring in a level of comedy that you don’t often get to see,” Maratos said.

It was Eden who first conceptualised the idea after attending a comedy show at The Guild Hall. He recognised there was a healthy talent pool of local comics and though there was comedy being produced in the territory, Eden thought there was a bit of a disconnect with the core populous of Yukoners and saw an opportunity to take the comedy scene further and build on it.

Being relatively new to the territory, Eden turned to Yukon stand up comedy stalwart George Maratos to help get the festival off the ground.

“I thought he just wanted to do comedy and get advice. I was pleased and surprised when he mentioned a festival. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a decade” said Maratos.

Understanding that a festival takes time and resources, Maratos and Eden created the not for profit society the Yukon Comedy Collective. The newly formed organization’s mandate is to “provide Yukon residents with entertainment through comedic shows and workshops.”

The festival will not only serve as the Yukon Comedy Collective’s cornerstone, but will also help Yukon performers. “It’s a platform for local comics to learn, and part of that is having a tight five minutes (of comedy) to perform in a festival with professional comedians,” Maratos said.

Eden also praises the Yukon businesses who have gone above and beyond through sponsorship to help achieve the goals of the festival. “The only way we can do this is through support of our community businesses,” he said.

The festival is primarily broken down into three performance galas. Each show has a unique blend and flavour of comedy.

Victoria comic Chelsea Lou headlines the Air North Opening Show on March 22 at The Guild Hall

The Air North Opening Show on March 22 The Guild Hall will feature the Yukon’s homegrown comics James Boyle, Steph Aube, Stephen McGovern, Oshea Jephson, and will be headlined by Chelsea Lou, a comic based in Victoria, British Columbia.

“I’m so excited for this festival. Stand-up communities can be a little insulated from each other sometimes, so the best part will definitely be seeing what comedy in the Yukon is all about. I’ve never been before, and it just so happens that I’m in the mood for a whirlwind adventure that may lead to an untimely, frigid death,” Lou said.

The Winterlong Show on March 23 at the Old Fire Hall will be hosted by Whitehorse comic Jenny Hamilton and features rising stars from the United States. The show presents Los Angeles comics Rivers Langley and Mr. Goodnight, and will be headlined by comic Kyle Clark, based in Simi Valley, California.

Aside from his stand-up work, Clark is also known for his appearances on the Nerdist podcast as well as his own show, the This is Rad! podcast.

American comic Kyle Kinane will at the YAC on March 24 as part of the Yukon Comedy Festival

The Headline Show on March 24 at the Yukon Art Centre will be hosted by George Maratos and features pro comics Dave Merheje, based in New York City; Dino Archie, based in Los Angeles; and Kyle Kinane, based in Los Angeles. Kinane is a touring comic who has performed on Conan and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon as well as lending his voice to Comedy Central animated hits Adventure Time and The Regular Show.

New Mr. D cast member Dave Merheje will make his first trip to the Yukon. “It’s dope that comedy can take you to places like this,” he said.

As well as heading to Dawson City for a show at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture on March 25, the festival will host a free improv workshop at the Old Fire Hall and live recordings of the popular podcasts The Goods from the Woods and the This is Rad at the Winterlong Brewing Company, located at 83 Mount Sima Road.

For more information about The Yukon Comedy Festival, check out their website www.YukonComedyFestival.com or their Facebook page.

The Birth of the Yukon Comedy Collective