On June 20, 2016, Jenny Hamilton sat in quiet awe trying to take it all in. Her stand up career was about to take a significant leap in front of a packed house at the Yukon Arts Centre.
When it was her time to go, Hamilton focused and told herself to have fun. With those words, she walked on stage to a cheering crowd.
She was about to perform on CBC’s radio show The Debaters. The popular show with host Steve Patterson airs nationally on CBC Radio One. It’s a debate that pits Canadian performers against each other in a comedic battle of wits, rants and one liners.
Hamilton’s opponent that evening was Whitehorse comic Anthony Trombetta. Together they debated the premise Tourism: Is it great for the North?
Both performers stood their ground as Trombetta debated for tourism while Hamilton against it. After a hilarious back and forth battle, the audience leaned toward Hamilton and she was declared the winner.
In truth, both performers won that evening. It was a benchmark night for Yukon comics.
Hamilton remembers it was Trombetta who encouraged her to first perform at The Guild Hall comedy nights.
“We were hanging out, he said if you want the microphone let me know,” Hamilton said. “At first, I thought, ‘Not me. I’m not a performer.’ But (Trombetta) was looking for new people. So, I threw my hat in the ring one night and got addicted. It was the scariest thing I ever did in my life.”
Despite her initial fear, Hamilton’s sense of humour was a hit with the audience and she continued to perform regularly.
In 2011 Australian director Eva Hamburg was in Whitehorse and watched one of the comedy nights. Impressed with what she saw, Hamburg urged Hamilton to audition for the Adelaide Fringe Festival, which is the second-largest annual arts fest in the world.
Hamilton auditioned and was accepted along with local performers George Maratos, Claire Ness and Stephen McGovern.
The foursome began fundraising and soon found themselves down under as The Yukon Gold Comics.
“We learned a ton from so many people,” Hamilton said. “It was a turning point in the evolution of my comedy. We had brought the Yukon to the festival, it was the next level and a lot of pressure. We were lucky to have a diverse group.”
Not long after the Adelaide Fringe, The Guild Society began producing their Pro Comic Series which brought known and up and coming comics to the Yukon throughout the Guild season. Hamilton became a big part of it’s production opening for the headliners and was soon hosting the events.
Then in 2015 Hamilton decided to take a chance on herself and headed to the Toronto Fringe Festival to perform a solo stand-up show.
“Toronto was the test: if I could just make them laugh at Yukon stuff and my life. I had a lot of support. After 18 shows in 14 days, I had a tight 45 minutes and they liked it,” she said.
Last summer, Hamilton made the hard decision to leave her position as general manager of the Guild Hall to pursue her comedic passion when she received an unexpected email from Richard Side, the creator and producer of the debaters.
Side wrote that he really enjoyed what she had done at the Yukon Arts Centre and was wondering if she would be interested in performing a debater’s taping at the Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver on November 22.
Hamilton was blown away realizing that this time she would be performing not as a local talent, but as an actual debater. She accepted Side’s offer and is preparing to bring “the Funny” as she walks down the road less traveled.
To listen to Jenny Hamilton and Anthony Trombetta’s performance on The Debaters, Google their episode, called “Hot Dogs vs. Hamburgers and Northern Tourists.”