On March 9, Yukon comic Stephen McGovern will be gearing up to take the stage at the Just for Laughs Northwest comedy festival in Vancouver.
The 10-day event beginning March 1 offers a wide variety of shows that highlight Canadian and international comedy.
McGovern makes his Just for Laughs debut performing in The Outsiders Comedy show, which is billed as the “funniest comedians from two or more small-town comedy scenes, battling it out for all the glory.”
McGovern is ready for battle.
Born and raised in Whitehorse, Stephen McGovern had little ambition to perform, preferring sports over the stage. It wasn’t until after graduating from university and returning to the territory did his interest in stand-up comedy peak.
While working at Boston Pizza, McGovern met Rob Stalkie, also an employee there, and they became quick friends.
“I was an old guy at Boston pizza and Rob was the same age. We connected because we were the old guys” said McGovern.
One day playing soccer, teammate George Maratos invited the pair to see an open mic stand up show at the Jarvis Street Saloon.
They went, and soon their interest began to take hold. “We made a bet that I would have to pay Rob $100 if I didn’t try,” McGovern said, admitting that in the end he got on stage and performed not fuelled by the desire to do stand up, but by not wanting to lose $100 to Stalkie.
McGovern gave it a shot and to his surprise, wasn’t booed off the stage. “I liked everything about it, the unpredictability, making people laugh,” he said.
Over the next few years, McGovern became a mainstay on the Yukon comedy scene, then moved to Toronto for a while to test the comedy waters.
In 2013, McGovern, along with Yukon performers Jenny Hamilton, George Maratos and Claire Ness, traveled to Australia as The Yukon Gold Comics to perform at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. This event is the world’s second largest annual arts festival and is renowned for its robust line ups of stand-up comedy.
“We did 30 nights in a row and it’s a grind in 40-degree heat. For some it may sound like a nightmare, but I wanted more,” McGovern said.
Inspired by the experience, he made the decision to make a serious go as a stand-up comic, but knew performing in the Yukon would be limiting. “I came home and it was a cool trip, but now I had to go back to doing a show a month and I wanted to do it every night,” he said.
At a pro comedy evening at The Guild Hall the seed was planted for McGovern to make the jump south.
“I opened for Sterling Scott and Lars Callieou and they talked about the Edmonton scene. Its big enough that you can get into a lot of venues, but small enough that you can get into the scene quicker.”
McGovern decided to make the move and devised a plan to go back to school while performing stand up in the evenings.
“I thought if I got an education degree, you could be a sub to have more flexibility to choose your dates. One of the big things starting out is having a secondary job to pay the bills,” he said.
During his time in university, McGovern opened and hosted a comedy room at the Devaney’s Irish Pub on campus. This allowed him to keep his act polished while bringing in and making connections with current stand up headliners.
McGovern graduated in 2017 and is currently teaching regularly by day while performing on stage five to six nights per week.
He also manages a busy schedule on the road touring with other comics such as Simon King and Scott Belford.
After his Just for Laughs North West debut, Stephen will return home to Whitehorse for the Yukon Comedy Festival, which takes place March 22 through 24.
If you would like to check out Stephen McGovern at The Outsiders Comedy show at the Just For Laughs Northwest Festival, go to www.JFLNorthwest.com.
Check out his Yukon performance dates at www.YukonComedyFestival.com.