The Break-Up Comedy Festival

Breaking up is no laughing matter. But the Break-Up Comedy Festival, taking place in Dawson City on May 16, definitely is.

The idea for the festival came about when, a few years ago, the Dawson City Museum wanted to combine fundraising with a celebration of the Yukon River. “The river today, as in the past, affects the pace of life in Dawson City,” says Alex Somerville, acting executive director of the museum.

After a long, cold winter, the river break-up is a sign of spring and the coming summer, of light and sun and easier living.

With the comedy festival, says Somerville, celebrated during the month when the river usually breaks up, “Dawson comes to life with a burst of laughter.”

But the festival is not your typical stand-up comedy act. Once again, with help from Lotteries Yukon, the museum is bringing up The Debaters, a popular CBC radio comedy show. The Debaters is recorded in front of a live audience in studios, theatres, and clubs across the country.

Hosted by Steve Patterson, the show takes the form of a debate between two different stand-up comedians. One takes the pro side, the other takes the contrary view. Based on a mix of “funny and fact”, the audience will decide who wins the debate by applauding for the performer they thought did the best job of combining laughs and logic.

Comedic alumni of the Dawson City Break-up Festival include Elvira Kurt, John Wing, and Ron James. The two funnymen coming to Dawson this year are Charles Demers and Graham Clark.

Demers is a writer, comedian, and political activist from Vancouver. He frequently performs comedy at live venues across the country, as well as teaching a course on writing comedy at the University of British Columbia.

Graham Clark has performed comedy since he was 15 and is considered one of the most prolific stand-up comics in Canada.

The event will be emceed by Whitehorse comedian Anthony Trombetta.

Somerville is thrilled that the comedy festival fundraiser is able to bring high profi le Canadian comedy talent to Dawson City each year. “They’ve told us that they are excited to be making comedy gold in Dawson City,” he says of Demers and Clark. “The talent will be fi rst class comedy.”

Somerville goes on to say that the comedians are coming prepared. Both men have been in touch with the museum to learn more about Dawson. “They’re promising a sharply targeted show rich in local flavour,” he says. Somerville is also thrilled that the show will take place in the historic Palace Grand Theatre, which in itself, he points out, is a testament to live theatre then and now. “It’s a perfect location for this show,” he says. “It’s going to be lots of fun.”

The Break-up Comedy Festival will be held on May 16 at the Palace Grand Theatre. Doors open at 7 p.m., the show starts at 8 p.m. There will be a cash bar. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

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