2016 was a transformative year for the St. John’s comedy scene. In the aftermath of Yuk Yuk’s closing, local comedians began running their own shows.
A few months later, Unpossible’s Stand Up Challenge invited novice comedians to do a five-minute set in front of a supportive audience, flooding the scene with new voices. These changes have broadened audiences and brought new perspectives to comedy in St. John’s.
Local comedian Veronica Dymond says loosing Yuk Yuk’s was a hard hit for the comedy community because the well known venue handled all of the production side of its shows, allowing comedians to focus on honing their craft. The comedy club also brought in outside talent almost every week, keeping local comedians connected to a larger comedy circuit.
Dymond went on to say that the silver lining of Yuk Yuk’s closure is that lots of local comedians are now finding inventive ways of bringing new audiences to new venues. Dymond runs a popular weekly show at The Levee called “Comedy Up Yer Farce.”
Comedian Nicole Downton, who runs a weekly show at Trapper John’s called “Jokes at John’s’” agrees that the loss of Yuk Yuk’s has imbued the scene with a new energy. “The hustle that A LOT of comics have shown this year is unbelievable! It’s encouraging, and it’s infectious, as more comics are initiating shows and tours now, and bringing in national headliners,” says Downton.
Sarah Walsh, who has been doing comedy in St. John’s for ten years, says over the last year she has noticed a surge of new comedians performing in the city. She credits Unpossible’s comedy workshops and Night Out’s First Timer Show for the number of emerging comedians stepping up to the mic.
Comedian Amanda Bulman also believes Unpossible has had a huge impact on comedy in the city. Bulman mentions Cara Winsor- Hehir (who also goes by Swervy Garland) as a personal favourite who started doing comedy because of the Stand Up Challenge.
“I love watching her. You don’t get many forty-year-old women doing comedy and I think that’s a crying shame. These women have lived such full and incredible lives and I want to hear about it!” Bulman said.
Winsor Hehir has been singing in Endearing Perversion, a comedic metal band, for over a decade but it wasn’t until she did the Stand Up Challenge that she felt ready to do traditional stand up. It was such a positive experience that she is planning to start hosting a comedy night at Georgestown Pub in the New Year.
Bulman says she hopes the momentum keeps up and more people become a part of the St. John’s comedy scene both as new performers and audience members.
A sentiment Dymond agrees with, “I hope the comedy scene here continues to grow, including getting more funny women, people of colour, and LGBTQ+ folks in. Comedy shows are definitely not always safe spaces, but we thrive with new jokes and perspectives—and if you’re funny, you’re funny.”
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