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Vancouver is 'a top-shelf comedy spot' in Canada. Here's why

"The ability for you to grow as a comic is exponential."
Just For Laughs Festival 2022
Just For Laughs festival is back in Vancouver May 25-29, 2022, with acts like Trevor Noah.

With all the standup comedy in this city, Vancouver is sure to be one of the funniest cities in the province (maybe even in all of Canada?).

We've figured out why drag brunch is so popular in this city, but how about standup comedy? Turns out, Vancouver is an internationally-known comedy hub where comedians can hone and hustle their craft.

Comedy city

Vancouver attracts comics of all experiences, from new and aspiring comedians to internationally recognized names. Luckily, despite the saturated comedy scene, there's opportunity for anyone and everyone to grow.

Ola Dada has been performing standup comedy for five years, getting after being let on stage in a fortunate last-minute turn of events. He and a group of friends stopped by a local pizza shop and heard laughter waft up from the downstairs venue.

Dada wanted to join the comedians on stage, despite having had no prior experience other than being the ‘funny guy’ of the friend group. The booker said no but Suzy Rawesome, who runs Comedy After Dark, stopped him as he was about to leave, and said if his friends pitched in and paid, Dada could get three minutes on stage. After his short performance, she asked him to come back the following week, which lead to a regular show.

Since then, Dada has performed in cities across Canada but in his experience, none of them compare to Vancouver's comedy scene.

"The ability for you to grow and become better is very limited," Dada says of his time outside of Vancouver. "In places like Edmonton or Calgary you can only perform twice or three times a week, but in Vancouver [you're] able to perform at least once a night; three times a night if you want to. The ability for you to grow as a comic is exponential."

There are just as many opportunities to perform as there are to watch and learn from top talent, he adds, as Vancouver attracts comics of all levels of expertise. 

"A lot of people flock to this area," Dada explains. "Vancouver has been a top-shelf comedy spot for years now."

Vancouver's sense of humour

The city has quite the appetite for comedy too, and Vancouverites tend to get hungrier as the sun drops down. 

Evening comedy does best in the city, Dada says, when compared to daytime and brunch shows.

"Nighttime shows just have a different atmosphere," he says. It helps that people are at ease with the workday done and to-do list checked off; they're ready to laugh when they arrive.

Vancouver's comedy style has ventured further away from traditional shows, though both traditional and non-traditional remain popular. Interactive and backyard shows have become more common across the city, like Dada's Wheel of Comedy show, which uses a giant casino wheel to decide what style of joke the comic must perform. The elements of spontaneity, like hot sauce and random objects, are what draw Vancouver's audience to interactive shows.

"There's been a lot more people putting on interactive shows than there have been in the past couple of years," Dada says.

Backyard comedy shows have also become popular but come with drawbacks, like noise complaints from neighbours and external elements that comics can't control. 

Just For Laughs

It's been more than 820 days since the Just For Laughs (JFL) festival took the stage in Vancouver and Dada, like many, many other comics, has been hard at work perfecting his craft.

As Dada explains, the JFL festival is a comic's best shot at getting noticed.

"When the festival comes, you want to be absolutely ready. People spend all year making sure their set is tight for an opportunity to be able to maybe get on the show. This is something that you have to consistently keep working on, [as well as] your social media, so you can get noticed and be invited to the Just For Laughs Festival," he says. 

JFL is a place where opportunity can knock for up-and-coming talent.

"We do industry showcases where we have artists or different agents [and] managers come and watch," says Festival Director, Heather Wallace. "I think the [festival] allows more people to take notice and then, from there, we hope that even more local artists get [some] eyes on the great things that they're doing."

Wallace explains the festival also holds a series called The Best of the West which focuses on providing opportunities to B.C. and Vancouver talent. JFL also holds industry showcases for aspiring and experienced comics alike.

"Without a doubt [the festival] elevated [comedy] in Vancouver," says Dada. 

Just For Laughs

When: May 25-29

Where: Various locations depending on the show

Cost: $39