KOOTENAY COMEDY FESTIVAL | INTRODUCTIONS
Q&A Postmark: August 2019
WHAT IS THE ‘KOOTENAY COMEDY FESTIVAL’ ORIGIN STORY?
Well, I (Sarah Stupar) was born and raised in Cranbrook, but I moved away in 2003 to attend the Vancouver Film School to study acting. I was just going on 20 when I graduated VFS and I didn't actually have the kind of confidence I needed to break into the acting world. I did some small theatre roles, but I also did some stage managing, which eventually led to pretty great gig working at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
After 5 years in Vancouver, I decided to go back to University and I attended Concordia University in Montreal where I got a degree in Communication Studies. I still was studying acting in a private studio, and the studio used a method that focused a lot on acting as a form of "storytelling". Then one summer I had a gig as a venue manager at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal. I was really impressed with an Australian comedian named Adam Hills. He was an amazing storyteller, and I started to wonder if I could be a good enough story teller to hold an audience's attention for just 5 minutes - just me, no character. I wrote a set, but I put it away and forgot about it for a year. The next summer a comedian named Katie Westman showed up in Montreal and sublet a room in the place I was living. Katie is originally from Okotoks, but she had been studying nursing at the college in Cranbrook, so we laughed pretty hard when we found out we had that Cranbrook connection. When she told me that she was a comedian, I told her about the set that I wrote, but that I had never actually tried it out. She took me to an open mic that week and made me do it, and I was instantly hooked. I kept doing as much stand up as I could while I finished my studies - I even performed for my class at my graduation showcase.
When I moved to Vancouver after graduating I decided to start producing my own shows, since I had some experience in event producing. I used to produce a monthly variety show in Vancouver called Crowville Cabaret, and I also produced some short films. When I decided to move back to Cranbrook I was sad to discover that the comedy rooms had all shut down, so I decided to try and produce my own little festival. Mark McCue is a touring pro who is originally from Cranbrook but now lives in Edmonton, and he was immediately on board. He’ll be headlining the show on Saturday September 7th. Mark is bringing a comedian named Carole Cunningham onboard, who has been featured on CBC’s “The Debaters”, so that’s pretty cool!
Along with myself performing on the Friday September 6th show, there’ll be Katie Westman. I'm really glad that Katie was able to come and open the festival, since she's the one who pushed me onstage for the first time! Katie has a lot more hustle than me, and she's been touring a lot in Canada, and will be touring Asia and Australia later on this year. Casey Strain and Robyn Sansom are rounding out the line up. Robyn is originally from Calgary, but she’s been in Fernie for a bit and she produced a comedy show at the Loaf Bakery that was awesome. Casey is coming up from Spokane and was voted "Best Local Comedian" in the 2018 Inlander's Reader Poll. I thought it would be fun to get someone up from the American side of the region.
IF YOU COULD ONLY USE 5 WORDS TO DESCRIBE ‘KOOTENAY COMEDY FESTIVAL’ (AND FOR THE SAKE OF THIS QUESTION, LET'S ASSUME YOU CAN ONLY USE 5 WORDS) WHAT WOULD THOSE WORDS BE?
Sometimes inappropriate but always hilarious
ACTUALLY, ON 2ND THOUGHT, IT SEEMS A BIT UNFAIR TO ONLY GET 5 WORDS. SO HOW ABOUT THIS TIME YOU USE AS MANY WORDS AS YOU WANT?
In addition to the two shows there are also workshops, and that’s what makes it a festival! On Saturday there will be a Comedy Writing workshop and also an Intro to Stand Up workshop. The proceeds from the workshops and the shows are going to be donated to Cranbrook Pride Society. I made this choice because I really wanted to link the concept of a comedy scene with a group like Pride, to emphasize that comedy is for everyone and everyone should be welcome to give it a try. Comedy, like other media, tends to suffer from a representation problem. It can be really intimidating to get up in front of people and even more so if you’re from a marginalized group. It often happens in bars and clubs that don’t necessarily seem extra welcoming to people who feel “different”. But it’s also extra important for those kinds of people to tell jokes and speak about their experiences, so I wanted to create a space where people would feel welcome to do that. Comedy is such a powerful tool to tell stories with and bring people together.
Actually, on 3rd thought… I believe a wise one once said "a picture is worth 1000 words" so how about you share 3-5 pictures (that's like 3000-5000 words) that you think best capture the essence of ‘KOOTENAY COMEDY FESTIVAL’.
Well, it’s also called the Kootenay Comedy Festival because I want the comedy to be relatable to Kootenay Folk! So I’ve shared some of my favourite memes with you from our Instagram page @kootenaycomedyfestival:
FINALLY… what is your favourite thing/s about putting on a comedy festival in this area?
So far my favourite thing about putting on a comedy festival in this area, is how fast news spreads by word of mouth! In Vancouver I was competing with a lot of other shows for an audience - in a big city there are always lots of options, and it's hard to grow an audience. I used to make Facebook events, sponsor posts, do event listings, make posters, and end up with only 10 people in the audience.
For this festival here the first thing I did was make a Facebook event, but I didn’t initially promote it or share it with anyone except the comedians who were featured on the show, because I wanted them to read over the info before I started really promoting it. But the next day I went to work and one of my co-workers said “Did you hear there’s a comedy festival coming to Cranbrook in September?” I was amazed and delighted that people were already talking about it. The day I went around town putting up posters a few people said to me “oh I heard about this” and I was over the moon. I already have tickets pre-sold and some businesses like Connected at the Roots Clothing and Mountain Grass Glass Gallery and Smoke Shop in Kimberley have donated raffle gifts to raise money for Cranbrook Pride. The support really means a lot.