Benjamin Walker has always made stand-up comedy look easy. But as the host of Comedy Wednesdays - an open mic comedy night at Osborne Village’s Jekyll and Hyde’s Freehouse - Walker is quick to amend that point. Making comedy look effortless takes a lot of hard work.
“I work 40 hours a week and do comedy on top of that,” Walker says. “My day job is not necessarily conducive to writing comedy. But it’s my choice. You don’t always get a break in comedy; you have to make your own breaks.”
In addition to welcoming first timers, Comedy Wednesdays is known for giving stage time to some of the hottest local stand up talent. Famed Canadian acts have also appeared at the open mic, including Steve Patterson, K. Trevor Wilson and Pat Thornton.
“Because of the comedy scene here in Winnipeg, we have a lot of established local comedians doing open mic,” Walker says. “There’s food and drink specials - the food’s really good. This summer, the crowds have been crazy. There’s been lots of returning customers.”
Walker’s comedy has also made a strong impression: he recently landed a spot opening for Massachusetts comedian Jen Kirkman at her recent Winnipeg gig.
“I thought the show went well,” Walker admits. “It was fun. Jen was great; she’s really funny. She also couldn’t have been any nicer offstage. Whatever nerves I had before the show immediately went away when I talked to her. It was a fun night and I was lucky to open for her.”
Walker, who has worked in stand-up since 2010, is also the brains behind Comedy at the Hub, an open mic at the University of Manitoba’s Hub Pub that takes place every Monday.
“I wanted to branch out a little,” Walker says. “I love all the venues in town. But there’s a market out there. We’ve been doing it for a few weeks and it’s going well.”
Walker cites Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and Bill Burr as influences, sheepishly admitting that he “really liked Dennis Miller for a couple months there.”
If you’ve been to Rumor’s lately, you may have seen Walker perform, as he is a regular host at the club in Tuxedo Park Shopping Centre. However, Walker still wonders if his peers are getting the proper recognition.
“I don’t know if the local comedy scene gets enough credit,” Walker explains. “Everybody knows the music scene is great. But sometimes with the arts, it’s like, ‘If you were good, you would be in Toronto’. Even someone like me, I might have thought that, if I wasn’t actually involved with it. These are great quality shows we’re putting on.”
Walker firmly believes the comedians of Winnipeg are more than worthy of audience attention.
“The local comedy scene is good. The improv scene is good,” he says. “I choose to stay in Winnipeg.”