1. Issa Kixen
2. Riva Billows
3. Dana Smith / Tyler Penner (tie)
Issa Kixen is a long-time Winnipeg comedian and champion for diversity in the standup scene.
Kixen’s career in comedy started at a young age when they stumbled into standup accidentally.
“I was 16 years old, and I was on my high school improv team,” they say.
“Somebody booked me for a show when I thought they were booking, like, me and my troop. But then it turned out to just be me ... and so I did what I had called ‘solo improv,’ and somebody was like ‘no that’s standup comedy.’”
Kixen continued with comedy until meeting their partner and settling down to have a family. Years later, their children encouraged them to follow their dreams and take up comedy once again.
Since Kixen’s return five years ago, on top of touring to cities like Toronto and Calgary, they’ve focused on creating space for marginalized comedians in Winnipeg’s comedic community.
Being a queer Indigenous comedian in a white-dominated comedy scene, Kixen partnered with Dionne Haynes and decided to start WOKE Comedy Hour to remedy the lack of diversity back in 2017.
“I think it’s really refreshing to have a show that’s all BIPOC folk and having all their different stories and having people who are from the queer community, people who are from the all-abilities community (and) people who are still learning English.”
Kixen says “those are the stories we don’t get to hear from the mainstream comedy world.”
Kixen plans on expanding WOKE’s reach in 2020 and says “I’d like to go to more cities and start more WOKE shows in other cities, and also we are wanting to do a WOKE comedy festival … and bring other BIPOC comedians to Winnipeg for that.”
At the heart of Kixen’s work, a space for the visibility of marginalized communities is a must.