Laughing together with WOKE Comedy Hour

A chance for marginalized comedians to find humour in experiences

WOKE Comedy Hour is held once a month at the Good Will Social Club. Occuring on Feb. 20 this month, WOKE showcases Indigenous folks and People of Colour, with an emphasis on women and non-binary individuals.

“It’s a whirlwind of really diverse comedy,” Elissa Kixen, co-founder/co-producer of WOKE Comedy Hour, says.

Danielle Kayahara has been practising comedy for less than a year and was encouraged by a friend to join a workshop and then perform at WOKE. She finds the community to be supportive and welcoming.

“I’ve been at some open mics where it feels like the audience is challenging the comedian to make them laugh … and I don’t ever really find that at the WOKE shows,” she says. 

Dione C. Haynes (co-producer/founder of WOKE) and Sasha Mark (WOKE comedian). Supplied photo.

Kayahara explains this is mainly due to the topics the comedians discuss, which are anchored in the performers’ experiences with racial and gender discrimination, “or even just the idea of being an immigrant to the country and not necessarily being super familiar to a lot of the common things that we take for granted as Canadians.”

Kixen says a common theme is a lack of diversity in everyday life.

“There’s always that common denominator of having these really crappy experiences that are often related to racism,” Kixen says.

Although this is a serious topic, laughing about something as ugly as racism is a way to expose it as ridiculous and nonsensical. Kixen says the audience, who includes white allies as well, have welcomed this brand of humour.

“I find that all the comedians manage to make comedy their patronus, and it magically turns into this hilarious thing on stage,” Kixen says.

Kixen explains that comedians sign up about 15 minutes prior to the show and are allotted seven onstage minutes each.

“There’s no prerequisite of your experience as a comedian. Everyone gets the same stage time regardless,” she says. Every show as of yet has had at least one person who is performing for the first time.

Kayahara says one aspect of the event she particularly enjoys is having more onstage time.

“You get to expand upon some ideas a little more than (at) some of the other open mics,” Kayahara says. She recognizes that this might change as the event gains popularity and comedians, but that this would ultimately be beneficial.

Although Kixen enjoys performing, she would like WOKE to gain enough comedians for her to be able to give up her spot.

For those who are thinking about trying their hand at comedy, Kayahara suggests attending one of the shows.

“Just coming out to a show to watch is a great experience … you can kind of get a feel for how things work and get a little more comfortable in the space,” she says.

WOKE Comedy Hour is Feb. 20 at 8 p.m. at the Good Will Social Club, 625 Portage Ave. There is no cover charge.

Published in Volume 72, Number 18 of The Uniter (February 15, 2018)

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