Local comedy fans are likely to recognize Abby Falvo from stages around the city or as the host of the Party Mix show at Wee Johnny’s Pub. But she says that, in school, she was never the funny one, but more of the weird one.
In fact, Falvo was not involved in the arts at all in school and didn’t attempt comedy until her late 20s. “One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t do it until I was 29 because of fear,” she says.
When she was 28, Falvo’s friend Mike Johnston, a local poet and teacher, entered the Winnipeg Free Press comedy contest Winnipeg’s Gone Wacky. Johnston won second place. He then encouraged Falvo to enter the competition the next year.
“Honestly, the only thing that got me to do comedy was that one person said I should,” Falvo says. “That was the thing I had been waiting (to hear) for 20 years: ‘You should try this. Here’s how.’”
Falvo entered the contest the following year, but, as she had not attended any open-mics or tried out her comedy on anyone, she did not do as well as she’d hoped. The contest, which was done “American Idol-style,” had contestants try out their comedy on three Winnipeg-famous judges, who then critiqued their comedy.
“I did seven minutes of comedy and 12 minutes of reasons my comedy sucked. After that, I started to do research on how to write and figured out how to make something funny,” Falvo says. After working on her comedy and attending open-mics, she signed up for the contest the following year and made the top 10.
Dean Jenkinson, artistic director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, says “Her work in the local community hosting a monthly show at Wee Johnny's provides a friendly, welcoming, encouraging face to comics of all backgrounds and identities.”
Falvo made her first foray into writing with her sketch comedy troupe President Bear at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival in 2016 and 2017. They were not reviewed well, but Falvo’s sound-design work nabbed her a gig as a sound designer for Evil Dead the Musical at the Park Theatre.
Falvo’s interest in sound design led her to submit to the Fringe for 2019, hoping to do a live radio show. After seeing promos for Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s It’s A Wonderful Life: The Radio Play, she realized what she needed to make the show work was to be a live foley artist (foley is the art of creating original bespoke sound effects for film, television and radio).
That show was Commando: The Radio Play, an adaptation of the 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Commando. The show received four-star ratings by the Winnipeg Free Press and CBC. The show returned for a brief run at the Gas Station Arts Centre in February 2020. Falvo had been invited to do the show elsewhere, but these plans were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In April 2020, she performed in the pandemic version of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival at the Gas Station Arts Centre, which was a career highlight for her.
“If you asked me for three words that describe Abby's comedy, they would be clever, accessible and empathetic,” Jenkinson says. “There’s a humanity in Abby's choice of comedy targets: the rude and the ignorant are indicted, but also extended grace and understanding.”
In the summer of 2020, she returned to host a few Party Mix shows at Wee Johnny’s Pub. Since shows have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, Falvo is focusing on writing and creating new content she can hopefully share once the pandemic is over.
Falvo can be found on Instagram and twitter @ouchabbystungme.
Published in Volume 75, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 26, 2020)