Our next showcase with Comedy Records happens Monday [May 6] at the Gramercy location of New York Comedy Club and as always, the lineup will feature a mix of Toronto and New York comics. This month’s show is headlined by one of Canada’s finest comedians, Sandra Battaglini.
We last connected with Battaglini in March of 2018 when she launched the Canadian Association of Standup Comedians (CASC). The Association has had a monumental first year of existence representing the united voice of Canadian Comedians. Interrobang spoke with Battaglini to discuss the inaugural year of CASC, the impact it’s had on her as a comedian and the upcoming plans for the Association.
The Interrobang: What’s the current status of CASC?
Battaglini: Right now we’re at over 800 members strong and growing. We have just started working with Global Public Affairs, a lobby group that specializes in arts advocacy in Ottawa. They are excellent and have a wealth of experience helping other arts groups build strong platforms and awareness.
The Interrobang: How has the first year of the association gone?
Battaglini” The first year was equally inspiring as it was depressing. Maybe I’m speaking more from myself but being so close to the issues and having to broker challenging situations has tested me as a human being. We have so much to celebrate and have built a momentum that is unstoppable.
The Interrobang: Can you give a summary of what happened with Just For Laughs and SiriusXM and CASC’s involvement?
Battaglini: In February of this year CASC learned about a takeover of Canada Laughs, Channel 168 on Sirius XM by Just for Laughs. Canada Laughs was a channel that played 100% Canadian comedy content. The takeover would have significantly changed that. When the community got wind of this, they lost their minds. It was devastating to so many comedians because it was one of the only places where Canadian comedians were broadcast. The media landscape in Canada is mostly monopolized by American content and talent so there are very few opportunities for Canadians comedians to be heard. After a very emotional town hall, CASC communicated to the president of Just for Laughs that nothing less than 100% independent Canadian content was going to be acceptable. They heeded our call and returned the channel back to us.
The Interrobang: How has the JFL/Sirius situation changed the perception of CASC?
Battaglini: It aligned the community like a lightning rod. I’m still in awe of that moment. Comedians were unified because they had nothing left to lose. The fact that CASC was formed proved to the community the importance of having a formal voice advocating on their behalf.
The Interrobang: What issues is CASC focusing on now?
Battaglini: We’ve just incorporated a foundation – The CanCom Foundation – to support the creation of comedy content that will focus on tours, web series, album creation, script development and more. We are looking at the music industry in Canada as a model to help build and promote talent. There is no framework for that here. We are currently accepting major donations from around the globe.
The Interrobang: How has running CASC affected your career as a comedian?
Battaglini: I’ve certainly lost gigs because of it but I feel more free to be who I am than ever before. If my job as a comedian is to tell the truth then my advocacy work has helped me to remain steadfast and continue to fight for what’s just and fair.
The Interrobang: What projects do you have on the horizon that you’re excited about?
Battaglini: We’ve filmed a documentary that will be coming out shortly called The Mayor of Comedy. It chronicles the movement to have stand-up recognized as an art form and the formation of CASC over the last year up until the Just for Laughs/Sirius XM crisis. We are so very proud of it and are using it to pitch a series where I travel around the world to other stand-up communities where Canadians are.
The Interrobang: What do you hope to achieve with the association moving forward?
Battaglini: Peace. I would like CASC to empower comedians to no longer accept the poor state of affairs that have come to define our industry here in Canada.
You can catch Sandra Battaglini headlining our showcase with Comedy Records Monday evening at New York Comedy Club. The show starts at 7PM and tickets are available for $10 at NewYorkComedyClub.com with the promo code NAFTA.