If you read the original version of “I’m Dying Up Here”- the book not the Showtime tv series, then you know that comedians talking about unionizing, banding together for rights, is not unheard of here in the states. But it’s also not a reality. Maybe its because comedians tend to be loners, or maybe its because American culture is more competitive than cooperative, or maybe its because American stand-ups don’t even know what they would ask for, but the push for cooperation seems pretty absent here in the US.
But up North the idea of alliance is alive and well and this week, the newly formed Canadian Association of Stand Up Comedians (CASC) is heading to Parliament Hill to campaign for rights and recognition, and possibly paving the way for similar collaboration here in the U.S. The group is headed up by comedian Sandra Battaglini. “Our goal with this trip is to increase the awareness and profile of Canadian comedy and garner support and commitment from officials and politicians to elevate and invest in the legacy comedians have built in this country, not only at home, but on the world stage,” she said.
Representatives from the Board of Directors of CASC are meeting with government officials from the Ministry of Finance, CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications), Canada Council for the Arts and various representatives and critics for Canadian Heritage and Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications this week.
They’ll be looking to address issues of labour mobility, arts grants, and the perceived immediate threat to Canadian culture. For example, comedians don’t have the same access to arts grants that are available to other performing artists in Canada including those who perform music, theater, dance, visual art and even circus performance. They’re also hoping to address the massive fees Canadian fees face when they attempt to get work in the US- fees that American comedians don’t face when they perform north of the border. The threat to Canadian culture comes from a decline in quotas of the percentage of home grown talent that must appear on broadcast networks, which means foreign content retreads (cheaper than Canadian produced programming) are on the rise.
The Canadian Association of Stand-up Comedians (CASC) was formed in 2017 to represent the first-ever unified voice for stand-up comics in Canada. CASC now works for professional stand-up, sketch and improv comedians and producers in Canada to have comedy recognized as an art form. CASC’s mission is to build a thriving and dynamic comedy industry in Canada, by: engaging aspiring and established professional Canadian comedians through advocacy, career opportunity, and support for programming; as well as professional development, improved labour mobility across international borders, and industry education.
For more information, please visit: canadianstandup.ca