Get to Know the Funniest Comedians in Canada; SiriusXM’s 2018 Top Comic Finalists!

It’s time again for #JFL42, one of best comedy festivals in North America.

International stand up superstars have sold out Toronto’s theaters, some of the best comedians in the world are taking over Toronto’s comedy clubs, and one of the biggest events of the week puts the spotlight on Canada’s own. The 9th annual search for Canada’s best comedian, SiriusXM Top Comic, is back with bigger prizing, and the finale takes place on September 27, 2018 at the Winter Garden Theatre at 189 Yonge Street.

The annual competition is the culmination of a long search throughout all of Canada for the best young talent the country has to offer. Hundreds of comics from across Canada registered for the competition and those hundreds were whittled down to just eight finalists to compete in this year’s 8th annual competition.  The final eight hail from all around the nation, considering Ottawa, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Scarborough and Kamloops home.

The winner will be selected at the end of the show and walk away with $25,000 and guaranteed spots at four JFL festivals in 2018 including in Sydney, Australia. It’s absolutely exhilarating to see a live performance with so much on the line. Plus, for the first time, two semi-finalists will walk away with $2,500 each! Maria Bamford headlines the event featuring performances by all eight semi-finalists.

The finale is hosted once again by SiriusXM’s Ben MinerIt’s going to be a night not to be missed, but even if you can’t be there, get to know these eight up and coming comics. Canada has produced some of the funniest people who have ever lived historically, and both the city of Toronto and the country as a whole seem to be in a golden age of sorts, producing some incredibly talented performers.

We asked all eight prospects some questions to get to know Kyle Brownrigg, Ryan Williams, Alex Pavone, Myles Morrison, Brittany Lyseng, Sophie Buddle, Nick Reynoldson and Chanty Marostica. Read on!

Watch clips and get more information at topcomic.siriusxm.com and get tickets at jfl42.com.

MYLES MORRISON

What club do you consider your home club? 

Calgary Yuk Yuk’s. It’s really well run, and it has low ceilings, so the laughs stay in the room. It feels intimate, but it holds a lot of people. It’s also where I made the finals of SiriusXM’s Next Top Comic in 2011, and SiriusXM’s Top Comic this year.

Where do you write?

When I lived in Toronto I’d meet other comics at a coffee shop on Queen St. every afternoon to work on bits. Now I usually write in my office at home, both before and after shows.

What was the worst you’ve ever bombed?

Two other comics and I were booked to perform at the national wheelchair rugby championships after-party in 2002. I was supposed to headline. Everyone there was in a wheelchair except the mc, who had cerebral palsy (and got a huge laugh taunting the crowd that he was the only one who could pee standing up). Most of the crowd couldn’t be bothered to listen as they were catching up with old friends (understandable), but the remaining crowd heckled profusely and only wanted to hear “wheel-chair jokes” (which we didn’t have a lot of, because we can all walk). The heckling turned to unrelenting booing, which grew louder and more aggressive from comic to comic. I finished the show by apologizing for attempting to entertain them and brighten their day. The girl who booked us never talked to me again. Just glad I wasn’t alone at that one.

Where’d you take your last vacation trip?

Snowboarding trip to Lake Louise, Alberta. It was a great trip until I got arrested for having an unpaid speeding ticket. Oops.

What’s your comedy goal? Is it arena tours? Television? Theater? Touring clubs? A giant special? Getting on a late night television show?

I’d like to sell my screenplay and do a late night show. I’ve got a comedy documentary in the works that’s keeping me busy right now too.


BRITTANY LYSENG

What club do you consider your home club? 

My home club and home away from home is Calgary Yuk Yuks. I started there in 2014 but had been attending shows for as long I can remember, secretly planning to do comedy. The owners and the staff have become a second family. They’ve created a space to learn grow and excel. Their support is responsible for a large part of my success. Gawd I love those guys.

Where do you write?

Everywhere. If the idea comes, you’ve got to write it down. I’d excuse myself from dinner with the queen if I had a joke about crowns pop into my head.

Last tv show you binge-watched or just your favourite television show?

Sopranos

Who is the comedian who changed your life?

Who is the best comedian to ever come out of Canada?

Mike MacDonald


ALEX PAVONE

How long have you been performing comedy and where was the first club you went on stage?

I’ve been doing comedy for 10 years and the first show I did was Yuk Yuks downtown amateur night and boy oh boy was it rough.

Do you have a favorite comedy podcast?

Both podcasts I’m on, Suite Buddies Podcast (with Michael Albanese and Chris Scopo) and Friends and Sports (with Graham Kay) we need to get those downloads up!

Any great stories about being heckled?

I got heckled in a restaurant in Niagara Falls. I was bombing hard, A family of four was eating dinner, the dad came on stage, took the mic out of my hands said to the audience “This guy sucks” The crowd turned on him and boo’d him and his whole family out of the establishment. The crowd was now behind me, a complete 180, they were cheering me on, one guy shouted, “you got this kid!” I checked my watch I had 10 minutes left in my set and thought to myself ‘Alright time to rock this place’ for the next 10 minutes I bombed even harder than before.

Where do you write?

I write on stage

Favourite comic who isn’t famous?

Dave Merheje, but I think he’s on his way.


RYAN WILLIAMS

Do you have a favorite comedy podcast?
Stop Podcasting Yourself hosted by Graham Clark and Mr. Daaaave Shumka.

Who is your favorite comic who isn’t famous?
Chris Locke! He is my favorite Canadian comedian so many people in the states would love him if they saw/heard his comedy. Also, outside of comedy nerds, Wendy Liebman has never got her props. She fucking invented a style. Truly brilliant. Think of how many big stars are clearly influenced by her. It’s crazy.

What comedian or comedians are your favorites- the people you saw and said- that’s what I want to do?
is my GOAT Bigger and Blacker (or No refunds) is the best special/album he also had the bravado and mystic that made him seem otherworldly in his prime. But when I saw Maria Bamford and on the Comedians of Comedy it blew me away. Zach was just so friggin funny and had these great jokes and bits. Then the ole Bammer, my favorite comedian. Her jokes were amazing, and it just felt like for the first time, all the stuff I kept secret in my head, other people thought the same…and it was REALLY funny.

Best celebrity sighting you’ve ever had?
I mansplained Canadian/WWII/Calvinism history to Jim Gaffigan at an industry party. I was also loser drunk and was coming from a show dressed as Alex Jones. I stand by the points I made. Sorry. The points I slurred.

Whose career do you wish you could have?
As an outsider looking in, Chelsea Peretti has had the perfect career. Brilliant standup, wrote for friggin parks and rec, is a standout character on a hit tv show that is FUNNY and respected. Also living a real human life and starting a loving family. And for the comedy nerds her podcast was one of the BEST the sass and wit was on a level we may never see again.

Canadians like Kate Crown and Levi MacDougall seem like they have such cool careers.

Wait…Does Donald Glover still count as a stand up? Yeah. Donald Glover, coolest career in all of entertainment this millennium.


NICK REYNOLDSON

Favorite thing to do after a big show to celebrate?
My Favourite thing to do after a big show is to have a nice cold beer (or 8) and a big dirty greasy cheeseburger. I mean I will have this meal after a good set, after a bad set, heck even if I didn’t do a set.

Who is your favorite comic who isn’t famous?
Mark Debonis. He is an insane genius who grew up in the same neighbourhood as me. He is so funny and so insane.

What club do you consider your home club? 
I consider both absolute comedy and the corner comedy club my home clubs. Absolute is one the best clubs in the country and is always full. The corner is the most unique club in the country. Very small and intimate, 30 people jammed into a nicely decorated dark room. So fun to goof around in.

What’s your favorite comedy festival?
It’s obviously Just for Laughs. A chance to hang and perform with your peers and heroes alike. It’s like comedy summer camp.

Do you have a favorite comedy podcast?
I don’t have a favourite comedy podcast but I do listen to the Joe Budden Podcast a lot. He’s a former rapper that now critiques other rappers. It’s hilarious and fuels my need for rap beef.


CHANTY MAROSTICA

What’s your comedy goal?

My goal is to carve a path for Queer + Trans people so we have a safe, bright future in comedy (+ film, television + media) I’d love to help erase phobia one person/gig at a time. I feel like if people meet me, and see my comedy, they’ll love me, which will normalize trans people and make existing as a Queer person in Comedy (/in general) that much easier. I’d love for us to feel truly represented, and to level the playing field for all comics + people. #RepresentationMatters

Who is your favorite comic who isn’t famous?

Aisha Brown is the most famous not yet famous person I know. She’s the brightest light and I’m too obsessed with her. We’re close friends and I think I come off super creepy cause I’m such a huge fan of my CLOSE FRIEND (who also happens to be my favorite comic.) Follow her everywhere. She’s a GD force!!! I LUH YOOO AISHA!!!

How is the comedy scene in Toronto different from others?

I’ve worked quite a few different comedy scenes in Canada, and Toronto was the most welcoming. Phobia and misogyny really kept me from having a positive start in comedy, but when I moved to TO, I felt I was on level playing ground for the first time. People judged me for my talent and NOTHING ELSE. The women embraced me into their scene, and I was like “THERE ARE WOMEN HERE!?!” And the men respected me and treated me as an equal and I was like “MEN KNOW HOW TO DO THAT!?!” I love love love the Toronto Comedy Scene. It’s my home. I feel safe and loved and seen and heard, as a Trans person in Comedy… that’s a GD gift.

What club would you pick to travel to and headline if you could pick any club in the world?

Out of complete spite, I’d want to play Crickets Comedy Club in Thunder Bay, ON. I’m apparently banned from the club (although I’ve never been and have never met the owner).  I was banned for being a Woman or a Feminist or something? …I’m only one of those things though, I run mostly on chips and spite SO FLY ME TO TBAY SO I CAN TAKE DOWN MISOGYNY ONE CLUB AT A TIME!!!

Whose career do you wish you could have?
1000% Morgan Freeman. He apparently still lives in his hometown and hangs out at all his fave watering holes that he frequented growing up. That’s SO badass. Just being famous and not caring AT ALL. He’s SO COOL.

Also I’d love if people always wondered if I was ever a child, or if I just always looked like an old man. WHAT A COOL MYSTERY!


SOPHIE BUDDLE

How long have you been performing comedy and where was the first club you went on stage?
I’ve been performing for eight years I started in Ottawa at Absolute comedy.

What’s your go to place to go in Toronto for any reason? Dive bar, pizza place, burger, quiet place, anything.
There’s a Greek place I like but I don’t know what it’s called, it’s something Greek sounding.

What’s the best neighborhood in Toronto?
I don’t really know Toronto I’m sure it has lots of nice neighborhoods why r u trying to start a turf war

What club do you consider your home club? 
I have clubs I love but I think I’ve done my best work at the independent rooms in Vancouver, Havana and Little Mountain are the best.

What’s your favorite movie of all time?
The Minions movie

Do you have a favorite comedy podcast?
Stop podcasting yourself

What’s the best comedy movie to quote?
Minions movie

Best celebrity sighting you’ve ever had?
Judd Apatow, I totally looked at him

What is the best bar night in Toronto for comedy?
Comedy bar

What did you eat for breakfast today?
I ordered an egg white omelette, so that and most of my boyfriend’s pancakes

What comedian or comedians are your favorites- the people you saw and said- that’s what I want to do?
Ellen and Chappelle

Who is your favorite comic who isn’t famous?
Mayce Galoni, he’s extremely not famous


KYLE BROWNRIGG

What club do you consider your home club?

Yuk Yuk’s on Elgin St. in our nation’s capital, Ottawa. Although I did my first set ever at Absolute Comedy Ottawa, Yuk Yuk’s was the first comedy club I’ve ever seen a show at, the comedy club my parents have been attending since the 80’s, and the fist club I ever headlined. It was also the club I was conceived at (jokes (but my parents have neither confirmed or denied this))

I love this club because it’s a true stand-up comedy audience and experience. What I mean by that is if a joke is funny, it will get a laugh, if it isn’t, you will bomb. There are definitely competing clubs and rooms where the audiences are so hot you can say almost anything and think that you ‘killed’ and you probably did, in that something has died. I have had some of the best and worst sets of my life at this club. That’s how comedy should be. You shouldn’t always be getting that ‘participation trophy’ feeling after every set you do. Sometimes you have to tank on stage otherwise you’ll never become a true bitter comedian like the rest of us.

Oh they also have the most hilarious karaoke after the weekend shows that is a total freak show. I’m there after every weekend set.

Any great stories about being heckled?

Oh, girl how much time do you have? I have plenty of gems but if I had to pick one I would choose Mother’s Day 2017. It was an incredibly small audience as it was Mother’s Day, I would say there were max 14 people there in a room with 150 capacity and of course, I was booked to headline. The cherry? Two of my aunts who have never seen me do comedy showed up to the event. I remember thinking, ‘oh yeah, yeah, yeah, of course you came to this show. Do you ladies want to pre-heat the oven or should I jump right in?’

As the headliner with a small, intimate crowd like this you can’t do your usual 45 min set. It’s an awkward experience so it really helps if you talk to the audience to break the ice a little bit. There were so few people that I was able to talk to almost everyone and still maintain a decent amount of laughs with my jokes and crowd work. I had almost honoured my contracted time, I was doing really well (well, as well as you can do with 14 people (two of them being your disappointed family members)) and I decided to ask one final question to the two audience members I hadn’t spoken to, yet.

It was two men and I wasn’t sure if they were just friends or a couple, so I asked. As a gay person I don’t really understand what happened next but when I asked the guy at the table my question, she lost it. She was obviously a closeted queen there with her boyfriend and she wasn’t having any of it. She basically said, ‘WHY DON’T YOU STOP ASKING QUESTIONS AND TELL AN ACTUAL JOKE?! YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE A COMEDIAN? YOU’RE NOT EVEN FUNNY! YOU’RE MOVING TO TORONTO TO BE A PROFESSIONAL COMIC? YOU MAY WANT TO RETHINK THAT! THIS ISN’T FOR YOU! YOU SHOULD QUIT WHILE YOU’RE AHEAD!’ I was 2 minutes from being finished this painful headline set and this queen needed to drop that bomb. It was so uncomfortable and I remember looking at my aunts for help and they pretended like they didn’t know me. I handled it by killing him with kindness and she was so embarrassed she paid her bill and disappeared.

If she is reading this right now, hey bitch! I hope you’re feeling better since we last spoke. How am I? Thanks for asking! I moved to Toronto and in 12 months I booked Massey Hall, Halifax Comedy Fest, Just for Laughs, and I’m now a finalist in Sirius XM’s Top Comic Competition. Good thing I didn’t rethink the move to Toronto! Warmest regards!

Best celebrity sighting you’ve ever had?

No question! I ran in to Annie Murphy aka Alexis from Schitt’s Creek! I was walking down Bloor St. and I immediately recognized her as I am a diehard fan of the series. I sort of froze and rotated my body by pivoting on one heel as she walked by. I think she noticed me being a creepy staring statue and she was super cool about it. I waved and slowly approached her. She was so nice to me which caught me off guard because I took her kindness as an opportunity to queen out on her. Poor thing. I just was like, ‘SO MUCH YAS QUEEN! I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU! I QUOTE YOUR SHOW EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE!’

I could see how annoying I was becoming so I asked for a picture, she said yes, and then I disappeared into the night content. She’s probably still in therapy.

What comedian or comedians are your favorites- the people you saw and said- that’s what I want to do?
This is easy. I have so many favourites but the three comics that really resonated with me and influenced my work from the beginning were Wendy Liebman, Heidi Foss, and .

Wendy Liebman is famous for her classic misdirections. She composed multiple headline sets with just one-liner throwaways. That’s really hard to do and a credit to her writing abilities. I always find the unexpected funny. I never enjoy observational humour. I don’t like being told by a comic why something is funny.

Heidi Foss is my favourite Canadian comedian. I saw her on Comedy Now when I was in high school and I remember being so intrigued by her androgyny and dead pan delivery. She, like Wendy, is a short form comic and does it in her own unique way. I respect the shit out of her and when I got to work with her for the first time I queened out on her so hard (for clarification on ‘queen’ing out’ I refer you back to my Annie Murphy story).

Amy Schumer was the first comic I saw taking her marginalized experience and empowering herself with jokes. She is also influenced by Wendy Liebman and this was clearly demonstrated in her early work. I first saw Amy on a ‘Funny as Hell’ taping for Just for Laughs and she really caught my attention. I remember seeing how confident she was talking about dark stuff and making it so funny. I remember thinking to myself, ‘if I were to do comedy, that’s how I would want to do it.’

What was the worst you’ve ever bombed?

The worst I ever bombed was at a mental health charity gala honouring Mary Walsh from This Hour Has 22 Minutes. It was part of the ‘Cracking-Up The Capital’ comedy festival in Ottawa and it was sponsored in part by The Government of Canada. There must have been at least 400 people there. I was double booked that night but we arranged it that I would go on first and then take off to my next gig across town. It all seemed to be going ok until the show started. This representative from the Government had to do a brief thank you to the audience and was supposed to be off in a few minutes. Well, that didn’t happen. This bitch must have done a hot 25 minutes of the most boring thank yous in the most monotonous tone which, you know, always warms up a comedy audience…

We were way over time and I had to go so the host did a few minutes off the top and brought me up as fast as possible. I was so crunched for time, my allotted 15 minutes turned in to 5 and I couldn’t do a minute more otherwise I wouldn’t make this second gig across town and I would have been fired. So I tried to make the best with what I had. I grabbed the mic, went to open my mouth, the mic died. I stood there confused in front of 400 people and didn’t know what to do. A stage hand came on to the stage and played with the mic, meanwhile this is eating in to my already shortened time. He got the mic working again and before handing it to me he says into the microphone, ‘you turned it off.’ Thank you for announcing that to 400 people.

I acknowledged how awkward it was and tried to make a joke until, yep you guessed it, the mic died again. This time I started laughing to myself and I don’t know why I did what I did next but I thought the next logical step was to start fan-kicking; you know, like the can-can. The audience was so uncomfortable. Mary Walsh was probably on the phone contacting every agent telling them to fire me. The mic suddenly came back to life, I successfully managed to get ONE joke in, it completely bombed, and my 5 minutes was up. I had to avoid eye-contact with everyone and slowly make my way out of the room. The thought of this experience still haunts me.

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