A unique Canada Day comedy show where the sky is the limit — Lindsay Advocate
The first time I performed on Canada Day was on Parliament Hill nearly 30 years ago, on a huge stage just steps from the Peace Tower. The audience was an exuberant 100,000 people, many draped in Canadian flags, long before this image was co-opted in the same space decades later by outraged protesters with hot tubs, bouncy castles and a suspicious spelling. My short bilingual set mostly served as a buffer before an official countdown to the start of a live national television special.
I left immediately after hearing “ONE!”, grateful that my 10 minutes had gone relatively well, and relieved that I had just broken the cardinal rule ingrained in most stand-ups: never – never – take a concert that does not come with four walls, a ceiling and a seated audience. The fact that this outdoor performance didn’t turn into something resembling an auctioneer bidding from inside a giant, soundproof aquarium had less to do with comedic skill and more with a generous audience basking in a day of celebration – and a short working week. I was lucky and I knew it. And I will never again deviate from the four walls and one ceiling edict of comics.
Until my Toronto-based agent called me in early 2022 asking if I was available for a July 1 show on, yes, an outdoor stage: The Grove Theatre’s Comedy Night on Canada Day.
Now here is where I could explain why I accepted this gig, philosophizing on my growth as an artist since that July 1st in the mid-90s, and how I had matured into an accomplished stand-up capable of adapting to any environment – in Where outside – blah blah blah. But, really, my initial excitement wasn’t fueled by the figurative miles I’d racked up as a touring stand-up comedian, but the literal few miles I’d need to get to a place. of my city on Canada Day. (Since moving to Kawartha Lakes nearly 25 years ago, I’ve learned that many local residents say “:miles” instead of kilometers. More on this true appreciation of all things local later. ). “Edict, sccchhhmedict! I told my agent I was accepting the offer and he may have wondered if I was pronouncing “schmedict” correctly.
But my decision to play The Grove wasn’t just driven by impetus and skyrocketing gas prices. I had seen a professional stand-up show at this brand new theater in Fenelon last summer. (Yes, just Fenelon. Locals don’t have to add Falls, because we know what we are talking about).
At the time, I distinctly remember thinking, “Live stand-up comedy should not works here.” But, as I watched the show from the back of the room . . . uh . . . space, I discovered that it did. And very, very well.
Nicole Mitchell, the theater’s affable general manager, openly admits that she, too, was initially “nervous” about putting on stand-up shows at The Grove. “When you walk into a comedy club,” she explains, “it’s often a basement.”
Mitchell is a keen observer of an often misunderstood art form; standup is, indeed, synonymous with “basement” – too many of which, I’ve witnessed firsthand, exude an aura that leaves you wondering if the cops are going to burst in to blow up a room of illegal games.
That’s why The Grove, as a stand-up venue, is such a breath of fresh air – literally. “As open as the space is, it’s still rather closed,” says Mitchell of the enchanting location, which looks like it’s been lifted from the pages of Narnia but is truly tucked away in the woods adjacent to Fenelon Arena. “The trees are filled in and you can’t really see through them. . . so you feel like you are in a private and intimate space.” Here, she pauses, then adds, “Even if you’re outside!”
Thus, the trees are, really, these essential walls that the actors crave. And the ceiling? Well, when the sun went down, the moon and stars served to close this theater in a warm and inviting way that no basement ever could. This meant that the stand-ups, all of which I’ve seen perform dozens of times, seemed to embrace the unique community feel of the venue, instead of struggling to turn it into that aforementioned comedy club atmosphere with a more confrontational vibe. between actor and audience.
Some of this community-inspired quality could be attributed to the physical nature of The Grove, particularly the placement of the stage in relation to the audience. Typically, a comedy club’s stages—and, by default, the stand-ups performing there—are a few feet above the audience, contributing to a more hierarchical relationship between the comic and the crowd. The grove, on the other hand, with its reclining seats, places the performer literally at eye level with most spectators. Says Mitchell of this setup that I’m especially looking forward to on July 1, “Artists are really getting sucked into the front rows.”
There was a time when I avoided stand-up gigs in my backyard, fearful of bumping into an audience member at the Farmers’ Market or the Lindsay-Ops dump the morning after a, uh, less-than-stellar show. But that angst eased after I learned to structure my act on these local shows with material from genuine familiarity with Kawartha Lakes and its quirks — something Mitchell also suggested I take advantage of on July 1 for his show.
“It’s really useful to know the area,” she says. “Our audiences always love a custom set.”
And then there’s the pent-up need for the audience to laugh again.
“Because of COVID,” says Mitchell, “everyone has been locked up and miserable a lot. And that kind of show is such a wonderful outing, where you can feel safer – outside.
Denis Grignon is a professional comedian who lives near Dunsford and the producer of The Advocate Podcast: Stories from Kawartha Lakes. He is performing July 1 at the Grove Theater with Rick Currie and Jim McNally, two comedians Grignon started out with in Ottawa many July premieres ago. Tickets for Comedy Night on Canada Day are $35 and $65, available by visiting grovetheatre.ca. The Grove Theater is located in Fenelon Falls. Or, if you’re from the area, simply Fenelon.