Making It: Toronto's Comedy Scene, Mic'd Up

The lights are dim, you’re in some hole-in-the-wall bar in one of Toronto’s forgotten neighbourhoods. It’s been a long day and you’ve decided to sit among strangers to share a beer (or 5) and a laugh. Finally, a guy in a scruffy beard and a plaid shirt steps up to the mic and makes a couple of jokes before introducing the first act of the night. Then some person you think you might have seen on the street (or was it the subway?) steps up to the mic and owns the stage and your attention for the next 3 to 5 minutes.

This is how we usually interact with comedians. That is, we give them all of our attention in 3 to 5 minute spurts and then…poof! they’re gone as quick as they appeared. Through all of this, we often neglect to realize that comedians are human beings just like us. But then again, they aren’t. They’re human beings, yes, but they’re not just like us. They’re people who have chosen a path few ever choose for themselves. One that requires lots of work with a faint chance of real success. They commit to a life of everlasting uncertainty, all chasing that one moment that will fulfill that lifelong dream of becoming a famous (and successful) comedian. One that “made it”.

In this podcast, host David Greenberg goes beyond the onstage persona and discusses real issues that comedians face in the booming Toronto comedy scene. There’s lots of room for laughter, sure, but as David goes beyond the jokes and the characters, he finds that Toronto comedians have a lot of real, serious things to talk about.

Happy listening!

Episode 1: '"America, Here We Come!': Canadian comedy expats in America"

Comedians in this episode (top left going clockwise) Jess Salomon (credit: Morgan Shortell), Rebecca Kohler (credit: Leif Norman), Sarah Hennessey and Sandra Battaglini (credit: Shawn McPherson)

You’ve heard their names before – Rogen, Short, Bee – all of them are famous Canadian comedians…living in the United States. The question is, would Seth Rogen be Seth Rogen if he hadn’t relocated to Los Angeles? In this episode, Toronto comedians give David their take on the Canadian expat experience and why Canadian comics are forced to relocate to the United States to make it big.

Episode 2: "LOL or Loving Out Loud"

Comedians in this episode (top left going clockwise): Jess Salomon (credit: Morgan Shortell), Bryan Hatt, Chantel Marostica (credit: Corbin Smith), Aisha Brown (credit: Matt Klopot), Hunter Collins and Sarah Hennessey

Love…who’s got time for it? It’s a classic gripe of busy people trying to add some balance to their lives. It’s safe to say, though, that after listening to this episode, you’ll find that comedians have it harder than most of us. They never really stop working and don’t have time to commit to fostering a longterm relationship. They’re always mining for new ideas, writing and touring. On top of that, they stay out late, wake up late and even have to battle the stigma of not having “a real job.” Finding love, therefore, is either not a top priority, or they frustrate their lovers who are left unsatisfied when they aren’t experiencing a traditional romance. But some comedians make it work, very often by dating each other. In this episode David talks to comedians about finding and keeping relationships.

Episode 3: "Diverse Voices"

Comedians in this episode (top left going clockwise) Nour Hadidi, Ify Chiwetelu (credit:, Chantel Marostica (credit: Corbin Smith), Lauren Mitchell (credit: Derek O'Donnell), Dawn Whitwell (credit: Ali Eisner), Hoodo Hersi and Brie Watson

Give yourself five seconds and name all the comedians that come to your head. Review that list and count how many of those comedians are straight, white men. While comedy has become much more diverse, there are still countless voices that are trying to shatter comedic stereotypes and gain respect. Women, people of colour, LGBTQ people and Muslims are a few groups that want equal opportunity to tell their jokes and make people laugh. Like in all markets, they have to fight harder than most to gain respect. In this episode, David talks to comedians trying to make Toronto comedy open to everybody.