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September 10, 2019

TORONTO Tuesday, September 10, 2019 – The Theatre Centre announces COMEDY IS ART, a new Festival in support of comedy and comedians. Celebrating comedy as a recognized art form, COMEDY IS ART takes place from October 1–5, 2019 at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West). The Festival launches on Tuesday, October 1 at 7:00PM with a special announcement from The Theatre Centre followed by a performance by TallBoyz.

Canadians are responsible for exporting some of the world’s greatest comedic talents. Today we’re looking at you, Schitt’s Creek! (Congrats on being named the best show on TV right now by TV Guide!) Yet Sandra Battaglini, co-founder of the Canadian Association of Stand-up Comedians, describes being a comedian in Canada – for most artists – as a “circle of entrapment”. This means limited opportunities to earn a living, almost no access to funding to make work, and the need to leave Canada to make that work, all while watching content from outside of Canada dominating our stages and screens. Comedy isn’t even a recognized art form by most public arts funders, and while comedians are invited to apply as theatre artists, they’re immediately at a disadvantage, shoe-horning themselves into definitions that don’t fit.

Seeing these issues being raised in the community, The Theatre Centre began asking “what can we do? What do we have to offer?” Aislinn Rose, The Theatre Centre’s Artistic Director hopes to help address this issue: “I saw the incredible work that my friend and comic Sandra Battaglini was doing in terms of advocacy for comedians and the issue struck us as obvious – of course comedy should be eligible for funding. And while the tendency in the not-for-profit world might be to suggest there’s not enough to go around as it is, we’re more interested in sharing our resources to see them go further. And comedy is one of the greatest art forms available to us as we grapple with how to address this world around us – thank you Samantha Bee!”

As The Theatre Centre could see members of the community without access to space, funding, career development opportunities – the essentials for building strong artistic communities – they returned to the question they’ve been exploring for the last year or more: how can we be more reckless with our generosity? They reached out to Battaglini to ask how they could help, and COMEDY IS ART is just the beginning.

Liza Paul, The Theatre Centre’s Café/Bar Curator & Manager was the obvious choice for programming this festival. Having already lain the groundwork for comedy at The Theatre Centre, through developing regular late night events over the last few years, Paul was thrilled to have an opportunity to support comedy and comedians in a more fulsome way. “The artists I’ve programmed for the festival are all pushing the boundaries of comedy, and we are so pleased to have them here for what we hope will be the first of many initiatives.” 

Programming includes: TallBoyz; Congratulations! (Courtney Gilmour); Drop the Mic: Joke or Choke (Crystal Ferrier); Amigas Cheetahs (Ben Sosa Wright + Brandon Ash Mohammed); Yas Kween (Nelu Handa); Good Morning, Tonight (Aidan O’Loughlin + Karis Anderson); Deez Laughs (Derryck Birch); SHADE (Anasimone George).

COMEDY IS ART is a declaration as much as a festival; in addition to programing 8 shows and 40 artists over 5 days, along with a number of events and parties, The Theatre Centre will work to continue its commitment to comedians in consultation with the comedy community. More to be announced on opening night of COMEDY IS ART: October 1, 2019.