Pictured above: Dan Quinn (Just for Laughs, CBC), Craig Campbell (Dave’s One Night Stand, Edinburgh Fringe) Paul Myrhaug (Just for Laughs, The Debaters) and Pete Zedlacher (Just for Laughs, Halifax Comedy Festival) perform 25 cities across the province this winter and wrap up the tour here in Vancouver. snowedincomedytour.com
Northwest Comedy Fest (February 12-21)
Stand-up comedians from around the world descend upon Vancouver to perform at comedy clubs and local theatres for this annual festival. This year’s lineup includes comedy heavyweights like Craig Ferguson, Hannibal Buress and Doug Benson. Check online for a full list of performers and venues. northwestcomedyfest.com
The Worst Best
Havana (1212 Commercial Drive)
This show shouldn’t work. It’s a theatre in the back of a restaurant and drinks aren’t permitted. It’s usually home to one-person shows or student productions, but on Sundays and Mondays it’s the place to be on The Drive. Sunday nights are improv by Instant Theatre with two shows of new and seasoned improvisers competing for your love. Mondays belong to Laugh Gallery, the stand-up show hosted by Graham Clark (winner of Yuk Yuk’s Great Canadian Laugh Off) that features amazing drop-ins from touring comedians and the chance to win quirky thrift- store prizes.
Where Nerds Build Empires
The Rio Theatre (1660 East Broadway)
Opened in 1938, this movie theatre at the corner of Broadway and Commercial has evolved into a hub for local comedy producers. (Maybe it’s because it’s now licensed?) Whatever the reason, comedy shows at The Rio have either found a loyal audience or brought their own. Check out the Dungeons & Dragons-inspired improv of the Critical Hit Show, the naughtiness of Improv Against Humanity (a show that uses the politically incorrect board game, Cards Against Humanity, as a launching point. Leave your mom at home), the live film commentary of the Gentlemen Hecklers or the long-running local talent show Paul Anthony’s Talent Time (comedians and musicians perform with local talent-show acts like child tap dancers and barbershop quartets). This is one of the biggest venues on the list and it’s also one of the quickest to sell out. Buy tickets in advance or arrive early.
Little Mountain Gallery (195 East 26th Avenue)
A former butcher shop, Little Mountain Gallery is now a launching pad for alt-comedy success stories. Ryan Beil of the aforementioned Sunday Service curates a unique blend of stand-up, sketch and performance that defies easy explanation (but we’ll give it a try). Rapp Battlez (pictured above) pits comedians against each other in head-to-head high-concept 8-Mile-style rap contests. Past battles have included ‘Bon Cop versus Bad Cop’ and ‘Coyote versus Dad-who-just-fell-in-the-lake.’ Also try Weird Al Karaoke (comedians rewrite the words to popular songs), Bout Time (three-on-three improv where the losing team is forced to break up) or Ring a Ding Dong Dandy (classic wrestling clips with live commentary).
The Block Party
The Fox Cabaret (2321 Main Street) and Hot Art Wet City (2206 Main Street)
At last Main Street has more to offer than just coffee and breweries.
The Fox Cabaret (formerly the last 35 mm porno theatre in North America) has been reborn as a Main Street nightclub that hosts the best improv group in the country: 2012 Canadian Comedy Award winners, The Sunday Service. The group also produces the monthly Comedy Bender, which features a national comedy headliner doing their own show on Saturday then playing with the Service on Sunday.
Across the street at Hot Art Wet City, check out amazing local shows like Kyle Bottom’s Comedy Bucket (performers have to make up jokes from subjects suggested by the audience), Vancouverite (hear jokes about what it’s like to adjust to life in this city) and Come Draw With Me (a stand-up show with an arts and crafts element. No, seriously, it’s amazing).
The China Cloud (524 Main Street)
Don’t let the jet-black door scare you away. This is an upstairs room that’s actually quite cosy and brings out the best in music and comedy. I always recommend The Hero Show, a showcase of solo comedians performing with the rule that they can’t do improv or stand-up. Past acts have included character pieces, centaurs and dancing. It’s tough to describe, but never fails to entertain. Also, check out 10 Speed, an improv show run by local Canadian Comedy Award nominees Hip Bang. Local improv groups perform sets that will be interrupted if they exceed 10 minutes. The sets are good, but sometimes the interruptions (feeding the players mystery shots, invading with scantily clad participants) are even better.
Get your side-splitting, knee-slapping fix at some of Vancouver's best comedy shows
Vancouver is my favourite city for comedy in Canada. There, I said it. The Prairies have better support, Toronto is louder, but Vancouver has always supported unique voices. Every night of the week there are hilarious shows happening all over the city – especially in East Van – for $10 or less. How do you find them? If the comedians aren’t already spamming you on Facebook, then click through for a list of five of my favourite comedy events to get you giggling.