One way to explain what something is, is to say what it isn’t. And that’s what writer and standup comic Jeff Kubik does when describing Kaboom!, the “alt comedy” show he and Alan Cho produce.
“There’s a big obsession in comedy with what’s called hack. And hack is, you know, short for hackneyed. And it just means whatever is boring and old and done and you’ve seen it a thousand times before,” says Kubik, giving the example of the Chinese driver joke as classic hack humour.
“The reason that a hackneyed joke like that is offensive to me is not that it’s racist — because it is racist — but it’s also offensive because it’s boring. I’ve heard that premise a thousand times before. You’re not adding anything new to it. So alternative comedy is any attempt to explore premises in new ways or find brand new premises.”
Inspired by comedy shows such as Los Angeles’s The Meltdown, Cho and Kubik launched Kaboom…Hooray! back in February to offer an alternative to the existing comedy scene in the city and to provide a place for established and emerging voices to perform.
Cho and Kubik first presented Kaboom…Hooray! in the Birds & Stone Theatre. In July, however, they switched to Yuk Yuk’s in the Elbow River Casino and also renamed the show to simply Kaboom!
Kubik say it’s a hybrid between a “showcase” show and an open mic night.
There is no headliner; instead, a typical night features eight standup comedians, from amateurs to full-fledged pros, who each do a five-minute set.
Cho and Kubik emcee the show, but they don’t prepare material in advance — rather, they just improvise.
“It’s a big risk, but it’s always fun, because failure is fun, too,” Kubik says. “It’s fun to watch people try something, fail and move on. And that’s a big part of standup, being able to fail and move on and not take it personally.”
A couple of sketches are interspersed amongst the standup routines. Kubik, whose formal artistic training is in playwriting, says sketches require three critical elements: a premise, escalation and a twist. Unlike standup routines, sketches share some characteristics with traditional theatre, including a script, the need for sound and lighting cues, and rehearsal time.
And the dish of “alt humour” Kaboom! serves up each month can include sketches on subjects from a black dildo mill to how the devil enforces ironic punishment in hell.
Humour, of course, is a very subjective thing.
“You can’t make someone think something is funny. What we most hope for are audiences who share our sense of humour,” Kubik says, adding he believes all the show’s comedians are smart joke writers, even if their humour is stupid.
“I have so many smart dick jokes, and that’s not for everybody, but it’s certainly for the type of people that we would like to come to the show.”
Kaboom! comedians appear by invitation-only and the participants must present new material each performance because there is a core group of standup comedians who perform regularly in the lineup and they have to keep it fresh.
Kaboom! takes place the first Wednesday of every month. Tickets are available at the door.