When Cory Mack of the YYC Comedy Collective was growing up she used to fantasize about a life spent on the road as the wife of a travelling salesman.
Turned out years later that she was the travelling salesman from her childhood scenario, only instead of vacuums or books, she was peddling comedy. With 23 years experience at standup, she’s now part of a group of fellow comedians intent on showing Calgary just how much the city has added to the world of comedy by staging the new YYC Comedy Festival, a week-long celebration that will be calling the children back home.
“The idea was that we should have a festival that celebrated comedy and showed the connections we have in Calgary,” Mack explains. “We’ve given a lot of comedians to the world... comedy is one of our biggest cultural exports, after all.”
Mack returned from last year’s Canadian Comedy Awards in Toronto with the idea of turning the spotlight on her own city in 2012. The auguries were in place with significant anniversaries coming up for Loose Moose Theatre (30 years) and Yuk Yuk’s (25), along with Alberta Arts Days and Calgary being named a cultural capital of Canada. She fired off an email to fellow veteran comic Harry Doupe about the possibility of a comic festival in Calgary that focused on the city’s many comedic exports, and the two then brought in James Sutherland, a producer at the Banff World Media Festival.
They then began preparing a list of performers.
What they came up with was impressive, from Kids in the Hall members Bruce McCulloch and Mark McKinney to This Hour Has 22 Minutes alumni Rebecca Northan and Gavin Crawford, plus Pat Kelly and Peter Oldring, and a host of up-and-comers.
“One of the things we hope to do is spark some conversations that go on for a few years,” Mack says. “Comedians don’t normally get together all that often, but this has that come-home-and-reconnect-with-folks kind of feeling; these are people who don’t get a chance to see each other all that often, so it’s going to be quite something.”
The festival is scattered throughout the city, with all three major comedy clubs participating, plus a few music venues like Broken City and the Jubilee Auditorium.
“The comedy scene in Calgary can be quite divisive between the indie scene and the mainstream clubs, and between the clubs themselves,” Mack wryly notes. “We were pretty happy it all came together despite that competitiveness.”
She may be knee-deep in organizing for the festival, but Mack will be stepping out as a performer among many at the Orpheus Theatre on September 28. Other than that, she’s been enjoying the recollections of ex-Loose Moose members documenting their time with the improv group.
“It’s been awesome to hear the connections,” she says. “These are people who haven’t seen each other in years, and what you get is pretty heartwarming. They’re the road stories you never get to hear, and all of comedy is a story, really. I’m looking forward to the camaraderie; these are friends and colleague, and everybody thinks of comedians as individuals, but in the improv world it’s about the group. A couple of people have burst into tears remembering, talking about how life-altering their experience with Loose Moose has been to them.”