Have a laugh with local comedy festival, FunnyFest
By Vanessa Gillard
Sharing a laugh with someone is one of the fastest ways to bond, and having a sense of humor about certain situations can certainly give a person perspective. Perhaps these ideas are what has been the underlying drive behind the success of Calgary’s annual comedy festival, FunnyFest.
The Reflector took some time to pick the brain of Anna Garleff, the executive director of the festival, and here’s what she had to say.
TR: The Fest has been around for over a decade, how much has it grown?
AG: Since our beginnings in 1990, FunnyFest has grown in so many ways. We have grown dedicated volunteers from enthused patrons to; we have grown in terms of talent from a regional show to bringing in performers from all over the world, and we have grown in the hearts of Calgarians as a grassroots comedy festival that is now Canada’s second largest.
TR: Where is the performer that is from the furthest away from?
AG: This year, that is New York City.
TR: Are there a lot of Calgarians performing?
AG: Yes for sure! FunnyFest cultivates local talent through our annual Talent Search. This year we have FunnyFest’s own Artistic Director Stu Hughes, Paul Kuster, Brett Plaizier, Cory Harding and Travis Germscheid.
TR: How many venues and performers are there?
AG: There are 11 diverse venues from hotels to restaurants to pubs, and 70 hilariously different performers.
TR: The Fest raises a lot of money for charity. Do you think it makes sense to raise money by laughter?
AG: Not everyone has a lot of money, but everyone loves to laugh – that makes sense. FunnyFest is proud of its track record of sharing the gift of laughter with other non-profits and charities, and enabling them to raise money for their various causes.
TR: What is unique about the festival in comparison to others like Just For Laughs?
AG: FunnyFest is all about the biggest laughs and the most themes; there is something for everyone and something to tickle every kind of funny bone. As a standup comic himself, our founder Stu Hughes, understands profoundly the business from the ground up and has developed his incredible vision of laughter for 11 years and going strong. Part of our selection committee’s mandate is to find and support unique talent with a regional point of view. For example, the Talent Search winners for the last two years both come from Edmonton.
TR: What has been a favourite moment for you during past Fests?
AG: Definitely being able to see everyone having laughing fits doubled over and enjoying all the performers – but especially knowing that FunnyFest’s dedication to the comedic arts has made the magic happen.
TR: What are the Fest’s goals this year?
AG: FunnyFest has now added an Executive Director to help grow both our signature event as well as expand the strategic direction of the organization as a whole. We offer over 150 events throughout the year and we are excited about developing our workshops and seminars as well. This will enable Stu, as Artistic Director, to focus exclusively on the comedy.
TR: What are some stand outs that people can look forward to this year?
AG: Kelly Taylor is a four time festival favourite; Tommy Savitt is the winner of the Boston Comedy Festival and the Seattle International Comedy Competition … and of course we have the winners of the 2010 and 2011 [FunnyFest] Talent Search.
TR: Has the Fest launched any stars people might be familiar with?
AG: Kelly Taylor and Matt Billon are familiar to most comedy lovers, and we can’t wait to see them perform at the Calgary Comedy Festival this year.
FunnyFest goes from June 2 – June 12. Visit http://www.funnyfest.com/for all the information and details on venues, tickets, and volunteering.