The Comedy Grind is your weekly dose of five-dollar funny
Making people laugh can prove a rather strenuous and fruitless effort. But several of Regina’s comedians are up to the challenge, and among their efforts to bring comedy to the city is the weekly Comedy Grind show that takes place every Saturday night at Gabbo’s.
The Comedy Grind was started just about a year ago by Shawn Hall, a Regina-born comedian who was doing stand-up on the West Coast but returned home to raise a family. Upon his return home, Hall recalled, there “wasn’t really anything going on for local comedy as far as stand-up. There was a little bit of improv and a few other shows, but there was no stand-up, so I approached a few different people and said that I wanted to start up a show.”
The show is a simple, no frills stand-up show where the comics go onstage and try to entertain what has for the past fifty-one weeks been an ever-growing crowd.
The comedy scene in Regina was a very different story a year ago, with only one monthly comedy show, the semi-open-mic-style Pass the Hat, trying to represent an increasingly large and diverse comedy scene. Compare this to a larger city where stand-up comics are doing multiple shows in a single evening. Hall said it was “almost like we were having to start a market”.
But the scene is growing rapidly. Hall believes that having the Comedy Grind on a weekly basis has contributed to that. “A lot of people only wanted us to do once a month, but I was really insistent that we had to do it every week so that the talent could get better and better,” he explained.
Although comedy in Regina has come a long way from where it was years ago, Hall described the current scene as still “a little bit lacking in the sense of amount of shows [in comparison to] the amount of talent that’s here.”
There’s no doubt that it will still continue to grow, but a fully blossoming comedy scene in Regina is “going to take some time … There’s not a lot of shows for the talent here in the city, but it’s slowly growing. The General Fools are starting a new monthly show at the Fainting Goat on Mondays, Combat Improv is on Wednesdays, Pass the Hat is Friday, Feb. 11, and the next night is Comedy Grind, which is the one-year anniversary.”
While there are a cast of regulars on the Comedy Grind, the show on Feb. 5 was Newbie Night, with all brand-new comics taking the stage at Gabbo’s in order for Hall and company to “bring more people into the fold.” The Newbie Night went swimmingly; each comic hammered out his or her five-minute set and was judged at the end by two of the regular comics of the Comedy Grind. The audience then voted on their favourite of the evening, and the winner was invited to the upcoming one-year anniversary of the Comedy Grind on Saturday, Feb. 12. The amounts of laughs varied from comic to comic, but Hall said that the most important thing was that people were laughing, period.
“There’s arguably some amazing talent [in Regina]. You can’t have winter for six months out of the year, a rabid fan base, and more restaurants per capita than anywhere in the country and not have some funny individuals.”
Comedy is an incredibly satisfying and rewarding form of entertainment, but one starry-eyed and aspiring comic can find early underachieving extremely discouraging if they have an unsuccessful evening. Hall said the only way to remedy that is to work harder.
“You can’t rely on anybody else. If you’re in a band or improv troupe or sketch troupe or anything else, you can always blame it on somebody else; if you’re a comic, and you’re not getting the laughs, it’s your fault. It’s not the audience, it’s not anybody else.”
But the rush from working hard and performing a successful set is worth the hardships, and that the interaction with the crowd is instantly gratifying. “It’s getting that immediate feedback … if you’re a comic and you’re on, it’s like every five seconds people are reaffirming how funny you are, and it’s an amazing feeling,” Hall said. “… Once I started doing it [I realized] it’s literally the greatest high; it became incredibly addictive.”
For Hall, comedy is much deeper than making people laugh; it involves much intelligence as well as picking through the oddities of the world that we live in. Stand-up comedy is “the last line of defense against tyranny”; comics are not just entertainers, but “truth-sayers … if [a crisis like in Egypt] happens in North America and the bombs drop, everyone will be gathering on piles of rocks on the corners and there’ll be the comics trying to keep everybody entertained”.
The Comedy Grind is every Saturday night at Gabbo’s. The show usually starts at 9 p.m., and admission is $5.