In just its second year, the St. John's Comedy Festival is growing exponentially.
This year's event, taking place June 18-22, will feature renowned comedians Mike MacDonald, Debra DiGiovanni, Tim Nutt and Jennifer Grant, "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" cast members Mike Critch and Shaun Majumder, and Newfoundland newcomers John Sheehan and Jonny Harris.
Peter Soucy, the mastermind behind the city's first ever full-fledged comedy festival, says he's excited about the event's growth this year, including the move to a "seven-five" (seven shows over five days) format.
"We're trying to grow it a little bit faster than you would normally, I guess," he explains. "We sort of feel that we need to catch up a little bit with some of the other festivals so we've gone to seven shows over five nights and we've mixed it up."
CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival artistic director Al Rae will run a two-day comedy workshop and St. John's actor Andy Jones will stage his one-man show "An Evening With Uncle Val."
"(Andy) hadn't really done it much here so it's another opportunity for people to see it who haven't (already)," says Soucy.
Comedy Workshop participants will perform their five-minute stand-up routines in front of a live audience June 19 at the Open Mike/Parody Night which takes place at the Bella Vista on Torbay Road. The event will also include some political parody compliments of the Rabbittown Theatre Company's "Not The Real Noose."
The Sunday Night Gala, on June 22, moves to Mile One Centre's Molson Theatre, which boasts a much larger seating capacity than the LSPU Hall, where last year's main event was held.
Former Codco actor Robert Joy, who currently plays a recurring role on CSI: New York and has acted in big box-office films like "Desperately Seeking Susan," "Fallen" and "The Hills Have Eyes," is excited to return to the province for the event.
"Entertainment in Newfoundland seems to always be thriving," Joy says over the phone from his home in Los Angeles. "There's a multiplicity of Newfoundland attitude on life. People aren't hiding their light under the bushels, they're letting it shine."
Joy's diverse background in entertainment includes sketch comedy, theatre, film and television, but hasn't included hosting stand-up comedy events like the St. John's Comedy Festival.
"I don't normally do stand-up which is one of the reasons I'm excited about it," he says. "It's probably the most people I've ever performed in front of live."
Joy says he's also looking forward to working with Jones again. The two were members of Codco in the comedy troupe's pre-television era.
"I feel lucky to have been a part of that group," he explains, adding it was that experience in Newfoundland that taught him the fundamentals of acting.
"With Codco we started from scratch ... it taught us an attitude of boldness and self-reliance. From the artistic side, the way to get through it was to trust your improvisations. Do it with a bold face," he adds.
The success of the first St. John's Comedy Festival was due in large part, says Soucy, the result of the event being able to attract the entire cast of "22 Minutes."
"It was a huge hit, I've got to say. It went very smoothly and we sold out every show and we could have sold out some of them twice, I'm sure."
Having brought his character Snook to large audiences across North America, Soucy is able to draw relative observations on Newfoundland's distinct humour in comparison to that of other parts of the continent, and echoes Joy's sentiments about the province's uniqueness.
"It's partly genetics and it's partly that it's a precarious place to live," he says. "We've been living close to the bone for a long time and you sort of get by and use whatever tools you have to keep you going and keep you motivated ... and the fact that we're an island has kept it distinct. I just think that we have intact our roots, our heritage, that has its storytelling and self-entertainment at the heart of it, and I think a lot of it comes from there."
The second annual St. John's Comedy Festival runs June 18-22. For ticket and venue information, see the full schedule.
Tickets on sale at Mile One Box Office (open noon to 5 p.m. daily), by phone at 576-7657, or toll free at 1-800-361-4595 or online at the following links:
Wednesday, June 18, 8 p.m. at Bella Vista
"An Evening with Uncle Val," starring Andy Jones.
Thursday, June 19, 8 p.m. at Bella Vista
Open Mike/Parody Night, hosted by Al Rae and featuring "Not the Real Noose."
Friday, June 20 at Bella Vista
Early Show, 7 p.m.: Mark Critch, Debra DiGiovanni, John Sheehan, Tim Nutt
Late Show, 9:30 p.m.: Shaun Majumder, Jennifer Grant, Jonny Harris, Al Rae
Saturday, June 21 at The Bella Vista
Early Show, 7 p.m.: Shaun Majumder, Jennifer Grant, Jonny Harris, Al Rae
Late Show, 9:30 p.m.: Mark Critch, Debra DiGiovanni, John Sheehan, Tim Nutt
Sunday, June 22 at Mile One Centre, 8 p.m.
St. John's Comedy Festival Gala hosted by Robert Joy with special guest Mike MacDonald and featuring all festival stand-up comedians.
Festival pass and Full Night of Stand-Up pass available at Mile One Centre Box Office.