Home-grown talent taking centre stage - Exit Reality on the Rock Comedy Festival opens June 13

Tara Bradbury
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Comedian Pete Soucy as Dundersnook


St. John’s comedian Sarah Walsh says she’s doesn’t know if her jokes are funny or just weird, but, in any case, they make people laugh.

Clearly she’s doing something right, since stand-up comedy isn’t easy for just anyone. It takes a special kind of person to have both the jokes and the presence to pull it off, says Pete Soucy, otherwise known as Snook and one of the producers of the Exit Realty on the Rock Comedy Festival.

“It’s an ability. It’s a facility with the craft. It’s timing. It’s a natural insight. It’s so many things,” Soucy says of what makes a good comedian.

“It’s difficult to teach. You can nurture it in somebody that has the potential. It’s like music, I suppose: you either have it or you don’t, and then you work on developing it.

Walsh, 25, began doing stand-up after taking part in an open mike night in Halifax on a whim at age 18. Since then, she’s performed at Yuk Yuk’s venues across the country, and recently had a spot on the Rogers TV special, “Comedy in the City.” She also writes and illustrates “Kiddo,” her own cartoon.

Like most comedians, Walsh’s material comes from everyday life.

“It’s inspired by things I see that strike me as funny, and it just develops from there,” she says.

Walsh and Jason Card were chosen by festival organizers as two of the province’s fast-rising stars in the world of comedy, and will participate in the comedy festival’s CBC Opening Gala, June 13, along with Snook and comedians Derek Sequin, Jon Steinberg, Rebecca Kohler, John Sheehan, Paul Edwards and Steve Coombs.

“I’m really excited, but a little confused — did they get the right person?” Walsh says of her participation in the gala. “It’s awesome. I’ve been buzzing about it ever since they told me.”

Since it was founded seven years ago as the St. John’s Comedy Festival, the celebration of comedy has grown from a small event to a four-day gathering, changing its name to reflect its title sponsor. Exit Realty on the Rock has committed to three years with the festival, Soucy said.

Previous festival performers have included Dan Aykroyd, Louis CK, Mark Critch, Nikki Payne, Gavin Crawford and Debra Di Giovanni.

This year, shows will happen at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre and the Bella Vista.

A stand-up workshop will kick off the festival, culminating in the Tada! Events Open Mike Night, where new and veteran comedians will take to the stage.

The festival will be officially opened the next night with the CBC gala. The Telegram Talk about Funny show on June 14 will be hosted by Steve Patterson, host of CBC Radio’s “The Debaters,” and Canadian Comedy Award winner, who’s been to this province numerous times, both with the festival and separate from it. He stopped in

St. John’s most recently in 2011, as host of the “Just For Laughs Tour: British Edition” with a handful of comics from the U.K.

“Steve’s been here many times, and he’s got a great profile,” Soucy says. “He’s really good and really versatile, plus he’s got a natural likeability, which I think is the secret to his success. He’s a smart and funny guy, and he’s really got a charisma that seems to work for him every single time.”

Patterson will also host the Stand-Up Spotlight, and perform his own one-man show, “This is Not Debatable!,” end to the festival.

There’ll also be some special, unannounced guests, Soucy says, including a character called Dundersnook — his Snook/Premier Kathy Dunderdale mash-up, complete with pink blazer, blonde wig and lipstick. He debuted the character a couple months ago on an NTV news segment.

“It’s so silly, the drag thing,” he says, laughing. “People recognize it right away. I don’t know if it’s the wig or we have the same nose or what.”

For the second year, Pope Productions is a creative partner in the comedy festival, and will be filming and producing a television special, including footage from the shows and segments filmed with the comedians in locations around the city. Last year’s show aired nationally on CBC.

“We used to just film the gala and that’s it, but (Paul Pope) wants to video everything and use it in a variety of formats throughout the show and it’s made it a lot more versatile and interesting as a result,” says Soucy.

Tickets for the Exit Realty on the Rock Comedy Festival are available at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre box office, by calling 729-3900, or online at www.artsandculturecentre.com. More information is available online at exitrealtycomfest.com.



Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: CBC Radio

Geographic location: Halifax, U.K.

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