Laughs After Yuk Yuk’s: NL Comedy All-Stars at the LSPU Hall
When Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club in St. John’s shut it’s doors in March 2016, the impact of it’s closure may have been slightly overstated. The national comedy club chain can be credited with bringing some fantastic talent to the province due to their Canada-wide tour circuit. The venue also proved to be a great venue for local prospects to grow their talents and to workshop new material. Its impact on the level of comedy here is evident, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is the end of the line for comedy in St. John’s.
Yuk Yuk’s, started in 1976 by Mark Breslin, is the largest chain of comedy clubs in the world. The invaluable opportunities that Yuk Yuks opens up to comics can’t be overstated, but with so good also comes some bad. The comedy monolith has, in the past, faced a fair share of criticism. For example; leveraging restrictive contract clauses which pressure comedians to work exclusively with Yuk Yuk’s, limiting their ability to find work outside of the circuit and doing little to help touring comedians were factors in largely publicized fall-outs with the comedy scenes and comics in Alberta and Ontario.
Now free from the yoke of potential franchise loyalty, the up and coming comedy scene in St. John’s is free to write it’s own next chapter.
“[Without Yuk Yuk’s] there’s still the Trapper John’s Open Mic every Thursday, which is known as one of the best open mic’s in the country. The Levee every Wednesday, both of those shows start roughly at 9,” says Chris Dunn, local comedian and promoter, “There’s The Joke Mill, which will hopefully be a monthly event put off by The Factory and Sean Burton — I have such high hopes for that.”
While there isn’t a shortage of options, Dunn will add his company, Night Out Productions, to the list of promotions filling the void left by Yuk Yuk’s departure.
His first big promotion, NL Comedy All-Stars, takes place this month on April 29th and 30th at the LSPU Hall. The line-ups boast the biggest names St. John’s has to offer, including; Paul Warford, Liam Small, Luke Lawrence, Matt Wright, Mike Hammond and Michael Lynch.
“St. John’s, right now, has a very interesting comedy scene. Even in the last three years it’s gotten a lot stronger,” says Dunn, “because, well, there’s more people adding themselves to it. Everyone got much more experience from Yuk Yuk’s, which of course has left us, but gave us the experience in that time of being on a pro show and feeling what the environment of professional comedy is like. The scene here, even with Yuk Yuk’s departure, is growing because of that experience.”
Having spent three years pursuing comedy and three summers travelling to volunteer at Just for Laughs Festival, Dunn hopes to help give back to a scene he admires so much, and it won’t end with NL Comedy All-Stars. Dunn has two more shows booked for May: a first-timers’ night on the 14th, and a May 24th weekend special at The Ship called Camping for Townies.
“I want people to associate [these productions] with good comedy, so when I bring people here to perform and I have local openers that they still appreciate the level of talent,” says Dunn, “it’ll only be easier to promote with this as the jumping off point. There’s six other comics I can already think of that I can ask to be on the next one. They’re all working, they have at least twenty strong minutes that they can perform. Once those two NL All-Star shows are done, I hope to start bringing comedians here.”
Tickets for NL Comedy All-Stars are available now, $15 for student and $20 for adults. Get your tickets now either here, by phone (709-753-4531) or at the LSPU Hall box office at 3 Victoria Street.
More about NL Comedy All Stars lineup:
Michael Lynch (left): is a new up and coming comedian from St. John’s, Newfoundland. A year in, he began opening for nationally touring headliners and was recently runner up in Newfoundland’s ‘Last Comic Standing’ competition. Lynch is also founder and host of “Jokes At John’s”, one of the best weekly comedy rooms in Canada.
Matt Wright (left): was introduced to comedy in the 2012 “Yuk Yuk’s Funniest Newfoundlander” contest; placing 2nd overall in his 3rd ever show and has been touring Canada ever since. In 2015, Matt debuted at the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival as a national finalist in the JFL Homegrown Competition. Matt Wright currently writes for for “This Hour is 22 Minutes” and has appeared on CBC’s “The Debators” in September 2015. Matt is making his television debut in 2016 on CBC’s Halifax Comedy Festival.
In 2014, Matt’s debut comedy album “Vasectomy Baby” went to #2 on the iTunes Canadian Comedy charts and is heard frequently on SiriusXM. Matt was selected to perform at Shaun Majumder’s Burlington Gathering Festival, the Atlantic Halifax Fringe Festival, and headlined Yuk Yuk’s. Matt was a national semi-finalist in the SiriusXM “Canada’s Next Top Comic” Competition and “The Overcast” named Matt “Best St. John’s Comedian” in their “Best Of Local People” issue in 2014 and 2015.
Liam Small (left): Born in Gander, Newfoundland, Liam Small is a new face to St. John’s comedy. A shockingly average death-metal bassist and George Street regular, he started performing stand-up in early 2015 and has had a hard time staying off the stage ever since. Liam has quickly become a regular face in the Newfoundland comedy scene with his cynical views on puffins, hospitals, and the general state of things. With his high energy and crude enthusiasm, he was recently named the winner of James Mullingers Comedy Bootcamp NL, which is due to air in 2016 on Bell’s TV1.
Liam has just come off the road from John Sheehan’s “Insufferable” tour across Newfoundland, and he has also been featured at Yuk Yuk’s – St. John’s, Trapper John’s, and the Arts and Culture Centre, where he has opened before some of Canada’s top comedians today. A proud member of the IATSE 709 film union, and an aspiring filmmaker himself, Liam’s first film “Serenity Plow” was a featured selection in the 2015 Nickel Independent Film Festival. He also runs a weekly open mic for stand-up comics in downtown St John’s at The Levee, so stop by if you’d like a copy of his metal band’s last CD—he probably has one in a bag for you somewhere.
Luke Lawrence (left): is often described as an edgy comic with a high-energy persona. His personal and wildly entertaining performances connect with a broad audience through topics about relationships and job troubles to tales of drug induced pirate adventures on the high seas. These raw and unfiltered stories end happily and offer an affectionate glimpse into the the underworld of contemporary pop culture.
Mike Hammond: has been doing stand up for 4 years and in that time has performed at Yuk Yuk’s St. John’s, headlined the Bus Stop Theatre in Halifax, and Headlined the Comedy Bar in Toronto. Mike is also a veteran improviser, performing improvised theatre for 13 years and is a founding member of Stanley Braxton Improv Co. His high energy stories are ripped from the reality of his own life and put on display like a twisted oddities tent filled with disappointing his parents.
Paul Warford: was born and raised just outside of St. John’s. Beginning comedy at coffee houses while attending Acadia University, he quickly found a platform when he returned to St. John’s. He began performing professionally once Yuk Yuk’s opened on Kenmount road in 2009. He has been a ‘rostered’ comic with Mark Breslin’s Yuk Yuk’s since then, performing throughout most of the maritimes, as well as clubs in Ontario, and Alberta. He attended the Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal and Toronto in 2010. He was a performer for the gala CBC taping of the 2012 St. John’s Comedy Festival and was recorded for the CBC radio program ‘CBC LOL’ in 2016. He has opened for Canadian greats like Nikki Payne, Mike Wilmot and Mike MacDonald, as well as American comedian Brian Posehn
Bio’s provided by Chris Dunn.