Standup comedy is Toronto’s new inclusive and progressive art form
Sai Durga Gona
As it snowed outside in late March, the tiny cozy place at 187 Augusta Ave. in downtown Toronto was completely filled with the laughter of an audience. It seems to be a relaxed alternative for them from their busy and stressful lives.
All the credit goes to The Surreal Life standup comedians, who managed to make the audience laugh and cry at the same time.
Surreal Life is a movement to establish standup comedy as an art form. As a part of the monthly stand-up comedy show, GTA artists perform their gigs.
This art gallery is different from others, as it is dedicated to showcasing the gigs without any discrimination based on race and gender.
“I give a platform and I would like to work with comedians who are from the LGBTQ+ community, people of colour and gender non-conforming individuals. Though these people are in the comedy genre, they are the most underrepresented. I want to celebrate their work as an art,” said Marie Sotto.
Toronto is definitely a hub for entertainment, but still, most of the stand-up comedians are finding it hard to find an accepting platform to perform.
“There are few theatre centres for these standup comedians who are underrepresented. So, Surreal Life is one of its kind, which is in an art gallery,” Sotto said.
She started doing improv shows five years ago and in the past three years, she immersed herself in stand-up comedy, along with working with an NGO.
Undoubtedly, being a standup comedian is not everybody’s cup of tea. Toronto is definitely a hub for entertainment, but still, most of the stand-up comedians are finding it hard to find an accepting platform to even perform.
“You have to be quirky with your content and have to know your words and choose them wisely. After all, it is not an easy job to crack jokes on the go,” said Veronica Antipolo, who works as a freelance virtual assistant and a full-time stand-up comedian.
To become a stand-up comedy writer, one needs to be really good with language and it should be specific and concise.
“You have to be able to read and gauge the audience instantly because they are the best source to do improv on. If people actually tried standup just once they would realize how hard it is to make an audience laugh,” she said.
In Toronto, there is a situation, where still people don’t accept comedy as art.
“It is because they don’t understand and they don’t know what goes into it,” Antipolo said.
Contrary to this, some of the stand-up comedians believe that people are not accepting comedy as an art because of the unconventional comedians in the industry.
“People don’t accept it as an art form and I think partially it’s because of sometimes they don’t view it as an art form, but as follies,” said Vong Show, a standup comedian and philanthropist.
There are two different types of comedy shows. One is traditional and the other one, now growing popular, are the experimental shows and the Surreal Life is one among them.
As ‘content is king’, not all the comedians will deliver the quirkiest original content and that has made the standup comedy market dicey as it is.
“It is important to give people what they want and some of the comedians do not take it seriously and perform on stage unprepared,” Show said. “That has widened the gap between the traditional comedians and new-age comedians, and it is evident that the former trumps the latter because of mediocre content.”