Toronto Is the New Ottawa
I know that I am not the only one that preaches the gospel of the Ottawa Absolute Comedy room. It’s a Mecca. The crowd is great. You feel like a rock star. The crowd is screaming with laughter. When leaving the stage, you are carried back to the greenroom by the folks in the front row, chanting your name as you are delivered safely onto the pull-out couch where beautiful women who still have the faint odour of the Maxim shoot they had just done, pour you body shots to be lapped from their taut bellies. All of it dead true. Except for everything from the ‘being carried to the greenroom’ part onward. But it is a good room. When the Toronto room opened it was new, it was really fresh, and above all it was green. The Toronto comedy scene is very different than that of Ottawa. It is “The Importance of Being Earnest” at the Palladium Theatre in London, England, to Ottawa’s “Menopause Out Loud”. Much more critical and in some cases much less fun. It is harder to get a consistent solid laugh in Toronto than at Absolute Comedy – Ottawa. It’s not better or worse. It’s just different.
In the same way that if you eat it at an open mic in Toronto, you should not beat yourself up, sling your knapsack of jokes over your shoulder, and follow the rail tracks to the horizon never to darken a comedy club door as long as the blood moves in your vein. Neither should you return from Absolute Ottawa with a head full of dreams thinking that it’s about damn time you got a “Comedy Now!” and who do those half-wits think they are for ignoring you for so long. One’s a false negative, the other a false positive. The last time I hosted at AC-TO, it felt like Ottawa in terms of the layout, the close seating, the food quality. From a club standpoint, this was Ottawa-West-and-South-a-Bit. The crowd, though? Same old Toronto. A little more critical. A little more reserved. You could work them out eventually, but definitely a harder graft. Last night’s Pro-Am night at AC-TO was an utter turnaround and, for not just the first time ever, I totally lost track of where I was.
The room was packed to about the size of a sold-out Ottawa room. Toronto’s got more blast doors it can open to put more people in, but the numbers seemed to settle to that of a usual (yes, usual!) sold out Pro-Am show in Ottawa. As soon as the lights went out, a cheer went up. A cheer? In Toronto? This can’t be happening. Someone’s accidentally swapped audiences between the two clubs and right now Ottawa is wondering why everyone in the Preston room is so damn quiet. I hit the stage and got the first applause break of the night sometime around the 5-7 mark. The crowd was up for it. The clutch of comics also delivered the goods and the crowd took it with much needed life, laughter, and applause. I was stunned. So were the Doo Wops. The headliners finished their teaser spot as shocked as I. We all stood together wondering exactly what happened, where we were, and what the rest of the week was going to hold.
Heck, even the hecklers were fun to deal with. The drunk woman from Brisbane, Australia and her coven just needed gentle reminders that they were to put a sock in it, but they were harmless. Sure they got a bit lippy, but they were far from malicious or hurtful. Thanks to Shane Copland (first time seeing him), Ron Fromstein (long-time friend), Alex Roach (first time introducing him to a stage not on a Sunday with $10 pitchers and half-price wings), Justin Renwick (we will always have Orillia, darling), Brendan McKeigan (enjoy Sudbury) and Mike Tackas (Winner two-years running of the “Jason Laurans Memorial Talk-tioneer Fasty-Speaky Contest” Also, enjoy Sudbury!) for making the show everything it should be. Fun.