Dan Quinn founded the Snowed In Comedy Tour a decade ago with the aim of combining his two passions of stand-up and snowboarding.
Sure, he let himself daydream about turning the regional tour of B.C. ski towns into a national affair, but he never thought it would actually get there some day.
"We've been doing it slowly; we keep adding dates a little bit everywhere. It's one of those things that if people show up, then we can go back," says Quinn, 43. "We're at the point now where we're completely sold out and can't even have more people."
Snowed In brings four international touring comedians — Craig Campbell, Paul Myrehaug and Pete Zedlacher join Quinn on the first leg of the tour — to their favourite ski slopes.
It's a way for the stand-ups to gain some exposure in non-traditional comedy markets while also shredding some epic pow. But after 10 years of incremental growth, Snowed In has evolved into one of the largest comedy tours in Canada, and now counts decidedly non-ski towns on its cross-country jaunt, hitting Saskatchewan and, for the first time, Manitoba and Ontario as well.
And it's all been done with virtually no TV exposure or financial backing from a major corporate sponsor.
"It's been an entire word-of-mouth, ground-up thing," Quinn explains. "Most people get famous by getting something on Netflix or landing a movie — they catch a lucky break. We're not doing it through lucky breaks; we're doing it by making people laugh year after year."
This is the interesting intersection that Snowed In's veteran comics find themselves in: they aren't quite household names, and yet their decades of collective experience means that crowds clamour to have them return to their towns after seeing them live.
"I compare it to playing on the Florida Panthers. You're in the game, but you're not famous," says Myrehaug, a former winner of the Great Canadian Laugh Off. This was exemplified on last year's tour when Myrehaug was walking to a show in Victoria at the 1,400-seat Royal Theatre alongside the sell-out crowd, when a stranger tapped him on the shoulder and said: "These guys are great. Have you seen them before?" The man didn't realize Myrehaug was one of the "guys," having performed on the tour four times previously.
"We're a theatre sensation — without the fame," he quips.
Another benefit of the tour is it exposes the comics to smaller markets hungry for entertainment offerings. "We go into underserved communities, so people are looking for something, but we're bringing them the same quality show you would get in New York, L.A., or Vancouver. And sometimes better, because most shows wouldn't have all four of us on it," Quinn says.
"It's great that audiences remember us. People think one of the hardest things as a performer is to get people to like you. That's not the case. It's getting them to remember you."
Whistler has become a mainstay of Snowed In's West Coast leg, doubling its original two-night run to four nights at the GLC. Always a hot ticket, the shows give the comics the chance to wax about their second-favourite pastime after telling jokes.
"Whistler's one of my favourites because (my set) seems to grow a little bit every time. I talk about Australians, specifically. I talk about snowboarding. I talk about how ridiculous it is that we all have GoPros," says Myrehaug. "In the resort towns, the sets get a lot of easier, because I can talk specifically about the sport I love."
Of course, it doesn't hurt that the boys get to ride some gnarly terrain at every resort they hit. They've cat-skied in Skeena, heli-boarded in Revelstoke, and rocked Whistler's iconic terrain park. It's part of the reason why bringing new comics onto the tour is almost an impossible mission.
"The truth is no one's really giving up their spot. Guys come up to me telling me they want to do the tour and sharing their snowboard stories... except most of them don't even snowboard! 'I went snowboarding six years ago.' Yeah, well, I'm going heli-skiing next week," says Quinn.
The Snowed In Comedy Tour hits the GLC over four nights, starting Jan. 15 and wrapping up its final show on Jan. 18. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $30, available at snowedincomedytour.com.
For the Tuesday, Jan. 16 show, legendary action-sport photographer Scott Serfas will be giving away a print of his unforgettable shot of snowboarder John Jackson's 36-metre (120-foot) cliff drop that graced the cover of TransWorld Snowboarding magazine's 200th issue.