A&E » Arts

Would-be comics vie for $1,000 at Whistler Comedy Showdown

Inaugural competition part of World Ski and Snowboard Festival



Megan Fullerton and Tara O'Doherty — co-hosts of the upcoming inaugural Whistler Comedy Showdown — know what it takes to get up in front of a crowd and tell jokes.

"The interesting thing is, the first time is scary, but it's the second time that's actually scarier," Fullerton says.

"Because you almost don't know what you're in for the first time, so you kind of do it, you get through it and you kind of blank out... the second time you think 'I'm doing this to myself voluntarily.'"

O'Doherty is more blunt in her assessment of the experience.

"I read somewhere that people would rather die than do standup comedy," she says.

"I'd rather get a filling than do standup."

This time around, Fullerton and O'Doherty won't be the ones being scrutinized for their humour — they'll be overseeing the 14 brave souls who are competing for cash prizes over three nights from March 31 to April 14.

It starts with two preliminary rounds at Buffalo Bills on March 31 and April 7 — where three competitors from each night will move on to the following round — and wraps up April 14 with the final showdown, which is part of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF).

Prizes include $1,000 for first place, $500 for second and $250 for third.

Competitors range from your average Aussie snowboarder to "a man in his 60s who is a retired badass," Fullerton says.

"We have women, we have men, and yeah, it's literally all walks of life," she says.

"This town is full of characters, and I think these shows will definitely bring out the usual characters of town, the usual suspects," O'Doherty adds.

Each night of the showdown will also feature a professional comedian headliner — Harry Doupe on March 31, Jonathan Baum on April 7 and Kelly Dyer on April 14.

"We're just thrilled, because we want people to come out and support standup comedy, but with the amateurs you never know what's going to happen," Fullerton says.

"So it's just great to kind of close the show with, 'Here's what you could become, children.' It's inspirational, it really is."

But both Fullerton and O'Doherty say there are some amateurs competing who already have the potential to reach that level themselves.

"Absolutely. Without a doubt," O'Doherty says.

"When you see the two qualifying shows you'll see that, you really will, but it takes time," Fullerton adds.

"When people get up there and they tell jokes it seems so easy, but it's really, you know, blood, sweat and tears. They work really hard on the routine. The headliners are meant to close the show and give us all a laugh, but they really are meant to inspire all the comics who have been on, because all three of those guys started as amateurs, right?

"So when you watch someone who has really honed their skills; it's really inspiring."

Fullerton said her first time doing standup was in Toronto at a competition similar to this one.

"It was literally my first time doing standup," she says.

"The second year I went in it I actually made it to the finals and came third. We've kind of got that range too, so you can be a first timer and it's a great learning experience, but you can also use it and then try it again and just improve."

A panel of judges will choose the winners.

"We just really wanted it to be... judges looking at every comic fairly as opposed to, like, a crowd voting, where someone might have 20 friends in the crowd," Fullerton says.

Cover for the preliminary rounds is a $5 minimum donation to Zero Ceiling.

Tickets for the finals are $20 and are already on sale at www.wssf.com.

"We just really want people to come out and support local funny characters," O'Doherty says.

"It will be a great night out, young or old... It's going to be hilarious in there."

And even though the co-hosts are expecting a more merciful crowd than one might find at your average comedy club, they're both still anticipating some nerves from the competitors.

"I did it for years, and I'm not kidding, if you're not feeling that... I mean, that's part of it," Fullerton says.

"I said to Tara we should have had the show sponsored by Immodium."

"It's true," O'Doherty says.

"Or Pepto Bismol or something. There's always next year, Pepto Bismol, if you're listening."

For more information check out the Whistler Comedy Showdown page on Facebook.