This article is in praise of funny women. Canada’s produced a bunch of them too. From sketch to improv to stand-up, there are so many hilarious ladies with Canadian passports. In fact, there’s a whole festival happening this week in Toronto that’s all about women in comedy – I’m talking SheDot! It’s the second year of Canada’s first and only all female comedy fest and SiriusXM is very proud to be a sponsor! And while the fest does bring in some hilarious American comics (uh, Margaret Cho!!!), let’s talk about some of Canada’s great talent.
Canada’s produced some unbelievably good stand-ups. Go back about 25 years and you’ll find people such as Montreal’s Caroline Rhea repping Canadian comedy and carving out a great career. The truth is though, unfortunately there weren’t a lot of female stand-ups in Canada 20-30 years ago. In fact, they were few and far between. It wasn’t until the late 90’s that Canada really started to boast a more balanced scene with room rocking stand-ups such as Kate Davis, Kristeen Von Hagen, Martha Chaves, Christina Walkinshaw, Bonnie MacFarlane, Lisa Gay (my cousin!), Tracey MacDonald, Carla Collins, Cory Mack, Jo-Anna Downey, Heidi Foss and Shannon Laverty emerging as super-funny comedians. These ladies paved the way for the current generation, many of whom are preaching the gospel of Canadian comedy across the planet.
Katherine Ryan, Nikki Payne, Rebecca Kohler, Debra DiGiovanni and Dana Alexander are just a few of the amazing comics currently turning heads around the globe (and in some cases also living abroad). And what about the ladies currently residing in Canada? Allison Dore’s hilarious and one half of “Ward & Al” on Canada Talks SiriusXM 167. Sara Hennessey is ridiculously funny and has done a bunch of TV stuff.
Jen Grant is an in-demand headliner who’s toured across North America, Laurie Elliott is now one of the country’s busiest tv writers, and Steph Tolev works everywhere and signed a deal with NBC. Chantel Marostica’s unique and charming, Michelle Shaughnessy’s a proper joke-slinger, Julia Hladkowicz destroys audiences from coast to coast, Zabrinna Chevannes is fantastic and has also broken into the US scene.
Amanda Brooke Perrin is writing tv shows and rocking fests, Kathleen McGee shocks and slays crowds, while Erica Sigurdson can kill on any stage from clubs, to theatres, colleges she rocks them all. There are so many, and there’s a bunch I’m forgetting. A BUNCH (seriously though, please don’t get mad if I forgot to mention you. You’re terrific too).
Canada is just so damn good at comedy and our sketch game is on point too. Also, sorry to lump sketch and improv together, but I’ve noticed there’s a lot of crossover there. Let’s start with three sketch giants – Catherine O’Hara, Robin Duke and Deb McGrath. SCTV, in a lot of people’s opinion, was the best comedy show to ever come out of Canada and Robin and Catherine were a big part of that success. Robin still tours all over and actually now teaches comedy at Humber college in Toronto. Catherine returned to Canadian tv this year with Schitt’s Creek after years of success in US films and television.
Deb McGrath was an early Second City cast-member who went on to also have a great career as an actor and voice-talent. She’s influential and regularly works with up and coming comics too, which makes her rad. And trust me when I say there are a lot of talented comics kicking around. Inessa Frantowski is, in my opinion, at the head of the class when it comes to sketch & improv. She’s the type of comic who makes me feel lame. Inessa takes so many chances and never seems to miss.
Alanna Johnston is the most relentlessly funny human I’ve ever known, Kayla Lorette makes everything she’s a part of better, and Kathleen Phillips does some of the best character work I’ve ever seen. Ann Pornel’s a scene-stealer and works with the best sketch/improv troupes in Canada like the Sketchersons, Second City and Bad Dog Theatre Company. Naomi Snieckus is just the best on Mr. D and kills it on-stage too.
Sarah Hillier’s amazing and her work at Second City has justifiably won her awards. Evany Rosen can do stand-up, sketch AND improv and she’s terrific at all of them. Lauren Ash has broken into US network TV and studio movies and two of the best sketch troupes in Canada are all female (Ladystache and the Templeton Philharmonic) – like I said, sketch & improv in Canada are on point.
Celebrate our funny ladies, Canada – there’s a lot of them. They’re on tv shows all over the planet, in movies wordwide and on-stage doing what they do best – making people laugh. The SheDot Fest runs in Toronto until May 3rd, get your tickets at http://shedotfestival.com/. Good chat.