The Grindstone Theatre's first Comedy Festival kicks off on Wed., May 8. // Courtesy of Grindstone Theatre

Grindstone Theatre holding first annual comedy festival

Grindstone Comedy Festival
Grindstone Theatre; Wed., May 8 – Sat., May 11

By Jake Pesaruk

A wave of open mics, troupes, and up-and-comers are taking the city’s comedy scene by storm—yet a majority of these performers operate as free-range funny people, often spread across numerous venues and events. The Grindstone Theatre has been a humour hub for just a little over a year, and is planning to mainline the best the city has to offer and more to the public, with its very first comedy festival.

The Grindstone’s management team, which has been operating the theatre as equal parts venue and college for new comedians to learn the trade, is diligently taking steps to ensure that it will not only showcase the best of what Edmonton has, but also lock in some talent from out of town to jump-start summer and the festival season.

“We get to bring in some high-quality names, which gives us an opportunity to shake things up from our normal weekly acts, which are more locally focused,” says Byron Martin, the Grindstone’s artistic director.

The usual hurdles of setting up an event of this scale are ever present, but that hasn’t stopped creative momentum and exploration—as the festival’s organizers are not only aiming for the public to see acts they don’t see on a regular basis, but are also presenting an opportunity for Grindstone to step out of its comfort zone as well.

“We were originally improv based back in the day, so to have stand-up and sketch comedy get incredibly involved with this festival was not only important, but something new for us as well,” says Martin.

Comedians such as Peter Oldring and Rebecca Kohler are some of the out-of-town talent, and familiar faces such as the comedy troupe Don’t Not Talk to Strangers, and Kathleen Mcgee and Adam Dyck make up just a sliver of the local comedians who will be taking the stage over the period of the festival. With that in mind, not all of Edmonton’s comedic collective could be squeezed in, a fact that the Grindstone team is aware of and aims to address over time.

“The difficulty of hosting something like this is you want to have everyone involved, something we know we can’t do. There’s so much room for growth, and in the future we know we can expand on it,” says Joses Martin, Byron’s brother and general manager of the Grindstone Theatre.

The four-day event aims to mix all of the best elements of what a comedy event can be, with a variety of workshops, panels and even brunches.

“It’s about encouraging the local community and bringing in acts that are rare. We need it and want to make sure that we include all comedic formats in what we’re doing,” Joses says.

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