When Jamie Stephens first floated the idea of creating a comedy festival in Brantford, he was laughed out of the room.
Three years later, the promoter had the last laugh as a sold-out Sanderson Centre took in the third and most successful Brantford Comedy Festival yet.
“To have a sellout in the third year is awesome,” Stephens said.
The large crowd did not go home disappointed, as four guest comedians and host Arthur Simeon kept audience members chuckling throughout the evening. Simeon drew big laughs will his tales of life as a Ugandan immigrant adjusting to the customs and climate of Canada. Snow pants, he learned, are not to be worn indoors.
Comic Daniel Woodrow won his spot on stage by beating out 20 competitors at the Rising Star competition, held earlier in the week at Gus and Guidos. The low-key comedian ruminated on the challenges of being “a white man trapped in a black man’s body.”
This Hour Has 22 Minutes and The Hour writer Nile Seguin took a few digs at Brantford’s swingers club.
“Brantford has a swingers club? Where have I been?” said an amused Seguin.
Headliner Derek Edwards lived up to his billing as one of the funniest people in the country with a witty set that explored the often exasperatingly funny side of grocery shopping, dog ownership and travel. Edwards’ understated delivery and winking humour was a perfect contrast to his more exuberant counterparts.
Calling it a “bittersweet moment,” Stephens presented the inaugural Gord Paynter Comedy Award, created to honour the late comedian, to Brantford’s favourite comic, Nikki Payne.
“I won an award? I don’t need to be funny now,” Payne quipped. But funny she was, as the audience howled through her raunchy set.
Paynter, as all comics do, drew his material from life’s challenges and hardships, Payne added.
“When comedy’s done really well, we’re all sitting here laughing and we know we’re all in this together. And I think Gord Paynter was exceptionally good at doing that,” she said.
The sellout was great news for the community, as part of the proceeds from ticket sales were donated to the Brant Community Healthcare System Foundation.
With momentum building and top talent on stage, Stephens is confident that his festival will keep Brantford laughing for many years to come.