Doc Review: The Mayor of Comedy
The Mayor of Comedy
Documentary Film Review by Andrew Shaw
Last night I was treated to a private screening of The Mayor of Comedy, a documentary by Matt Kelly about the rise of the Canadian Association of Stand-Up Comedians (CASC), and its co-founder Sandra Battaglini.
The film is well shot and very informative. If you haven’t been following the CASC story – it’s a recently founded grass roots association dedicated to advocating for the Canadian stand-up comedy industry.
The documentary inserts the viewer directly into the dilemma by following the story of Ms. Battaglini as a professional comedian and the perils of the industry for aspiring Canadian talent.
The film does a great job of highlighting the ways comedy artists are supposed to make money, and the institutional barriers that make it tough for talent to break out of Canada.
At the center of the dilemma is the non-parity of USA vs. Canada in terms of what is required to perform across the border.
An American comedian coming to perform in Canada can pay $40 and arrive without issues. A Canadian looking to perform in the USA has to jump through flaming hoops of bureaucracy and pay as much as $10,000 to access the market to the south, plus generate letters of support and provide proof of professional credits.
This non-parity keeps our talent largely in the North and out of the American spotlight.
Canada’s contribution to comedy culture is well documented.
The film highlighting Canadian industry leaders such as Just for Laughs, Yuk-Yuks and the history of Canadian comedy TV shows including a specific case study economic impact report highlighting the very popular ‘Mr. D.’ production.
The take-away is simple, one successful televisual production in the comedy arts employs as many people as an average unionized auto worker factory.
It’s really hard to deny the value of comedy in Canada, and the artists that we produce. It’s no secret that much of the comedy writing talent that features on television and streaming networks is of Canadian origin, but English Canada is apparently asleep at the switch when it comes to developing an industry around this raw natural resource.
The film is an expose of the default attitude… “You’ve got to go to the USA to get recognized,” while also doing a great job of showing the dilemma that it’s not an easy thing to achieve. With the financial and governmental barriers, it’s simply out of reach for the majority of Canadian performers.
For those who take the risk of applying to the USA for work permits, it means an arduous path including moving to the USA and remaining there waiting for approvals, often causing economic losses from having to turn-down work offers back home. Top Canadian artists such as Debra DiGiovanni literally are stuck in the USA while awaiting work visa application approval. If they leave to do a gig outside of the USA it invalidates the application.
It’s a one-sided, well crafted catch 22 in favor of American talent.
The free flow of American talent has been quick to take over the industry, leaving aspiring Canadians to vie for opening for these larger acts, if they’re lucky enough to get on the show card. Which is also easier said than done.
On the commercial argument, whoever can fill the venue is typically who gets a headliner role in shows, festivals and one-offs. To get the notoriety of a headliner, the path to success is via America.
This attitude is both reinforced and parroted across the industry as status quo.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
This documentary does a great job showing how the Canadian Government for decades didn’t know that Stand-Up Comedy wasn’t a recognized art-form.
One strong story arc culminates with the reading of the CASC petition in the house of commons directly from Sandra and CASC’s advocacy efforts – to get stand-up comedy recognized as an official art form.
Definitely two thumbs up and a must-see if you’re involved in the industry.
This documentary is a total eye-opener – challenging the government of Canada to review the rules and take a second look at how arts funding can be improved, to develop Canada’s comedy industry.
The film features commentary from Sandra Battaglini, Adam Growe, Barry Taylor, Phil Luzi, Debra DiGiovanni, Scott Thompson, Derek Edwards, Aisha Brown, Steve Patterson and other noteworthy Canadian comedians.
Ottawa Preview Screening; Nov. 1st 2019 – 7pm; Canadian Film Festival 2019 #OCanFilmFest2019
Hamilton Preview Screening; Nov. 4th 2019 – 7pm Staircase Cafe Theatre
Toronto Preview Screening; Nov. 14th 2019 – 9PM The Fox Theatre
Canadian Association of Stand-up Comedians (CASC)
The Mayor of Comedy (Official Website)