A funny thing happened in the Fraser Valley.
Or, more accurately, something hilarious is going to happen come this fall.
Harry Doupe, a former Fort Langley resident who now calls Chilliwack home, is getting set to host a Fraser Valley-wide comedy festival this fall, with shows scheduled in Langley, Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack and Hope.
The festival, which runs from Oct. 18-27, will feature some of Canada’s best-known stand-up comics performing alongside top Vancouver-area acts.
The first of two Langley shows will kick off the festival at the Fox and Fiddle at 19530 Langley Bypass, on Wednesday, Oct. 17. It will be headlined by John Cullen, with a set by Katie-Ellen Humphries.
On Oct. 24, the Chief Sepass Theatre will host The Big Show in the Fort. This event features Ivan Decker (Conan, 2018 Juno winner for Best Comedy Album, upcoming Netflix special), Graham Clark (HBO’s Funny As Hell, The Debaters, Yuk Yuks Great Canadian Laff Off winner), Sophie Buddle (Just For Laughs, Winnipeg Comedy Festival), Mayce Galoni (Halifax Comedy Festival, JFL Northwest) and Katrina Bennett (finalist BC’s Top Female Comic).
Shows are also scheduled for Oct. 18, 19, 20 and 27 in Chilliwack; Oct. 19 in Hope; Oct. 20 and 25 in Mission; and Oct. 26 in Abbotsford.
Tickets for the festival range in price from free to $37.
For more information, to view the schedule or purchase tickets visit www.fraservalleycomedyfestival.com.
The Times caught up with Doupe recently to talk about his plans and aspirations for the inaugural Fraser Valley Comedy Festival.
Langley Times: You’re billing this as the second largest comedy festival in B.C. Is it fair to say this seems like a pretty big deal?
Harry Doupe: I think at this early point it’s safe to say it’s more of a pretty big deal as an undertaking. We’ll do everything we can, but ultimately it will be up to the public to decide how big of a deal it is. Of course, my hope is that they decide to make it a large-sized deal.
LT: How did it all begin/come together — whose brainchild was it?
HD: When it comes to any ideas of mine, fear of displays of hubris generally prevent me from using brainchild as a describer, but yeah, it was my idea.
It’s the type of thing I’ve done a lot of over the years. I produced Brent Butt’s first theatre shows and tours, I produced the Canadian Comedy Awards and Festival for three years,and co-founded and produced the YYComedy Festival in Calgary from its birth in 2012 through its fifth year when it stood as, at that time, the fifth largest comedy festival in the country, so it’s something I know how to do.
Though most of my adult life I’ve lived elsewhere, I’ve always tried to be involved in the community, and now that I’ve been back living in the area it seemed like a worthwhile undertaking.
Plus, it’s a very under-served region.
LT: How long has it been in the works and how involved a process is it to put together nine days of comedy across a number of different communities and venues?
HD: It has been in the works since around Christmastime. As far as putting the acts together, that didn’t take long, I’ve worked with all of them enough over time, and did the bookings in fairly short order, once the festival dates were set.
Out of the top 10 acts that were on my wish list nine are coming, so that’s a pretty good ratio. The other one was unable to because of TV taping schedule. The main difficulty, (and it’s just the nuts and bolts of it, it’s no huge hardship) is getting the venues lined up.
The shows I wanted to put on meant we needed the biggest live event theatres in the region, and that became a little more complicated when the Summit Theatre at the Casino was converted into a bingo hall.
On the other side of that, happy to be going back to the Chief Sepass. The Langley Fine Arts School was previously Fort Langley JSS which was where I went to Jr. High, and I did a number of fundraisers for the Fine Arts school a while back and raised somewhere over $10,000 for them, so I have a connection to the venue.
Anyway, the best time frame was late September to end of October, so it’s just a matter of seeing where you can get the bookings for all the theatres to line up. There were two possible weeks where it could happen. One was the last week in September, but that would have put us up against JFL 42, which is Just For Laughs Toronto festival, and it would have cost us a number of the acts we wanted, so we took the other, which we’re happy with.
LT: In terms of the comedians who are participating, it looks like you have a pretty wide range of talent, from the well-known to some who are just getting their names out there. How important is it to you to showcase up and coming talent and is it fair to say those bigger names are crucial, too, to draw in crowds?
HD: As far as range of talent, you need to have big acts to sell tickets, and from a totally selfish standpoint, I’m really excited at the prospect of bringing acts in to a region they haven’t played before, but a mandate of mine in these situations has always been to present opportunities for local acts that just don’t exist otherwise. Each of the bar venue shows will feature local acts, and there are locals on the lineup of all four theatre shows. The idea is that most acts in the Valley, especially the further out you get, rarely have a chance to see acts of this stature, and never get a chance to see a show where they are all together, so you want to put them in a situation that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
It’s a great learning situation, a nice credit, and the type of thing that can keep you inspired. If we end up moving forward you like to have it as something for local performers to aspire to and shoot for, and there are other things we would like to add to expand upon that.
LT: Who, if anyone, are you most excited about having booked for the festival and why?
HD: As far as most excited, there isn’t any one — too many different things in different situations. There are a number of acts who have never played some of the places, so putting them on somewhere for the first time, and having those local crowds get a first chance to see them is right up there. For the two Langley shows, I’m excited by the quality of both shows. Having two acts with the credits of John Cullen and Katie-Ellen Humphries together for a pub show is gratifying to have put together.
For the Fort Langley show two things come to mind:
First off, strength of lineup. With Ivan Decker, Graham Clark, Sophie Buddle and Mayce Galoni all on one show, there’s likely not a show happening anywhere in the country that night that can touch it.
All four of them have done all of the big festivals, all have done Just For Laughs in Montreal, all have done many episodes of The Debaters. In addition, without hyperbole, there isn’t a comic anywhere in the country that is hotter than Ivan Decker. He was already that when he was confirmed for the dates in January. Then in March he became the first comic in 34 years to win a Juno Award for Best Comedy Album, he’s currently back performing again at Just For Laughs in Montreal, and recently became one of the first Canadian comics to ever tape their own Netflix special. So overall, to be able to present that show, in my home town, with that lineup, at my old school, at that affordable a price, well it doesn’t get too much better than that.
LT: You’ve referred to this as the inaugural festival, which I gather means you’re hoping to make it an annual event. What are your ambitions for it, if it’s not too early to ask.
HD: As far as inaugural festival it would absolutely be the goal to move forward, and the ability to grow the event and expand programming and opportunities, but that will ultimately be left in the hands of the public.
Far and away the hardest aspect of this is trying to find sponsors, and while we cherish the ones we have, overall the response has been disappointing. Without it, as much of my money as is possible has already been put into this, so, as black and white as a situation can be, if it doesn’t break even, it won’t happen again.
Of course, when you look at the shows we’re putting on and the prices we’re putting them on for, I’m hardly asking for charity here, but my great hope is that the public sees great value in what is being presented, and shows that don’t generally make it out their way, and so they buy tickets to some great shows and allow us to move to next year and beyond.