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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Mar. 17: Susan Thompson

Is Thompson an Irish name? It better be because our guest tonight on St. Patrick's Day is Susan Thompson. Susan is a professional middleman. What's that you say? I don't know. She does. We'll find out exactly tonight but I know she's been a standup comedian (and probably still is if I know standup comedians), I know she's also been a club manager (I don't think she still is), and also sees the stage from an industry point of view. Which is to say she's a booker/producer. Don't worry, we'll get to the bottom of it all tonight.

We're on the air at 11 pm on CFRO 100.5 FM. If your old-timey radio is on the fritz, fire us up via livestream at coopradio.org or search for us on the TuneIn Radio app. They'll both do the job.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Podcast episode 525ish: Lady Rizo

What a perfect guest Lady Rizo was. She was raw and honest, funny, willing to go anywhere, and, as always, quick as a whip. Rizo (pronounced Reezo, but she's easy) was a Lady before the more famous Lady Blah-Blah. She took time away from the New York cabaret scene to spend almost half a year in Vancouver, where she starred in Bacio Rosso. We luckily got her in studio in her final week here. Growing up as Amelia Zirin-Brown in Oregon, she started her career in Seattle before heading to NYC. We talk about her experiences recording with the likes of Yo-Yo Ma, Moby, and Reggie Watts. She tells us about growing up among hippies. And she even sings us a little ditty. Great show.

You can listen right here, but maybe you want to savour it or take it with you on a walk. In that case, go download the show on iTunes or Stitcher or wherever you normally get your podcasts. We'll be there. Give us a rating, too, while you're at it.


Mar. 10: Amy Shostak & Tom Hill

I always love having improvisers on the show because there are no lines to memorize. As I'm sure you're all aware, there's a script for every other show. Tonight we've got a couple of Blind Tiger improvisers and instructors, Amy Shostak and Tom Hill. Amy is currently teaching a improv course for moms. We'll find out what that's all about and if moms improvise any differently than motherless ladies and men. Tom is also a member of the two-man group Hip.Bang! We've had his partner Devin MacKenzie on before so tonight he gets the attention.

This show is so old ("How old is it?!"), when we first started I had to remind listeners twice a year about the time change. You could go all day without remembering to put your clock forward or backward. These days you don't have to know. The robots do it for you. So when 11 pm hits tonight, you'll know to tune to CFRO 100.5 FM for What's So Funny? You can also livestream us at coopradio.org or find us on the TuneIn Radio app.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Podcast episode 524ish: Lisa Frischemeier

Our first German comedian graces our studio in this episode. Lisa Frischemeier hasn't been doing standup all that long, but she's making a name for herself in the English-speaking Berlin standup rooms. We learn about her hometown of Duisberg (the New Jersey of Germany), a bit about Muenster, and some about Berlin and a bit about Istanbul. But forget about all that learnin'; we had fun. We also talk about cookbooks and abortion!

Have a listen. Click below or download us on your favourite podcast dispensary. We'll be there.


Sunday, March 3, 2019

Mar. 3: Lady Rizo

We've got a powerhouse on the show tonight. In our almost 15 years on the air, tonight's guest will be the first to have recorded with Yo-Yo Ma, Moby, and Reggie Watts. The first to have made an album at the famed Royal Studios in Memphis. The first who has had a solo residency at Joe's Pub in New York City. (But not the first to have performed at the Melbourne Comedy Festival.) The New York Times wrote: "Lady Rizo is a formidable belter who can sustain phrases and notes even when sprawled on her back on a piano and scissoring her legs". You might know Lady Rizo as the hostess extraordinaire at Bacio Rosso at Queen Elizabeth Park. I saw her there in November and was blown away not only by her voice, but also her extremely quick wit. She's hilarious. Tonight we'll get to know all about her.

We're on the air, as usual, at 11 pm on CFRO 100.5 FM. If you're in, say, Oregon or Tennessee or New York, you can listen in via livestream at coopradio.org or find us on the TuneIn Radio (search for "CFRO"). If it's past your bedtime, give us a week and it'll be up in podcast format and you can listen whenever you damn well feel like it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Update: Canada laughs again

What a difference a day makes.

And what a job Canadian comedians can do when they stick together.

I just received an update from Just For Laughs on the blowback from comics across Canada due to the change to the Canada Laughs SiriusXM channel. Since JFL's involvement with the station, they had veered it away from the 100% Canadian content it had been providing all these years. This got comedians up in arms because it would mean a decrease in their much-needed royalties.

Here's their statement in full:


February 27, 2018 [sic]

Statement by Bruce Hills, President of Just For Laughs and John Lewis, SVP of Programing and Operations, SiriusXM Canada

Today, we wish to announce our new strategy for Canadian Comedy on SiriusXM Canada.
  • The new channel on SiriusXM 168 will be called Just For Laughs Canada and it will showcase 100 per cent Canadian content;
  • All the content will be produced by Canadian artists independent of the Just For Laughs catalogue; and
  • Canadian artists will be eligible for the same royalties as under the previous channel.
We spoke with Sandra Battaglini from the Canadian Association of Stand-ip Comedians (CASC) and informed her of our plans for the channel.
Quotes
“We’ve listened carefully to the concerns of Canadian artists and regret the stress we have caused the comedy community. We are invested in the growth of Canada’s comedy industry and are working to include even more Canadian talent in all our initiatives. To that end, we will continue to engage directly with the industry and work with CASC to strengthen and advance Canadian comedy.” – Bruce Hills, President of Just For Laughs

“Our partnership with Just For Laughs Canada provides an opportunity to bring Canada’s comedic talent to a larger audience in Canada and the United States. We understand the importance our platform has to comedians in Canada, and along with Just For Laughs, we will continue to work closely with that community to ensure its success.” – John Lewis, SVP of Programing and Operations, SiriusXM Canada

I contacted Dave Nystrom, a standup comic based in Calgary, and read him the press release. He was dumbfounded. And, needless to say, very pleased.

"Wow... Holy crap... Awesome... That's amazing," he said. "So we basically got it back to exactly what it was."

Well, except for now it's called Just For Laughs Canada, instead of Canada Laughs, but hey, what's in a name?

"I feel like Norma Rae right now," Nystrom joked.

Which is what we all wanted. Comedians can go back to being funny again. Yay!

Kumbaya, everyone.

UPDATE ON THE UPDATE (Feb. 28): The reversion back to the original format will take place at midnight tonight, February 28/March 1, 2019. As for the name change from Canada Laughs to Just For Laughs Radio, this will "take some time" according to JFL press relations, "due to the mechanics of Sirius USA." They have been told the rebranding will take place at the end of March but haven't been given an exact date yet.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Canada Cries

Fresh off the successful two-week JFL Northwest Comedy Festival, it was leaked, and then announced, that Just For Laughs has formed a partnership with Canada Laughs, the SiriusXM Canada station that, up until recently, played 100 percent Canadian independent comedy. The new Just For Laughs Radio will feature archival clips from their vault, reducing the number of hours – and residuals – from Canadian standup comedians, many of whom rely on the revenue to keep them afloat.

Talk about your brou-haha.

If nothing else, the move has galvanized the Canadian comedy community like never before. One of the most vocal on social media is former Vancouver comic Dave Nystrom, who recently moved to Calgary after a decade in Los Angeles.

“We were given no notice on this,” he said. “The main point for me and for a lot of the comics is they’re not adhering to CanCon. I mean, they are kind of adhering to CanCon rules but they’re circumventing it by airing American acts.”

On Monday, the public relations department of Just For Laughs passed on to me several prepared comments, saying representatives from both Just For Laughs and SiriusXM couldn’t speak with me due to the volume of requests they’ve been receiving. I have since submitted a list of 30 questions I had planned on asking the representatives. Until such time as they’re answered, we’ll go by the official comments. “SiriusXM has no CRTC obligation to keep a comedy channel,” one comment reads.

Another comment says, “We have asked [SiriusXM host, producer and standup comic] Ben Miner to curate new content for the channel that will feature Canadian releases from establishing and emerging Canadian comedians who produced content independently of JFL, as well as performances for Just For Laughs from the past to today.”

Miner, a beloved figure on the scene who also runs the yearly SiriusXM Top Comic competition, couldn’t be reached for comment so as of press time, we don’t know what percentage of airtime will feature the independent releases.

Before the official comments, Nystrom said of Miner, “He’s been the biggest champion for Canadian comedy. Everybody loves Ben. He’s been the one who’s fought for us all along to get our albums in there.”

Residuals from airplay has ranged from a couple thousand dollars to $60,000 US a year, says Nystrom.

“It was always our intention that the new channel would be majority Canadian and that comedians would receive royalties on both independently produced albums, as they always have, as well as Canadian performances from the JFL library,” another official comment reads. So while that's positive, it still is less than the 100 percent it was up until now.

One thing that galls many of the comedians is how this all came as a total surprise.

“If 50 percent of your income is about to disappear, that’s something anybody in any profession would want to know,” says Nystrom. “If we were informed, maybe we could have had conversations with them on how to find a better option. Or something. I’m sure we’d put our heads together and instead of having this fight, we would have had a discussion to try and figure out a better approach that works for everybody.”

On their end, JFL says, “Together, both companies regret not notifying comedians earlier of the decision.”

According to the official comments, and to a video new JFL owner Howie Mandel released on Sunday, SiriusXM was looking to attract a larger audience for the channel and approached JFL about partnering. JFL comments, “In preparation for the new channel, SiriusXM removed more than 25% of their original talk programming to open up 30 hours of additional airtime to program comedy clips.”

“If it wasn’t working before for them from their end of it,” says Nystrom, “I don’t know what that means exactly but I don’t imagine they’re just going to go back to how it was, but we would like to be part of the conversation, we would like there to be some sort of compromise. And something that is truly Canadian, not American acts recorded in Canada.”

While preparing this story, I streamed Canada Laughs. It's a small sample size, but out of 17 tracks, 11 were Canadian (or 65%): Debra DiGiovanni, Ana-Marija Stojic, Brent Butt, Jeff McEnery, Ron James, Winston Spear, Dave Merheje, Jeremy Hotz, Tim Nutt, DeAnne Smith, and Rebecca Kohler, while six were non-Canadian: Marc Maron, Jimmy Carr, Colin Quinn, Jim Jefferies, Ed Byrne, and Dylan Moran. And all appeared to be from JFL recordings rather than independent albums released by the comedians themselves.

The final comment from the JFL publicity department reads, “Our goal with the channel is to increase audience which will provide greater exposure for Canadian talent that should translate into more and more opportunities.”

It’s unclear now how playing less than 100 percent Canadian content will provide greater exposure for Canadian talent but maybe they feel drawing listeners in with famous international names will expose them to the Canadian names they might not otherwise be familiar with.

As hot under the collar as the comedians are today, maybe the situation will resolve itself. Maybe it won’t. Maybe the public perception of Just For Laughs will erode. Maybe this will just be a blip. For the sake of the country’s comedy industry, we can hope the two sides will soon look back at this ugly bit of business and, well, laugh.

“I want Just For Laughs and Canadian comedy to have a great relationship,” says Nystrom. “I would love it if this was the spark for some kind of change that lifted Canadian comedy up and Just For Laughs was a part of that. I’m not trying to paint them as an evil empire or anything like that. I think they’re not handling things the right way and I just want that to change.”


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Sunday, February 24, 2019

Feb. 24: Lisa Frischemeier

We've got another international episode for you tonight. It's our first ever German standup comic. Lisa Frischemeier hails from Berlin and is town for the week, maybe a tad jet-lagged but we'll try to keep her awake. We'll find out all about the Teutonic standup scene and she'll dispel the notion that German's have no sense of humour.

Tune in to CFRO 100.5 FM tonight from 11 to midnight. If you're in Deutschland, don't fret. You can still hear this episode live, but nine hours in the future, from 8 to 9 am. Livestream us at coopradio.org or find us on the TuneIn Radio app over your morning Kaffee.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Podcast episode 523ish: Ed Hill

In this episode, standup comic Ed Hill marks his third appearance with us. He came by to talk about the upcoming recording of his third comedy album, but of course we talk about so much more. He's a Vancouver comedian who plays all over the US but has no ambition to live there. He's happy here. And who can blame him? He also shares with us his favourite street joke. It also happens to be the only street joke he knows. But it's a good one!

Have a listen. Go download us wherever you get your podcasts. Or you can always click below to get started.


Sunday, February 3, 2019

Feb. 3: Ed Hill

Ed Hill has been with us twice before. Today he writes to confirm his appearance tonight and say, "Still 9 pm?" No! We're still on at 11 pm, as we have been for the past 14 years! To paraphrase Rodney, we get no respect. If you tune in to CFRO 100.5 FM at 11 tonight, you'll hear us talking to Ed for the first time since 2016. He's recording a new album at the Havana on Commercial Drive in Vancouver on Feb. 22nd & 23rd. We'll find out who Smiley is, and catch up on what he's been up to the past three years (besides not tuning in to What's So Funny?!).

If you don't have an old-fashioned radio, you can always livestream us at coopradio.org or listen in via the TuneIn Radio app.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Podcast episode 522ish: Colin Heath

In this episode we go on a journey throughout Colin Heath's career, from junior high school productions to Vancouver theatre to international stops with Cirque du Soleil. Colin is a clown in the best sense of the word. He joined us freshly scrubbed of his painted-on moustache he sports at Bacio Rosso and we discussed why people are afraid of clowns, reminisced about the good old days at Oak Bay high, he told us how he ended up residing in Magog, Quebec, and how audiences react to comedy differently all over the world. We also learned that we have another connection with Heath: his daughter, actress Lili Beaudoin, is the sweetheart of friend to What's So Funny? Ryan Beil. Small world.

Listen to the episode right here and now. Or you can download it at iTunes, Stitcher, Podbean, or wherever you find fine quality podcasts.


Sunday, January 27, 2019

Jan. 27: Colin Heath

Our first clown! Tonight on the show our very special guest is the esteemed Colin Heath, an actor/musician/artist/clown. I mean, sidekick Sam Tonning is a clown in his own lovable way, but Colin is a professional. Perhaps you've seen him acting in Axis Theatre's "The Number 14" (which he also co-wrote), TV's Stargate as Alien, or in Cirque du Soleil somewhere in the world. The Victoria native, who now resides in Montreal, is in Vancouver performing in Bacio Rosso at Queen Elizabeth Park. We'll talk about all that, plus a special connection he and I have.

We're on the air at 11 pm on CFRO 100.5 FM here in sunny Vancouver. Tune in on your radio box or livestream us at coopradio.org or find us on the TuneIn Radio app.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Podcast episode 521ish: Brittany Lyseng

We had a great talk with our first guest of 2019, Calgary's own Brittany Lyseng. We discussed the perils of elevator and escalator travel, weird insects in fruit boxes, girls rugby, nice teachers, and putting together a Canadian Blue Collar Comedy show, among other topics. Brittany is at Yuk Yuk's Vancouver this weekend recording her first album. I do believe she's the first non-604 area code resident on the 604 record label.

Check it out below or on iTunes or Stitcher or Podbean or wherever you can find it.


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Jan. 13: Brittany Lyseng

Our first guest of 2019 is an out-of-towner. Brittany Lyseng joins us in studio all the way from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It's her first time on the show so we'll find out all about her, from her humble beginnings in heavy duty construction to her finals in the Sirius-XM Top Comic competition. Brittany was in the area headlining the Yuk Yuk's in Abbotsford this week and will be at the downtown club next weekend recording an album.

We're on the air at 100.5 FM tonight at 11 pm. Friends and family and fans of Lyseng's can listen all the way from Alberta by livestreaming us on coopradio.org or finding us on the TuneIn Radio app.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Podcast episode 520ish: Dave Nystrom

Our latest podcast episode sees old friend Dave Nystrom back in studio after a 14-year absense. What? Fourteen years? How is that possible? Well, he did guest five years ago, but we recorded that off-site. Dave was back in town on a Sunday ahead of his New Year's Eve gig at Lafflines so it was a no-brainer to bring him in. The Thunder Bay native Nystrom started his standup career right here in Vancouver. He then lived for a decade in Hollywood, before moving to Calgary a few years ago to raise his thirty children... Okay, maybe I exaggerate but anything over two kids may as well be thirty. In this episode, he tells us about the perils of parenthood, living amongst the stars in LA, and reminisces about the Urban Well days in Vancouver.

Have a listen. Right here or go download the episode at iTunes, Stitcher or Podbean. Ask for "What's So Funny?" with a question mark. Free while supplies last.


Podcast episode 519ish: Harry Doupe

Relive the glory of 2018 with our regular year-end (or thereabouts) guest Harry Doupe. Come for the recap; stay for the stories. Harry's always got lots of stories and reminiscences from his many years in Canadian show business. And for the second year in a row, he's come bearing gifts. Such a thoughtful guy. It's always a treat when he joins us. I don't have to prepare much. I just throw out a name or topic and he's off to the races. That's his real gift.

And our gift to you is this episode. Enjoy it, and pass it on to your loved ones. You can listen on the link below or go download us at iTunes or Stitcher or Podbean.