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Spotlight on Halifax Comedy Fest

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Comedy Fest host, Mark Critch of This Hour Has 22 Minutes

The annual Halifax Comedy Festival is one of the longest-running comedy festivals in Canada. Every April it brings together comedians from near and far to entertain festival-goers over four days and fourteen venues across the city of Halifax. Executive Producer Geoff D’Eon shares his thoughts on working with this festival.

Tell us about the festival
The Halifax Comedy Fest has been going for more than 20 years now.  It’s a fun week in late April that I always look forward to. Who doesn’t need a laugh at the tail end of a Halifax winter!

Tell us about your team
The TV series is put together by a skilled and smart group of Nova Scotians. It’s really three teams working in tandem. There’s the Comedy Fest producers themselves, Premiere Entertainment Group (PEG). Kim Hendrickson and Christina Edwards lead the charge there, and they do a fantastic job handling all the festival logistics, talent travel and accommodation, venue booking and so on.

Then there’s the TV side of things. My company produces the series, working with some of the best in the business. Moya Walsh is a superb TV producer, and I have a totally dependable and experienced financial team led by Len MacKeigan and Sharlene Woods. Almost everyone we hire is from around here. This year Cape Bretoner Al MacLean took over the director’s chair. These are all people I have known for decades, and I would trust them with my life.

The third component is the broadcaster. CBC commissions this series on a year-to-year basis. We work very closely with both the network and also with the CBC Halifax plant, which provides great technicians and facilities. In addition to all this, there are local suppliers we deal with, including Tour Tech 2015, 902 Post, The Hideout Studios, The Casino, The Spatz Theatre, The Seahorse Tavern, The Lower Deck, The Westin Hotel, photographers, make-up artists, riggers, food suppliers, drivers and so on. In all, it takes about 150 people to make the series the success it is. It’s everything from pulling cables to writing punchlines.

Comedy Gala taping at the Spatz Theatre, Halifax

What drew you to working on this production?
In 25 years at the CBC I did news, documentaries, variety and comedy shows of all kinds. I always loved working on this show.  Stand-up comedy is such a high-wire act, and it’s a world populated with characters. About 14 years ago Moya and I re-engineered the show, switched up the format, made it snappier. CBC only commissions three comedy festivals from the dozens that are out there across the country, so we are fortunate. But we work hard to keep the production values high, the team is the best, and Halifax looks great on TV.

When does the CBC air the series?
It varies from year to year. Often, they screen the episodes during the hockey playoffs. But the thing is, these episode are versatile, and they work in many different time slots. Because of that, they get repeated a lot. Last year, episodes of the Halifax Comedy Fest aired a total of 54 times. That’s a ton of airtime! And it’s a lot of exposure for Halifax and Nova Scotia on the public broadcaster when you consider that about 350,000 Canadians watch every time an episode is played. CBC is airing the series on Tuesdays at 9:30pm in August and September. Check your local listings or watch them online. It’s funny stuff wherever you find it.

The Control Room inside the HD Mobile truck, recording at Casino Nova Scotia 2016

What’s your favorite thing about the festival?
So many things. It’s such a pleasure to work with motivated, talented and creative people. Mark Critch (This Hour Has 22 Minutes) has to be one of the funniest people on the planet, and does an amazing job as the host of the live event. Some nights he has people in tears. As well, we meet comics from all over the country at different stages of their comedy careers, and we love seeing comics develop and grow to their full potential as the years go by. Another great thing is this: the sound of an audience laughing, having a good time, being forced to look at life in a fresh way because of the creative mind of a talented comic. That never gets old.

What are you most proud of? 
I’m proud of Nova Scotia’s creative community – filmmakers, musicians, comedians, writers, culinary geniuses, artists of all kinds. They make an inestimable contribution to Nova Scotia’s way of life. Culture is not some kind of frill, or luxury item. It is a key ingredient of who we are. It is the “awesome sauce”. It helps make Nova Scotia the kind of place people want to live. And importantly – it provides a decent living for a lot of Nova Scotians. Culture means business.

Go to the Premier Entertainment Group website for information on the festival, and watch excerpts from the series at cbc.ca/halifaxcomedyfest.

Halifax Comedy Festival 2017 is qualified to receive funding through the Nova Scotia Film & Television Production Incentive Fund. To learn more about filming in Nova Scotia and accessing the Nova Scotia Film & Television Production Incentive Fund please visit NSBI.ca/filmapplication

Use our Film Fund Estimator tool to estimate funding available for your Nova Scotia production.