A showcase of Edmonton comedy was cancelled on Tuesday night, after an announcement that major changes would be coming to a Sirius XM Canada comedy channel.
Sirius XM Canada announced Monday that it would partner with Just For Laughs and rebrand its Canada Laughs channel as Just For Laughs Radio.
The Canada Laughs channel provided comics across the country with a source of revenue and exposure. With the changes, which include using performances from the Just For Laughs library, comics are worried that there will be less opportunity.
“Comics were getting royalties for the first time in Canadian history, and we were living off them,” said Kathleen McGee, an Edmonton-based comic.
“To have it suddenly stop really infuriated some comedians,” said McGee.
The show at Yuk Yuk’s Edmonton Tuesday was initially meant to be a Just For Laughs showcase, where bookers from the Montreal company attend and possibly hire local comedians for other shows. But after the backlash from the Just For Laughs announcement, all ten comedians who were booked at the showcase backed out of the event.
LISTEN: Montreal comic Derek Seguin (from CBC’s The Debaters) joins The Shift with Drex to talk about the changes to the Canada Laughs channel.
A comedy show still took place for those who had purchased tickets, but the Just For Laughs bookers were not involved.
“A lot of comics have made a lot of money based on residuals of their jokes being played,” said Henry Sir, another comedian who was set to showcase. “You want to stand with the other comics and feel you’re all a part of it together.”
In a statement to Global News, Just For Laughs said they respected the comedians decision to cancel the showcase.
“We are in the midst of engaging with the comedy community by clarifying misinformation and discussing with transparency how the new channel will operate,” said Charlene Coy, a spokesperson for Just For Laughs. “We do hope to reschedule the showcases in the coming weeks.”
The company added that a condition of the Just For Laughs Radio license requires it to be a majority Canadian content channel, but wouldn’t clarify what percentage of its content would be Canadian. It also said that international performers recorded at shows in Canada would not be counted as Canadian content.
Canadian comedians say the changes are disappointing, especially because of the high profile nature of Just For Laughs.
“To have our voices taken away from us by a festival that is supposed to be proudly Canadian is extremely disappointing,” said McGee.