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‘It’s the best community in the country’: Alberta comedy scene shining bright

Sterling Scott performs at Grindstone Theatre in Edmonton in March 2019.
Sterling Scott performs at Grindstone Theatre in Edmonton in March 2019. Morgan Black/Global News

Canada’s up-and-coming star comedians are growing their craft in Alberta.

That’s according to a comedy star in his own right, Sterling Scott.

Originally from Ontario, he started doing comedy in Edmonton 12 years ago. Since then, he’s been on every major festival in Canada, was a writer and actor for This Hour has 22 Minutes and snagged a development deal with Kevin Hart’s LOL Network in 2016.

Scott is currently in a career prime, but 12 years ago he said it was much more difficult to be a comedian in Alberta.

“There wasn’t enough stage time. In order for a comedian to become great, they first need to understand how bad it can be,” Scott said. “Because of the lack of stage time, it was difficult to get your start. You couldn’t develop and grow.”

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In his first year of stand up, he performed in just 12 shows.

“There were so many people that wanted to do it, the line ups were massive. Ten people on the show and 30 people would show up waiting for a comedian to drop out.”

LISTEN BELOW: Alberta Comedy Scene Shining Bright

Scott said the Edmonton comedian market has changed drastically since then.

“Now, Alberta is the best community in the country.”

Those young comedians of the past started doing their own independently run shows, allowing more stage time, and experience, for everyone.

“Now, an amateur comedian [in Alberta] can easily do 100 shows in their first year.”

Tesh Aytenfisu has been doing stand-up comedy for two years. He’s also a co-organizer of One Mic Stand, held at Grindstone Theatre.

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“It’s a great place to host shows. We were lucky enough to get a spot last year. We have the second Saturday of every month for our show. It’s been awesome. People come out to every show and every month we increase participation.”

Aytenfisu said he’s had positive experiences in the Edmonton comedy scene.

“Edmonton is very welcoming, there’s lots of stage time to go around,” he said. “I know in the past, people felt they had to move away from here to grow their career. I feel like that’s changing. There’s a crazy amount of talent here. There are a bunch of headliners who live in Edmonton. You can go out and see any level of comedian.”

Scott was the headliner for a One Mic Stand show in March.

“Sterling is so supportive. He’s always available if you want to pick his brain. We’re very blessed to have had him headline one of our shows. We had a small budget and he said he would do the show even if we didn’t make money. We ended up selling it out.”

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Scott said an Edmonton comedian will develop faster than a Toronto comedian, reaching “headliner” status more quickly than their eastern counterpart.

“That development happens due to Edmonton comedians opening rooms and not being selfish. If you go to Toronto and you say ‘Hi, I’m from Edmonton and I want to do a comedy show,’ nine out of ten times you’re not getting on that stage,” said Scott.

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“In Edmonton, the comedians understand it’s difficult for people who are traveling to shows. So if you’re from out of town and you call an Albertan comedian, you will get that show because we will open our doors for others to develop and grow.”

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He attributed it to a special kind of camaraderie within the Alberta comedy scene.

“I have not seen that kind of love in the community anywhere else in Canada except Edmonton and Calgary,” Scott said.

Scott believes Alberta communities are still underestimated in the bigger markets, but they are consistently performing and traveling to shows.

“By the time they get to New York or L.A., they have actual road experience of dealing with bar crowds, theater crowds. When they get to the big stage they tend to do an excellent job,” Scott said.

“It’s phenomenal what Edmonton is doing for growth. The future of comedy in Edmonton is very bright.”

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So bright, in fact, that Scott said he wouldn’t be surprised if Alberta is the next “hot bed for comedy” in the next 10 years.

“I’m very proud of the Edmonton comedy scene. They bring empathy, understanding and the general consensus that we can all be on the stage. We believe in the common goal that we all come together to make people laugh.”

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