A 19-year-old Edmonton man is the youngest ever — and only Canadian—to win a $10,000 USD comedy grant.
Brad Semotiuk is the fifth recipient of the Martin Grant, created by Los Angeles-based comedian Steve Hofstetter.
Hofstetter explained the point of the grant is to allow a comedian to quit their day job for a period of time and focus on comedy.
“When you first turn pro, it’s difficult to make rent and afford food. You drive 14 hours to a gig that doesn’t even pay your gas money. That’s what most of us have to do,” Hofstetter said. “The idea behind it is to take someone who has amazing promise and let them skip ahead a little bit.”
To qualify for the grant, you have to be a stand-up comedian who has not made more than $10,000 USD in a year from comedy.
“It just really takes over your life. You only do it if you really like it,” Semotiuk said. “It was never weird to see me with a pocket-sized notebook writing something down in the back of McDonald’s frantically.”
Hofstetter, a successful stand-up comedian himself, met Semotiuk last summer while touring in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
“I was very impressed by him. But I’m not on the committee that narrows down the finalists. Over the years on the board, there have been people from NBC, The Laugh Factory. A ton of places that Canadians would recognize,” Hofstetter said. “I was certainly happy to see his name among the finalists.”
His writing and stand-up skills also impressed Hofstetter, considering how early he is in his career.
“At 19, it’s so impressive. One Brad ago I was still older than Brad. It’s ridiculous that he’s this good, this young.”
Semotiuk said when he got the call he had won, Hofstetter first asked him what $10,000 USD would convert to in Canadian dollars.
“I said it looks like it’s $13,000. Then he told me, ‘Well, I guess that’s how much you’re getting,’ and I just freaked out,” Semotiuk said.
“The goal is to find someone who we think has the most potential and who we think the money can help the most,” Hostetter said.
Other winners have gone on to appear on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, America’s Got Talent and have begun development meetings on a show.
Now, Hofstetter is excited to see where this Canadian winner’s career will take him.
“Canada has a wonderful comedy scene. By population, it’s difficult for a Canadian comedian to break through just because we have way more customers in the United States and way more markets.”
Semotiuk isn’t yet sure what he will do with the money, but knows exactly where his passions lie.
“I just like writing jokes. Maybe that’ll change when I’m older but for now, the novelty hasn’t worn off. I just like making people laugh.”