By Alicia Ward
While almost anyone could call themselves a fan of stand-up comedy, far fewer people could claim to regularly enjoy it live. Calgarian comedian Doug Mutai believes that live stand-up comedy can’t be compared to watching it on video.
“You might think you like comedy on YouTube or TV, but it’s so much better live,” says Mutai. “I remember my first live show, I was like, ‘Whoa!’ ”
Despite this, Mutai was introduced to the world of stand-up comedy the way many aspiring comedians are — through watching it on TV.
“I was watching a comedian on television and said, ‘I could be doing that,’ ” says Mutai.
The decision to try stand-up comedy paid off for Mutai, a graduate of Lethbridge College’s business program. Along with winning a recent local stand-up contest called Yuk Yuk Calgary’s Chase Your Butterfly Competition, Mutai has also performed at venues across Canada, including at the CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival. However, Mutai says that nowhere is quite as good as home.
“Every place has parts that are just Calgary transplanted, you know?” says Mutai. “Calgary will always be my home. Maybe someone who’s from somewhere else will think their place is the best.”
Calgary is home to many talented comedians, ranging from open-mic amateurs to full-time professionals. It is a community that never stays the same, and Mutai explains that this is one of his inspirations.
“Everyone has their own performance style . . . it’s constantly changing,” says Mutai. “Usually it’s someone who does something different or interesting that inspires me.”
Another important aspect of Calgary’s stand-up comedy scene is the ease of which someone can start performing stand-up. There are a large number of open-mic nights and amateur shows across the city that actively encourage newcomers to try their hand at performing, allowing aspiring comedians to hone their skills and begin to build a fanbase.
“It’s really easy to get a start,” explains Mutai. “You just have to show up.”
One of the most popular weekly comedy nights in Calgary is hosted at Broken City: Comedy Monday Night. For the price of $5.00, audience members are treated to a long list of performers, including first timers, casual jokers and dedicated comedians. The popularity and success of Comedy Monday Night at Broken City has made it the longest running open-mic night in western Canada. The evening is hosted by an established comedian, and always finishes with a popular headliner. The community is bursting with willing performers eager to secure a spot on the stage but, according to Mutai, it rarely gets competitive.
“Everyone wants to go up, but for me everyone is there to have a good time,” says Mutai.
Mutai clearly loves what he does and, while he is the first to admit that comedians are egotistical, he is also very humble about the praise he receives. To him, job satisfaction comes from audience satisfaction.
“It’s great when people come up to you and tell you that you did a good job,” says Mutai. “I’ve had people say I’ve made their night.”
While it is possible to see Mutai’s videos on YouTube, he would prefer it if you saw it the way stand-up is meant to be seen: in person.