Helen Schneiderman headlines and David Granirer emcees the Stand Up for Mental Health show at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver on June 1. (photos from JCC)
“There are many comedy shows out there, but not many like this one,” Kyle Berger told the Independent. “I keep saying that this will be the ‘feel-good comedy of the year,’ but it really will be. These comics will show us that we can laugh at just about anything and feel inspired at the same time – with all proceeds going to incredible causes. I can’t wait!”
Berger is the sports coordinator at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver and the delegation head of JCC Maccabi. He is also a stand-up comic and a producer with Rise of the Comics. It is in all these capacities that he is participating in the Stand Up for Mental Health comedy show at the JCC on June 1, 7:30 p.m.
A joint fundraiser for the Stand Up for Mental Health (SMH) Comedy Society and JCC Maccabi Vancouver, Berger is producing the event, with the support of Stand Up for Mental Health, and will be performing a set himself. “It will be a huge honour for me to share the stage with this crew,” he said.
“This crew” includes SMH founder, counselor and comedian David Granirer.
“Stand Up for Mental Health is my program teaching stand-up comedy to people like myself with mental illnesses as a way of building confidence and fighting public stigma,” Granirer explained. “We have been around since 2004 and have trained approximately 300 comics and done hundreds of shows for government, corporations, the military, correctional facilities, medical schools, etc.”
Berger attended one of those performances last year, in which SMH Comedy Society showcased “their students’ incredible talents, and I absolutely loved it,” he said. “I knew some of the SMH Comedy board members from working together in the comedy scene and made the connection right away. They are always looking for venues and new audiences and I knew I wanted to do something with comedy as a JCC Maccabi Games fundraiser, so inviting them to team up seemed like a no-brainer to me.”
Also performing next week will be Helen Schneiderman, who headlines the show.
Schneiderman’s comic career began in 2018, when she took a comedy course at Langara College that was taught by Granirer. She said she did it, “mainly to get off the couch. I didn’t expect to love it so much, nor to continue doing it after the class. But, once I got my first few laughs, I was hooked. Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten more comfortable sharing my experiences and perspectives, and I try to remember to always have fun up there.”
Being able to do stand-up comedy has influenced how Schneiderman navigates through life.
“I now see the world through ‘funny glasses,’” she said. “Every interaction and experience has the potential to be a joke – not always a good joke, but a joke nonetheless. My day job is delivering leadership training and so I get to have a captive audience, even at work.”
In addition to her day job and other involvements, Schneiderman has been on the board of SMH Comedy Society for four years, and board president for the past two years.
“I’m involved with the organization because it’s doing really important work to tackle the stigma of mental health,” she said. “It’s a fantastic program, and I am in awe of the comics who share their stories with so much vulnerability and smart humour.”
People can find out more about SMH at smhsociety.org. Post-pandemic, the society is once again holding live classes and shows, as well as continuing to put on Zoom shows. The pandemic, said Granirer, “made me realize that, by being creative on Zoom, we could reach people all over the English-speaking world. It also made me realize how much people need to have in-person contact in order to maintain their mental health.”
One of the reasons SMH is teaming up with JCC Maccabi Vancouver for this show, he said, is “because they’re a great organization and exercise is crucial to maintaining good mental health.”
The decision to partner was easy for Berger.
“As the delegation head for Vancouver’s JCC Maccabi squad, I am always looking for ways to raise money for scholarships so that anyone who wants to participate in the JCC Maccabi Games experience can do so,” he said. “At the same time, producing and performing stand-up is another hobby and passion of mine, so it always makes sense to me to raise money through laughter. I always love the opportunity to work with other causes or charities, and this one was a match made in heaven.”
The June 1 Stand Up for Mental Health show is being presented by JCC Maccabi Vancouver and Life is Still Funny, which Berger described as “a group of local comedians who might be considered, well, not particularly young, but still quite young at heart! Made up of locals like Helen, Ray [Morrison], as well as recent Canada’s Got Talent contestant Syd Bosel. They are all involved with SMH Comedy Society.”
In addition to Schneiderman, Berger and Granirer, Morrison will perform, as will a few SMH students. Tickets are $20 (plus fees) and are available at eventbrite.ca. There will be a cash bar and a raffle draw at the show. Berger said half of the proceeds will go to SMH Comedy Society and half to JCC Maccabi Vancouver.