Kyle Berger, left, and Scotty Aceman, co-producers of Rise of the Comics. (photo from Rise of the Comics)
The outer limits of the laugh-o-meter will be tested on Feb. 20 at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver’s Rothstein Theatre, when a group of Canada’s top funny people step on stage for A Night of Shticks & Giggles, presented by local comedy producer Rise of the Comics. This will be the third Shticks and Giggles show to raise money for the JCC Maccabi Games.
Headlining the event is Julie Kim, a two-time Canadian Comedy Award nominee for stand-up, who has performed at comedy festivals around the continent and appeared on CBC’s The Debaters and Laugh Out Loud. Her YouTube videos have amassed millions of views and, in 2018, she released her debut comedy album, Outside Voice.
Among other topics, Kim’s routine delves into modern parenting and various cultural issues, sometimes involving life seen from an Asian perspective. Yuk Yuk’s comedy club co-founder Mark Breslin called her “smart, funny, with enough self-awareness to deconstruct her life in a very sophisticated way.”
Other acts in the show, which Rise of the Comics describes as its “best line-up to date,” include Robert Peng, who bills himself as “an unemployed engineer who turned to stand-up comedy out of desperation”; New Zealander Sophia Johnson, “the one who keyed your car but probably shouldn’t have told you that”; Sean McDonnell, who Canadian comedy star Norm MacDonald has praised as “a fantastic talent”; and Brett Nikolic, a maven on Mountain Dew-flavoured weed.
Rise of the Comics is the brainchild of Vancouver stand-up comedian Scotty Aceman, who will also be on stage at Shticks & Giggles. Starting off as a weekly 30-minute program on Shaw Cable with the same name in 2015, the show has highlighted the work of many stand-up comedians who got their start on the local scene, such as Dino Archie and Ivan Decker, who has appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
Aceman, a University of British Columbia and B.C. Institute of Technology graduate, switched to comedy five years ago, after a 20-year stint in a sales job with Rogers in the corporate wireless phone department.
“Leaving the cellphone business after 20 years was a tough call,” he said. “But you have to chase your dreams. People would ask me, ‘What about my dignity and respect?’ I’d say dignity and respect went out the window the minute I had a Thursday morning bar mitzvah!”
In 2019, Aceman brought in Kyle Berger as co-producer of Rise of the Comics. Berger, sports coordinator at the JCCGV, will be the master of ceremonies for the Feb. 20 Shticks & Giggles.
Before joining the crew, Berger, in his role as JCC Maccabi Games delegation head, had hired Rise of the Comics for a fundraiser. He credits Aceman for allowing him to get his stand-up feet wet, with a debut performance at the Charqui Grill in Kitsilano in 2018.
“Stand-up was one of those things on my bucket list to do by the time I turned 40,” Berger told the Independent. “Scotty (and my then-girlfriend, now fiancée) were both big helpers in getting me up there on stage for a five-minute routine. My fiancée had had enough of me saying I was going to do it.”
Berger said, “Scotty’s reputation within the local comic community is a great asset. Nowadays, Rise of the Comics does all sorts of things, including parties in people’s living rooms. And, last year, we were hired by the Chutzpah! Festival to put on a show.”
Rise of the Comics currently works with a roster of more than 50 stand-up performers of all styles and experiences, and tailors its shows to any situation. They have created performances at such diverse venues as Hy’s Steak House, the Jericho Arts Centre and Ronald McDonald House, among others. Their gigs can cover everything from clean to dirty, social commentary to observational, but always, they say, with an emphasis on the funny.
Berger promises that he and fellow Shticks & Giggles comedians are likely to make mention, in one way or another, that their show is backed by the foundation created by Dr. Neil Pollock, a leading Vancouver male sexual health and circumcision expert, and his wife Michelle.
Sam Margolis has written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.