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Gifts from laughter: Charitable comedy tour coming to the Okanagan-Shuswap

Profits from Comedy For A Cause shows benefit community groups
Alex Mackenzie’s Comedy For A Cause tour will be swinging through the Okanagan-Shuswap in May, with stops in Penticton, Vernon, Salmon Arm and Revelstoke. (Image contributed)

Alex Mackenzie credits his mother for the idea of a comedy show that leaves audiences laughing while benefiting the communities at large through local non-profits.

Mackenzie’s Comedy For A Cause tour will be making its way through the Okanagan-Shuswap, with stops in Penticton (Cleveland Theatre, May 5), Vernon (Performing Arts Centre, May 6), Salmon Arm (Salmar Classic Theatre, May 12) and Revelstoke (Revelstoke Community Centre, May 13). Joining Mackenzie on the tour are fellow comedians Chris Griffin, Sophia Johnson and Efthimios Nasiopoulos.

“Alex Mackenzie’s Comedy for a Cause Tour is a world-class comedy show featuring the best comedians in the world,” reads a media release for the show. “These acts have been featured on Netflix, Sirius XM, Just for Laughs, CBC’s LOL and so much more.”

What makes this comedy tour unique is the mission behind it, to support local non-profit organizations. As Mackenzie explains, the net profits made from the shows – anything after the cost of production – is donated. Non-profit recipients have already been selected for the Vernon, Penticton and Revelstoke shows. Mackenzie said the non-profit that will benefit from the Salmon Arm show will be announced soon.

Mackenzie’s charitable comedy tours began in 2019 with Hunger for Laughs, which were stand up shows benefiting local food banks. He started a second tour line, Comedy For A Cause, to help other non-profit organizations. Mackenzie explained this charitable approach to comedy was spurred by his mother, Coral.

“When I first started doing stand-up comedy, I rented a theatre in my hometown (Prince George) and was performing there and my mom said I had a good job at the time still, I was working at the pulp mill… as a power engineer,” Alex explained. “My mom said with the ticket sales, I should be giving back to the community.”

Alex said he and Coral chose to give back to the Prince George Hospice Palliative Care Society. That was the first charity to benefit from one of his shows, and he said it’s grown from there.

“My mom’s idea is always to be of service; you’ve got to give back to other people and think about them more than yourself when you’re doing anything in your life,” said Alex, adding Coral now oversees his company, ECL Productions.

“She’s like our travel agent, our team mom when we’re on tour, she’s backstage and bringing everyone snacks and drinks and she plans all of our hotels and flights and travel. She does all the dealings with the venue rental contracts and stuff. I’m very lucky I have a very good mother.”

Alex said the transition from pulp mill worker to comedy was driven, in part, by struggles he experienced with his own mental health. This is one of the reasons why in Vernon, proceeds from his shows, and more, have gone to the Canadian Mental Health Associations’ Vernon and District Branch.

“I’ve gone there and taught joke writing seminars to the participants of the mental health association, because I struggled with mental health, that’s kind of how I ended up here (in comedy) – I was very sad and depressed in my old life, trying to figure out a path forward to get out of that,” said Alex. “Comedy seemed to be the way, and then I was like, if can give these people a tool to help them deal with their struggles – that felt really good.”

Alex said the Vernon CMHA recently held a talent show that was inspired by him.

“They asked me if I would do a video for them they could play at the beginning of the talent show, speaking to the participants, giving them some advice,” said Alex. “So anytime I’m going through Vernon when I’m on any of my tours… I always drop in at the CMHA and see everyone there. I’m always greeted with a big smile and hugs…

“It just fills that sense of community, that love and belonging. I don’t know – you can’t put a price on that.”

Alex said he loves to make people laugh, and believes the world would be a better place if everyone did comedy.

“I think everyone is funny – I think everyone just has to find their funny,” said Alex. “And I think everyone can do it and I think it would make the world a better place if everyone was out there telling jokes and performing.”

For more information about Comedy For A Cause, and/or tickets, visit eclproductions/comedy-for-a-cause.
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