Executive director of the Penticton and District Community Arts Council

Arts Matter: The art of comedy

Arts council executive director Vaelei Walkden-Brown takes on the art of comedy in the latest Arts Matter.

  • Dec. 13, 2016 5:00 a.m.

By Vaelei Walkden-Brown

Many of us grew up with the great Canadian comedy shows such as SCTV, The Kids in the Hall, Due South, Trailer Park Boys, Just For Laughs and our great political news satire program, This Hour Has 22 Minutes.

I remember being slightly confused when I was a bit too young to understand the difference between ‘real news’ and satire.  To be honest, these days, I don’t think I know the difference either!  What I do know is that laughter truly is the best medicine for a great many ailments.  I figure, if you can make people laugh, you have a much better chance of being heard.

You might ask, what is the discussion of comedy doing in an arts column?  A 2009 article in The Guardian, Hazel Davies discussed this in relation to why the Arts Council England would not fund a municipal comedy event.  The primary reason the funding was declined was due to the assumption that comedy is self-funded and highly profitable.  Of course, this assumption does not take into consideration planning, travel, accommodation, venue hire, advertising and promotion.

The music industry suffers this same issue.  When I ran my little 557 Artist Block on Main Street I often received feedback that some people grumbled about paying to see music.  This always had me baffled.  A venue has its own costs to cover with the most obvious being rent and utilities.  As a start-up, small business, a personal wage was more like an intermittent meal ticket.  For the musicians, the 60 per cent of door sales I paid out could barely get them more than a dinner out the next day once it was split between all band members.

Needless to say, this doesn’t cover the amount of time musicians spend practicing and honing their skills, purchase and maintenance of instruments and sound equipment, travel time etc.

The other day I was hanging paintings in some empty store fronts with the crew from the Downtown Penticton Association for the Main Street Art Project.

As expected the discussion included our personal opinions of the different paintings and the idea that, outside of the grueling halls of art academia and the highly analytical realm of art critique, our response to art is subjective.  What I love, you might hate.  But what are we responding to?  It might be colour, tone, composition, technique, material, rhythm, form, subject.  It might be, but maybe we are responding to some type of emotion.  Maybe we are responding to a story.

Returning to the question of the role of comedy in art my own personal opinion is a resounding: yes!  Comedy is art!

Shakespeare entertained both the masses and the elite with The Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing and The Merchant of Venice to name a few.  His work as a playwright and author continues to have impact and influence on modern theatre and literature and even pop music.

The ability to make people feel is an art.  Art is the explorer, the instigator, the mediator of emotion.  Making people feel is central to comedy.  The

power of comedy to unite us in our darkness and sadness is tremendous.  The way a great comedian/comedienne can weave a story together while making our bellies clench and tears drench our faces is truly an art.  It is social medicine.

With this thought, it is with great joy that I announce the Penticton Arts Council’s presentation of Cathy Jones (star of This Hour Has 22 Minutes) in Stranger to Hard Work.  Written and performed by Cathy Jones and directed by Ann-Marie Kerr, this 80-minute show is a “bombardment of energy, high spirits and wit.”

We are so thrilled to bring you one of Canada’s great comic artists to lighten your winter spirits on Feb. 1, 2017 at the Cleland Theatre.  For more information and tickets visit our website at www.PentictonArtsCouncil.com or call the Leir House at 250-492-7997.  Sharon and I are more than happy to assist.

Vaelei Walkden-Brown is the Executive Director at the Penticton & District Community Arts Council.

 

 

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