Canadian Stand-Up Comics Launch Association in Push for Grant Funding

The Canadian Association of Stand-up Comedians is hoping to make it easier for comics to break through the cultural ceiling by pushing the Canada Council for the Arts to support giving grants to comics working the country's stand-up circuit. Founder Sandra Battaglini has drawn thousands of signatures on a petition discussing the issue.

With Canada being home to SCTV and Kids in the Hall, as well as the birthplace of comedic giants such as John Candy, Samantha Bee, Norm Macdonald, Phil Hartman, and Jim Carrey, the country has one heck of a comedic legacy already.

But modern stand-up comedians on the Canadian scene say that there’s one issue they face that many of their creative peers do not: The Canada Council for the Arts does not designate stand-up comedy as a performing art, and as a result, budding jokesters are being left out of the country’s arts funding.

That issue has been the defining reason for the creation of a new group called the Canadian Association of Stand-up Comedians, which aims to give a voice to comics who want to see the rules change. Taking the lead is Sandra Battaglini, a Toronto comedian who launched a Parliamentary e-petition to encourage a change to the rule. At press time, the petition had more than 2,500 signatures.

In comments to The Interrobang, Battaglini noted that comedians face a variety of issues in working the Canadian market, including its limited size and exclusionary rules that restrict where comics can perform.

“Canadian artists of other disciplines can apply for federal grants but stand up comics are excluded from this,” Battaglini explained. “There’s also no real comedy industry to speak of here. There’s a lot of talent and stage time but once a comedian’s headlined the major clubs or performed at Just for Laughs they’ve hit a ceiling.”

She added that Canadians face visa barriers in performing in the United States, which can get expensive and aren’t reciprocated for American comics who come into Canada.

“American comics don’t face the same barriers when they come here and we want to keep it that way but we’re asking for reciprocity,” she added.

While Canadian comics don’t directly receive grants, the industry does support festivals such as Just for Laughs, and comics who are willing to create other kinds of art, such as recordings, can often get grant support for those endeavors.

The association is working closely with a member of the Canadian Parliament to make its case heard. Thus far, the petition and the association’s creation have already drawn a response from the Canada Council for the Arts, which made a statement to the Toronto Star on the issue.

“The arts sector is constantly evolving, and we monitor the situation closely,” spokesperson Mireille Allaire told the newspaper. “While it’s not our intention to bring any changes to our applicant profiles at this time, we consider all the feedback we receive and believe it’s through dialogue that we can improve our services in order to meet our objectives and the arts community’s needs.”

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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