Comedy isn’t any funnier when it’s a man with the mic. UNB contract associate instructor Jean-Michel Cliche discusses how comedy and improvisation performances in Fredericton are changing, and how that change is shifting the status quo for performers new and old.
“Frankly it’s been just a lot of men for a very long time, which is true in so many performance and other communities in general, but the comedy scene is changing a little,” said Cliche, “People don’t want to see the same perspective over and over again”.
In an art form that has been dominated by a specific group of people for a long time in Fredericton, there are people who question their ability to push in on the existing market. Cliche countered enthusiastically.
“I would encourage people who feel like they have a different perspective on things to try comedy because I think people are eager to hear that” he said.
Cliche says that Fredericton’s up and coming comedy scene leaves room for both professional comedians and people just wanting to start out.
“It’s been maybe a little bit exclusive, recently there have been some really cool comedians who are giving people the opportunity to try stuff out” said Cliche.
There are open mic nights hosted at The Abbey downtown, as well as a roulette of comedy performances that happen throughout the year at other venues such as the Capital and the Playhouse. Cliche says that while it might be intimidating, Fredericton audiences are kind and open to new things. The experience can be very rewarding.
“I think that comedy, and performance in general, is a great coping mechanism for stress and anxiety” he said.
This, he says, applies not only to performance but also to everyday life, because stress is a good thing if you know how to manage it, which is what being on stage can help you do.
Cliche says he has felt the positive effects of comedy first hand. He says high school especially he was very anxious until he found improv.
“Improv comedy and performing improv gave me such a cool outlet to take all that stress and tension and put it into something more creative”.
In the past, Cliche has taught a course called Improv for Confidence, which is geared specifically towards using improvisational skills to deal with stress and anxiety in out-of-theatre situations. At the same time, it provides a safe space for players to perform and experiment. Cliche says that the class may be running again in the winter term.
Cliché reiterates the fact that becoming involved in Fredericton’s burgeoning comedy scene is not as herculean a task as it may seem. The shifting nature of Fredericton's comedy scene is what is making it so accessible to new people, new styles and new narratives.
“Finding an open mic night nearby is great,” he says, “and then just going to a comedy show and talking to any of the comedians afterwards and being like ‘hey that was so great, I really enjoyed your set, how do I get involved?’ Because they are so eager to get new people involved. They really, really want that community to grow”.