15th Annual Hubcap Comedy Festival Kicks Off This Week

Nikki Payne performs at the Capitol Theatre on Saturday evening
Nikki Payne performs at the Capitol Theatre on Saturday evening

If last week’s two storms have given you the mid-winter blues, some welcome relief is heading your way. The 15th annual Hubcap Comedy Festival takes over more than a dozen venues throughout Metro Moncton, Tuesday through Saturday.

The 2015 edition of Hubcap brings a mix of established and up-and-coming comedians, both English and French, from across the country. Peter MacLeod, Dom Paré, Tim Nasiopoulos, Elvira Kurt, Patrick Ledwell and Keith Pedro are just a few of the more than 20 comedians taking the stage.

Hubcap has thrived on evolution and introducing new show concepts to audiences. This year is no exception.

Taking the stage of Moncton’s Capitol Theatre on Friday evening will be The Nota Bene Symfunny Orchestra. The brainchild of Moncton comedian Marshall Button, the show has partnered with members of the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra and all-new ensemble Tutta Musica to provide a new style of comedy performance that marries symphonic music with comedy.

Button has been working tirelessly for the last five months on the show, collaborating with composer-arranger Antonio Delgado. More than 40 artists will take the stage, including Moncton city cuncillor and comedian Blair Lawrence, singer-comedienne Mélanie LeBlanc and stand-up comedian James Mullinger. Mullinger is a relative newcomer to the Canadian comedy scene after emigrating here from the United Kingdom, where he enjoyed a successful career in television and live performance.

“I have been musing about this show for the last couple of years,” Button says. “It all came together a number of months ago, however, when I had made mention of the idea to Ken MacLeod, the president of the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra. It just hit us that the timing couldn’t be more perfect.”

While Button is the first to admit he has a limited knowledge of music, he says that Delgado has proven the perfect foil. The two have been bouncing ideas off one another for months now, working together to mould the best show possible.

“What we wanted to accomplish with this show was to break down the perceptions of what people believe is classical music,” Delgado says. “It is not the type of show that you have to be a music expert to enjoy. If you can appreciate good music and also happen to love comedy, this show is for you.”

“The dialogue and the music remain intertwined throughout the show,” Button says. “The show starts off relatively normal enough but, without giving away too much in the way of details, the audience’s perception of what the show will be goes off the tracks before the first number is complete.”

Among the headliners who will take to the various stages of the city during the course of the festival is New Brunswick’s Nikki Payne. It has been nearly three years since Payne’s last appearance at the Hubcap Comedy Festival, when she performed before a sold-out crowd at the Capitol Theatre.

She returns to the Capitol’s stage on Saturday night, armed with self-depreciating observations on growing older.

“I’m not one to want to tackle world issues when I’m on stage. That’s absolutely none of my business,” Payne laughs. “I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older, more and more of my act seems to revolve around the fact that I’m getting older and still really have no idea what I’m doing. When I was in my twenties, I thought I’d have life figured out by the time I was in my thirties and now, being on the cusp of 40, I’ve realized I’m not necessarily any further ahead!

“I know I can’t be the only one that feels totally overwhelmed at times. But it’s OK. It’s like so many of us get up every day and put on our grown-up uniform and pretend to know what’s happening when in fact, we are all stumbling through this thing called life together.”

Payne has consistently opted for honesty and a heightened version of her personality while on stage. With multiple Canadian Comedy Award wins in her pocket, she shares that the next evolution of her act will include the development of an audio podcast.

“For the past little while, I have been writing a collection of short stories about growing that don’t necessarily fit in with my stand-up material,” Payne says. “There are aspects of the stories that I think are funny but the goal of the stories isn’t to make people laugh necessarily. I like to think of them more like the type of thing you would hear on the Vinyl Café.”

Payne says she will record her first podcast later this year in Halifax and hopes to release the recording shortly after.