Get ready to laugh

To quote the illustrious Homer Simpson, are you ready to laugh?

It’s February and for anyone who has inhabited our fair city over the past decade should be able to tell you, February means that it is Hubcap Comedy Festival time.

Running today through this coming Saturday, venues including The Old Triangle, The Pumphouse Brewery,the Capitol Theatre and more throughout Metro Moncton will welcome comedians including Colin Mochrie, Brad Sherwood and Evan Carter.

Now in its 11th year, the Hubcap Comedy Festival was started by former Downtown Moncton director Ken Kelly, in conjunction with Marshall Button, a director with Moncton’s Capitol Theatre. General Manager Robert Gallant got onboard the Hubcap train in 2003 and has been along for the ride ever since.

Aside from one “off” year that the festival experienced in 2008, Gallant says that the festival continues to grow year after year. He calls 2008 an anomaly, noting that he East Coast Music Awards were held in Fredericton during the same weekend as the comedy festival.

“The bar shows of the Hubcap Festival that year were not affected as much as the theatre shows were and I think a big reason for that is that many of the people who would have attended were in Fredericton enjoying the ECMAs,” he says.

“Even though the festival has consistently done well, its popularity seems to have exploded since then. There is definitely no turning back now. We typically run a special promotion for advance ticket sales in November and December and it seems as though those advance sales go a little faster with each passing year.”

Gallant believes a big reason for advance tickets disappearing so quickly is the word-of-mouth factor. The more people talk about the festival, the harder it is to get your hands on tickets.

Torontonian Evan Carter has been performing stand-up comedy since 1981. He is no stranger to Moncton audiences; this year will mark his fourth appearance at the Hubcap Comedy Festival.

“I love it and love the fact that it is extremely well run,” he says. “I really like Moncton and the fact that the city is one of the most progressive in the eastern part of the country.”

Asked what keeps him coming back, Carter says a laundry list of items even though not all of his likes are Moncton specific.

“Performing at festivals is a great chance to see familiar faces. I have a number of friends in both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that performing in Moncton gives me the opportunity to see, plus I get the chance to perform with other comedians that I don’t get to see all too often.

“Plus, I get to have blueberry beer!” he laughs, referring to one of the Pumphouse’s signature ales.

In addition to featuring nationally known talent, Gallant says that a crucial part of the Hubcap Comedy Festival has been to help develop local talent via amateur nights featured during the festival.

“It has always been a part of our mandate to feature local talent, to give people the chance to get up on stage and try what they have. It is a big stepping-stone for a lot of people. Moncton native Julien Dionne took the chance and now he makes a living in comedy.”

Gallant says that the reputation of the festival continues to grow by leaps and bounds each year, with a number of comedians already expressing interest at getting onto the list of performers for next year’s festival.

“We are lucky because many of the comics who come to the festival tells their friends about their experience here. You’ve got long lines of people waiting to get into venues and crowds that are essentially laughing when they walk in the door. I have heard time and again that the comics really appreciate the response they are given.”

Article published in February 8, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript