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(Photo cred: the internets)

This Wednesday, something very rare and coveted and in fact borderline profound is going to happen for the Toronto standup scene. A weekly comedy show turns 10.

Seriously, Scenesters. This is “one in a million shot, doc!” territory we’re entering. We’re not talking about a comedy club, or a legendary music venue. We’re not talking about a heritage theatre with orgasm-inducing accoustics, or a performance hall that’s interwoven in the historical fabric of our fair city. We’re talking about a weekly Pro/Am comedy show, created BY and FOR local comics.

Its not every day that a weekly mic hits the decade mark. This Wednesday, CORKTOWN COMEDY joins those elite ranks. 


Every Wednesday for the past decade (think of how many Apple products ago that is!) host/producer Brian Coughlin (pictured above) and sidekick/defacto DJ David Shuken have transformed the upstairs loft at Betty’s On King into a cult classic night of standup comedy. 

Considering the 2 week break the show takes every December for the holidays, that’s in the neighborhood of 500 shows (ballpark) that have happened every week on the Betty’s stage. That’s what, close to 1,000 hours of Canadian comedy churned out of this one room? Perched above the bustling beehive of activity that we know and love as Betty’s on King.

That’s 10 years of glory, 10 years of bombs. 10 years of highs, lows, applause breaks and duds. 10 years of loyal crowds and regulars. 10 years of random drunks and hapless hecklers. 10 years of Canada’s top touring headliners and upcoming comics, Toronto favorites and fledgling open mic’ers. College kids and unknown names, stepping on stage to face baptism by fire. 10 years of jokes written and workshopped, sets polished and entire bits honed, dropped, fashioned with razor precision. Showcase sets sharpened and shined. 10 years of comics we’ve seen come and go. Comics who hit it big and continue dropping by today, comics who are no longer with us. Comics who started on this stage, and set their sights on New York, Chicago, London or LA. 10 years of comics cutting their teeth for festivals and galas, TV specials and the satellite air.

10 years of Canadian comedy. Let us make no small beans of this humble milestone!  

Shows like CORKTOWN COMEDY and venues that support local comedy (like Betty’s on King) are a vital part of life as a Toronto comic. Rooms like this are our gyms, our churches, our watering holes, our hangouts, our social circles. Our places to work off of each other and try something out for the first time. Shows like Corktown are the heartbeat of Canadian comedy, where crowds get a peak behind the red curtain. And it ain’t always pretty. But its real. Its the pure, simple, stripped down soul of standup – every Wednesday, we put in our time. And we give the crowd what we’ve got. For good or ill. 

At the helm of it all, you’d be hard pressed to find a more affable host than Brian Coughlin. He holds the room at attention with a warm, relaxed energy you can’t help but admire. He makes a comfortable space for young comics to play (I remember myself, after all I hit Betty’s my first time not that many years ago. I wasn’t there at the start, few were) 

You get the sense that Wednesday nights are Coughlin’s way of keeping his finger close to the pulse of the comedy scene. Yes, he’s a standup himself – its not uncommon to see Brian making the rounds on other mics, or checking out a new show here and there. But he’s also a husband, a dedicated Dad, with bills to pay and places to be. On Wednesdays, he gets to kick back with the upcoming comics of now. He’s one of those rare MCs who makes it a point to talk to comics off-stage. Offer notes and insights to the newbies. He remembers what you’ve got going on in your schedule, which is pretty impressive considering the volume of comics who’ve passed across that stage. Every Wednesday, for 10 years… and counting.

CORKTOWN COMEDY turns 10, this Wednesday night. Upstairs at Betty’s. Swing by and say hi (its worth it just for DJ David Shuken’s laugh. One of the most colorful in comedy)


Dean Young