Finding the funny in the Okanagan

An Aussie and a Canadian walk into a Vernon bar one day... You’ll have to wait for the punchline when comedians Garrett Clark and Rob Balsdon bring on the funny at Monashee’s Bar and Grill Friday.

Garrett Clark

Garrett Clark

An Aussie and a Canadian walk into a Vernon bar one day… You’ll have to wait for the punchline when comedians Garrett Clark and Rob Balsdon bring on the funny at Monashee’s Bar and Grill Friday. 

Part of the lineup at the Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Shows, which have been held at the Vernon establishment every Friday in February, the two Kelowna-based comics are looking forward to sharing the same stage again.

Friends since they met more than six years ago when they both moved to the valley, the funnymen say they have been doing everything they can to create open mics, booking themselves wherever they can, to try to keep comedy alive in the Okanagan.

And although things have started to boom for the comedians the past two years, with shows across the country and abroad, it’s been a while since they have been able to find a regular gig in the valley.

It all went sort of south when the Yuk Yuk’s  room in the Bluelines sport and comedy club in Kelowna’s Coast Capri Hotel shut down last March.

“This took away a three-night-a-week show from Rob and I, making it very difficult for us to get stage time here at home,” explained Clark.

But there is one Aussieism the 25-year-old Canadian-born, Australian-raised comic lives by: “No worries.” 

“Since this new Vernon room has opened at Monashee’s, it has given us somewhat of a home room again, and now we finally have a homecoming gig as headliners.”

Clark has had the opportunity to dabble in a few of comedy’s many different forms since returning to Canada as a teen from Australia, where he had  been living since he was a wee lad.

At age 14, while living in Newmarket, Ont., Clark went into the city to take some improv classes at Toronto’s famed Second City, breeding ground for the likes of John Candy, Eugene Levy, Dan Aykroyd and Catherine O’Hara. Four years later, he found himself on stage at downtown Toronto’s Yuk Yuk’s amateur night, and knew he had found his calling.

While in T.O., he worked as an actor in the acclaimed stage production, Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, as well as scoring the role as TV host for the CBC’s children’s show Rollin’ X.

He’s since performed stand-up across the nation for crowds big and small, and as far away as Honolulu, Hawaii. 

It was while visiting his sister, who was living in Banff, that Clark found his way to Kelowna.

“I was driving out with my sister to check out the place, and saw the Yuk Yuk’s sign at Bluelines at the Coast Capri. I went in and introduced myself to the manager, and asked if there were any shows I could perform at. She let me host that evening, and said ‘you can come back anytime.’ We woke up the next  morning, saw the mountains, and that the lake wasn’t frozen, and decided to stay.”

And it was at the Kelowna club where Clark met Balsdon, 27, who also coincidently grew up in Newmarket and studied acting at a performing arts high school. 

A radio personality, he arrived in the Okanagan to work at station Silk FM, and his voice now rings familiar to those tuning into Kelowna’s classic rock station K963, where he is mid-day host and a producer.

“Looking back, it’s amazing how we’ve come from the same place to the Okanagan, and we’ve been able to create spaces for our comedy,” said Clark. “Rob is a business guy, a show producer, and he now runs an open mic at O’Flanagan’s (downtown Kelowna pub), where he plans to bring in a big, headlining name every month.”

The boys have already shared the stage with some big names, and have headlined their own shows on the Yuk Yuk’s circuit across the country.

In the past year, Balsdon has opened for Norm Macdonald of SNL fame, and has headlined a number of venues throughout B.C., while Clark recently opened for Jamie Kennedy (actor from Scream, Son of the Mask, The Ghost Whisperer) and has headlined across the valley and at Yuk Yuk’s comedy clubs as far away as St. John’s, Nfld. 

“I’ll be heading back there to headline in March,” he said. “Both of us have performed in theatres all over our area with Herb Dixon, and Rob and I also just got back from Calgary where we showcased for the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival.” 

Both comics say they are stoked to be co-featured at Monashee’s.

 “It’s going to be a very proud show for us since we learned, practised, and grew right here in the Okanagan Valley,” said Clark. “I can proudly say that we are the only two professional comedians in this country who can say that.”

The Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Show at Monashee’s  Bar and Grill gets started Friday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 each and are available at Monashee’s. Call 250-503-1378 or visit  www.monashees.ca.