Now in its seventh year, the Icebreakers Comedy Festival is expanding to span two weekends, with only one more event but some new locations.
New this year is a Saturday night gala with Gemini award-winner Shaun Majumder, from This Hour Has 22 Minutes, headlining this festival at White Oaks Resort and Spa, Jan. 18.
This particular show is a fundraiser for the Pathstone Mental Health Hear and Now clinic in Niagara-on-the-Lake, for youth dealing with issues such as stress, anxiety, bullying and depression, says organizer Maria Mavridis. With such an important cause as beneficiary, she’d love to see the gala sold out.
Every other year all shows have been sell-outs, she says. “We want to make sure that happens again this year.”
The annual festival, held in January during the local Icewine Festival, was started by local funny boy Jeff Paul with a few childhood friends. It has grown over the years, from Paul himself headlining at Corks Wine Bar & Eatery, to a multi-venue production.
With two weekends of guaranteed laughter, most of this year’s festival is sold out, including the opening event at Oast House Brewers, Joe Pillitteri’s show at Jackson-Triggs Estate Winery, Corks early show on Jan. 24 and the CBC Gala at Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery Jan. 25, despite the move to Ravine for its roomy conference centre.
However, there are still about 300 tickets available for the gala Saturday, Jan. 18, the first year the trio of organizers has partnered with White Oaks.
The trio includes Paul as executive producer, a St. Michael Catholic and Niagara District Secondary School graduate, who has been friends since his high school days with Mavridis and Tim Balasiuk.
“We’re a good team,” says Paul. Although the festival is spread over two weekends, there is only one show than in the past, but given the new gala and the quality of the event, “it seems like a bigger experience.”
Balasiuk, known locally as Bala from Paddle Niagara — Paul refers to him as Big Tim — says the tennis courts at the hotel will be transformed into a large venue space for their Celebrity Gala. Returning to the festival as opening act for this show is K. Trevor Wilson, from CRAVE TV’s Letterkenny, with Majumder headlining.
“We have been working on partnering with White Oaks for a few years now, and are excited with the collaboration to bring in some great Canadian celebrity comedians.” says Balasiuk.
There is also a Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery reception included for VIP ticket holders, and an after-party for anyone who has tickets to the show.
Mavridis, whose job it was to reach out to Majumder for the White Oaks show, says getting a comic of his stature “was a whole different ball game.”
Getting K. Trevor Wilson, also required going through an agent, says Mavridis.
“We’re really excited to have both of them in the line-up,” she says.
Majumder will be performing his standup show, the HATE Tour, says Mavridis. A native of a small town in Newfoundland with a population of 350 people, and with a South Asian father and a mother born in Newfoundland, he uses his humour to tackle issues of prejudice and intolerance.
There are special rates for NOTL Chamber of Commerce members for the VIP reception before the show at White Oaks, Mavridis says.
The late show at Corks on Jan. 24 features The Meltdown, hosted by Jeff Paul himself. Following with tradition, the Yuk Yuks regular and by-day TV program coordinator says the late show is adult-themed, uncensored and always a little more vulgar, going a step further than earlier shows, for an audience that knows what to expect.
Last year, during his performance at Oast, Paul’s debut live album was recorded, which will be released Jan. 10. The festival will give him an opportunity to promote the album, Delightfully Dark, available through Comedy Records, Google Play, iTunes and Spotify — pretty much anywhere music is available online, he says.
For tickets or more information about the comedy festival, go to https://www.icebreakerscomedy.com.