HA-HA HAPPENINGS

10 must-see comedy festivals in 2019

From coast to coast to coast, here’s the ha-ha happenings across Canada.
Smash Comedy Fest is the first comedy festival from Vancouver’s ‘Nasty Women Comedy.’ (Nolan Sage)

Here's an achievable New Year's resolution: see more comedy shows! From Iqaluit to Halifax to Vancouver, here's ten comedy festivals and events to look forward to in 2019 — listed in chronological order.

Smash Comedy Festival

January 24 - 26, Vancouver

Boosting marginalized voices in the male-dominated comedy scene is at the core of this three-day festival. Produced by Nasty Women Comedy, Smash Comedy Fest promises "patriarchy-crushing" stand-up, improv and sketch comedy from local women, trans and non-binary performers. 

Stand-up comedian Julie Kim kicks off the festival on Thursday night at the Biltmore Cabaret. 

HubCap Comedy Festival

January 30 - February 10, Moncton

Canada in 2019: a magical time to be alive. Cannabis is legal and Hubcap Comedy Festival is 19 years old. The tagline for this year's festival is "Legalized Laughter." Get it? It's a weed joke.

Celebrate in style with headliner Tommy Chong and other professional funny people like Nikki Payne, Derek Seguin, Chanty Marostica and Chris Robinson. Venues across Moncton, Dieppe, Riverview, Shediac and Salisbury will host both French and English-speaking comics from across the nation.

JFL Northwest

February 14 - 23, Vancouver

The world-renowned comedy festival Just For Laughs returns to the west coast for JFL Northwest. Check out sets from Gabriel Iglesias, Ken Jeong, Aziz Ansari, Chris Fleming and the the 2018 Juno award winner for Comedy Album of the Year — Ivan Decker.

Looking for some homegrown talent? The Best of the West showcase highlights comics from the west coast. JFL Northwest also hosts podcast recordings, improv shows and the Vancouver Just For Laughs Film Festival.

Yukon Comedy Festival

March 14 - 16, Whitehorse

After a successful first year of sold out shows, the Yukon Comedy Festival returns for a second time over Saint Patrick's Day weekend. There's not much to say about the headliners yet because the lineup is still being released; but you can count on This Hour Has 22 Minutes funnyman Graham Clark performing on the last night of the festival.

Comedian Nathan Macintosh cracks up the crowd at the Hal!fax ComedyFest in 2018. (Chris Smith)

Halifax ComedyFest

April 24 - 28, Halifax

Since 1995, the Halifax ComedyFest has been serving the best stand-up comedy from Canada and the United States. This year the festival will host Canadian legends Mark Critch, Shaun Majumder, Steve Patterson and Debra Giovanni among others.

If you're in town but can't grab tickets for the festival, the Halifax Central Library is hosting the free event Laugh@Lunch featuring three comedians from the lineup. If you can't get off the couch, stream previous seasons of Halifax Comedy Festival on CBC Gem.

Winnipeg Comedy Festival

April 28 - May 4, Winnipeg

Head west to Winnipeg after you get your comedy fix in Halifax. The 18th Winnipeg Comedy Festival has a new date happening a few weeks later in the spring and the galas will be hosted in a new location at the Club Regent Event Center.

Winnipeg Comedy Festival hasn't announced their lineup yet, keep checking back to their official website for announcements. In the meantime, stream the last season of Winnipeg Comedy Festival on CBC Gem.

FunnyFest

May 30 - June 9, Calgary

Calgary's annual FunnyFest has grown a cult following since the festival started in 2002. The festival runs for 11 days across 11 venues and promises "11,000 punchlines" from 70 comedians. Sterling Scott, Kevin Farley and Sean Lecomber performed at last year's FunnyFest.

It's too early to preview the lineup for 2019 yet, but rest assured there will be plenty of comics hailing from the Calgary area and beyond.

We're Funny That Way

June 12 - 15, Toronto

Back in 1996, We're Funny That Way started out under a different name as the first International Queer Comedy Festival. It was created by stand-up comedian Maggie Cassella for David Adkin's 1998 documentary about queer stand-up comedy called We're Funny That Way. After the documentary, the festival then took on that name and evolved to feature performers like CBC Radio's Gavin Crawford and Lea Delaria from Orange is the new Black.

Taking place at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre, the festival includes cabaret style performances including drag, burlesque and music performance mixed in with stand-up comedy.

Just For Laughs Festival

July 10 - 28, Montreal

There's no way that Just For Laughs Festival wouldn't make this list — it's commonly known as one of the top comedy festivals in the world. Taking place in Montreal, this legendary festival will be celebrating its 37th year with performances from Dave Chappelle, Kevin Hart, Trevor Noah and many other comedy giants. Stream some of the previous Just For Laughs Galas on CBC Gem.

Angnakuluk Friesen shares some laughs with the audience at the FirstAir Arctic Comedy Festival in 2018. (Shawn MacDonell)

First Air Arctic Comedy Fest

Approx. October 1 - 7, Yellowknife and Iqaluit

Looking ahead into October, Iqaluit and Yellowknife will be hosting the second Arctic Comedy Festival. Last year, the festival hosted Mary Walsh, Howie Miller and Paul Rabliauskus among many other talented comedians from Nunavut and beyond. Comedian Don Kelly will perform this year along with many other comedians yet to be announced.

With help from Ottawa's Crack Up Comedy team, the festival raises money for Kamatsiaqtut Help Line, a mental health support service run by volunteers in Nunavut.

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Think you're funny?

Show us what you got — submit your funniest material to CBC Comedy's Next Up talent search until February 21, 2019. The winner will get a chance to perform at the 2019 Ha!ifax ComedyFest. Enter now and find more details at cbc.ca/nextup