Toronto comedian camps alone in the Rockies, makes a show about it
Did you hear the one about the comedian who went camping?
Last year, Thurka Gunaratnam, a Tamil-Canadian woman from Toronto, spontaneously bought a bunch of camping gear and searched online, 'How to go camping alone and survive.'
For six weeks, she made the solo trip in western Canada, from Banff, Lake Louise, to Jasper, down to Kelowna, Whistler, Squamish, Tofino, and Ucluelet.
"Highly recommend it," said Gunaratnam. "You're left with your thoughts and you have no one to blame, and then you're like 'wait, I thought everyone else was annoying in my life, why do I still feel this way?'"
She turned this adventure into comedy for her show, New Normal. Her national tour of Born in the City, Made for the Mountains is back in Toronto after packed shows in Calgary and Vancouver.
On Oct 5th, Gunaratnam is headlining the 16th New Normal show with her satirical and sometimes dark humour that celebrates her culture and love for camping.
I think my life is a joke.- Thurka Gunaratnam
"It's funny that you sleep in the dark by yourself for fun, when you know there are bears around. Why are people doing this to themselves?"
When she took drama in high school, Gunaratnam says her parents asked her, "why would you waste your time on that? Why aren't you taking the chemistry or the biology?"
"Even now, my mom is like, 'are you sure you don't want to go to med school?' I'm like, 'I have two degrees, I think I'm okay.'"
As a teacher, Gunaratnam says she brings a specific lens to the comedy scene. She is almost constantly wondering, "how can we punch up instead of punching down?"
Gunaratnam's line-up includes women, comedians with disabilities, indigenous comedians, people of colour, and the LGBTQ community. It brings in drag queens and kings, stand-up, and sketch groups.
"When I see people with humour from communities that are often not celebrated, or who are trolled, those are the comedians that I book," says Gunaratnam.
New Normal centres the narratives of the performers and compensates comedians, even if it is their first show.
"At New Normal, your jokes cannot be homophobic, transphobic, racist or sexist."
She says it is the kind of show where the whole room will stand up and ask a person to leave if they are heckling.
These seemingly strict rules of behaviour make for a unique comedy experience.
"At New Normal we can make jokes in our mother tongue and translate," says Gunaratnam, "we can do an accent and feel safe knowing half the room is here to laugh with us not at us or our culture."
You can see New Normal Comedy on the first Saturday of every month.