Shangri-Haha – The monthly portal to Joketown opens for the 14th time at Theatre Sainte Catherine this Saturday

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Fourteen months ago, the world seemed like a different place. August, 2015. Canada maintained its unemployment rate at 7%. Justin Trudeau was still just a glimmer in his father’s eye, who we all remember as Stevie Harper who had to gave birth to the next Canadian president. Am I the only one who learned this in school? I was homeskewled, btw.

And on one of those nights in September (do you remember?), one of Montreal Improv’s prolific performers and her friend, the co-owner of Theatre Sainte-Catherine, cooked up and performed, with the help of some friends, an idea so big, it could fill a town. With jokes. Joketown.

It’s a monthly comedy night showcasing four sketches set in and around Joketown, written and performed by 4 teams in less than a week, with the winning writer moving on to be the town’s audience-elected mayor for the month. Naturally hilarious with strong showbiz work ethics pumping through her veins, Joketown co-creator D.J. Mausner helped to shed some light on this anything-but-quiet town that would baffle the googoo maps if you asked for directions…

So the Danes are the happiest people on Earth? These Joketonians doth protest.

So the Danes are the happiest people on Earth? These Joketonians doth protest.

If we were to close our eyes and imagine Joketown… How did Joketown come to be and where is it geographically?

Joketown is somewhere between a small village full of sweet weirdos that truly love each other and a bustling city filled with comic big wigs and absurdly talented movers and shakers. In fact, I believe it’s both. Joketown came to be in July of 2015, amidst a boozey after-after-party at the Theatre Sainte Catherine bar during Just For Laughs. I had just begun hanging around TSC and all of its wonderful staff and the air was thick with Good Vibes. Alain and I started riffing on an idea he’d dreamt up- a nonsense haven he called Joketown- and what the structure of the show might look like. After the fest ended, we got to work seriously thinking about how it would run best, combining my obsession with organization with Alain’s creative genius. Then, we put up the first instalment in August, 2015 and haven’t looked back since!

Don’t get lost with this handy map illustrated by Keith Jones.

Don’t get lost with this handy map illustrated by Keith Jones.

What is Joketown’s economy?

GOOD GODDAMN VIBES! I’m joking, but only sort of. As we tell each cast for every Joketown, the main objectives of the show are to encourage new collaboration and eliminate ‘precious’ writing. Every Joketown cast has a blend of stand-ups, improvs, sketches, actors, musicians, clowns, and hopefully one day at least one magician. As people who want to do everything all the time, Alain and I had the mass privilege of getting to know a bunch of wonderful people in each of these communities and wanted a reason for them to meet each other. The result was to mix them up and make them all work together to create multi-discipline stupidity/real art. On the note of precious writing, I had expressed to Alain my own fear of doing a bad job when doing comedy writing of pretty much any kind. As I’m an improviser first and foremost, I have found the rigidity of sitting down at a computer and squirting out gold a bit difficult to turn into habit. However, the short timeframe of the show forces comedians to trust their instincts and commit to each other and their ideas. So, ultimately… goodgoddamnvibes.

Will Joketown be affected by the recent US election results that surprised the world?

If I can break for a minute here- Trump being elected as the President of the United States is nothing less than a tragedy. I think laughter can help ease the pain a bit during the brief moments we take a break from fighting against a man who espouses white supremacist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist, and ableist values. But maybe to help on a larger scale,try to self-educate in these areas by reading articles about those affected, written by those affected, and take a look at donating to any of these organizations if you can.

 And if you do want a laugh, you’ll always find an inclusive one in Joketown.

Any anecdotes about past Joketown mayors? Followup: Did any of the mayors in history of Joketown ever have to publicly resign out of shame?

Our great township has had a slew of wonderful mayors, including Jacob Greco, Emma Overton, Alain Mercieca, Danny Belair (two terms), Lise Vigneault, Sehar Manji (two terms), Alex Brown, Deirdre Trudeau, and Daniel Carin (two terms, current mayor).

After retirement, Jacob became the new Chief of Police at Joketown Precinct 69. Deirdre Trudeau went on to become the first Queen of Joketown. And despite constant allegations of ties to the illuminati, Daniel Carin remains mayor, his title to be contested on November 19th. The only mayor to ever resign out of shame was a sweet little dog we put a sash on that said ‘Mayor’, and he left the position because it was found out that he had literally no experience being in office or in being a human person.

Former mayor Jacob Greco enforcing the strict joke laws as Joketown’s new chief of police.

Former mayor Jacob Greco enforcing the strict joke laws as Joketown’s new chief of police.

Memorable moment, most special Joketown?

It’s probably a tie between the Montreal Sketchfest Edition of Joketown, where we mixed out of town troupes with some of our best in house performers, and the Ladyfest 2016 Edition of Joketown where the cast was stacked with Montreal’s most hilarious ladies. Both shows were overflowing with absolutely bizarre comedy and so, so much love for each other and the process. As I recall, each show included a disgruntled mother from the 60’s with three make out sequences and a massive water balloon dropped from the mezzanine, respectively.

The “reading-in-the-bathtub” role of a lifetime that clinched the mayorship for Sehar Manji in previous election.

The “reading-in-the-bathtub” role of a lifetime that clinched the mayorship for Sehar Manji in previous election.

So the setup every month is, you pair up writers with actors, they have a week to finish a short sketch, to run through it, then rewrite, rehearse and perform it… Any challenges, lessons learned from the past events going into Joketown 14?

Basically we meet the Wednesday before and pick the teams out of a hat. There’s one writer and two actor/ performers to each team. Then we announce a series of themes they need to write around, which are usually drummed up by the Jokemaster- who also hosts the show night of. The teams work together Thursday and Friday on their pieces and after a brief tech run on Saturday it’s showtime. A big lesson learned over the past 13 Joketowns is GO BIG or PLEASE TRY AGAIN TO GO BIG, I AM HAPPY TO HELP YOU FIND A WAY TO GO BIG IN A WAY YOU’D LIKE. As there are four plays presented and they’re each only 10-12 minutes, the best plays pull out all the stops. I’m talkin’ choreographed dance routines, original songs- hell, Paul Naiman once stripped and climbed into a synthetic kangaroo pouch (see: recycling bag full of cherry jello). It’s what the audience wants.

Using stage ninjas in black to facilitate the illusion of gravity-defying fighting sequences on the cheap.

Using stage ninjas in black to facilitate the illusion of gravity-defying fighting sequences on the cheap.

The Joketown Crier. Joketown’s only source of news written by some of  its funniest inhabitants on and off stage… and the choice for traditional print media rather than going the blog route … Can you tell us more?

The Joketown Crier was another project born out of silliness and hive mind. Alain and I had discussed creating a zine as an ode to all former and current Mayors and Joketownians. A day later, Tracy Hurren and Alison Naturale contacted us with interest in creating a comedy newspaper in the Joketown universe. After some brainstorming meetings, a ton of horse jokes by Alain, and an unbelievable amount of work by actual angels Tracy and Alison [friends], the paper was in its final form, and it’s sexy. The paper basically provides an extension of the loveable madness that Joketown thrives on. By calling on our favourite ding dongs from across Canada and the US, we were able to assemble a series of fantastically written and absolutely hilarious pieces whose common through line is being dumb as hell. And that’s what art *is*, Xavier. Plus we got to include REAL VISUAL ARTISTS who submitted funny and beautiful and touching work, reminding me once again that people are good and life is fun. Joketown has somewhat of an old-timey vibe, and newsprint seemed to capture that best. Plus, there’s nothing like holding a buncha jokes in the palm of your hand (even if it’s only because you rolled them up to swat a fly).

Can people subscribe to the Crier?

No. Not yet anyways… but they can get any/all updates on Joketown and the Joketown Crier by liking the Joketown Facebook page!

So when is Joketown 14? What about the defending mayor and the other sketch writers who would like to claim that key for themselves?

Joketown 14 is November 19th at 8PM at Theatre Sainte Catherine. The writers for this round include Joketown veterans Lar Vi and Paul Naiman, as well as previous mayor for two terms, Sehar Manji. Daniel is certainly going to have to bring his A-game against these tough competitors, and there’s no clear way to know right now who will be leaving with the key to Joketown at the end of the night. However, the winner is elected by audience applause- so I implore all of Montreal to come out and exercise their democratic right.

Some say that key to the city, which is entrusted to the acting mayor during their term in office, unlocks a really underground vault that holds Joketown’s deepest secrets… why the need for secrecy, doesn’t every Joketonian deserve to know that they have the choice to know the truth?

It does. The vault holds all of the tag-lines from movies about secrets. Like, “Bring Your Girlfriends, Sisters, Mothers and Daughters”. That one’s from The Secret Life of Bees. Also, “The timeless tale of a special place where magic, hope, and love grow,” which is clearly The Secret Garden. Not surprisingly, both of these apply to Joketown promotion.

Some also say the mayor elect is just a puppet controlled by a shadow committee, that the true creator of Joketown just imagined it into being. Then she and her friends fleshed out the funniest and most interesting citizens that make Joketown a colourful place to visit every month. Am I getting warmer?

My publicist says I don’t need to answer this question.

Anything else to add about Joketown 14?

It’s gonna be fun and it’s only $10! Even cheaper than that if you buy tickets on the Theatre Sainte Catherine website, too. I love you and I want you to come.

Joketown 14 and the Joketown Crier launch party happens this Saturday at Theatre Sainte Catherine, November 19th at 8PM. For more info visit the Theatre Sainte Catherine website and the Facebook event.

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