Crescent Beach-raised stand-up comedian, MC and public speaker Kate Barron, 34 – who won a prestigious comedy contest in her current hometown of Toronto last weekend – says she’s learned an interesting lesson about comedy.
“If you try too hard to be funny, it doesn’t work,” she said, on the line from her day job with the famed Second City organization, where she works in sales and business development.
“What’s funny is when you start exploring the ordinary things that happen to people. I’m fully into the comedy world, working at Second City, and one of the things that’s been instilled in me, observing other comedians, is that the funny will happen – if you bring out the ordinary situations.”
The 2001 Elgin Park Secondary grad – who placed first in the Toronto Comedy Brawl competition finals on Saturday at the Bathurst Centre for Media, Culture and Art – is the first woman to take the title in the nine-year history of the event.
“Comedy is subjective, and my fellow finalists were amazing, but because comedy is a male-dominated industry, being the first female to win this competition is a huge source of pride for me,” Barron said in a press release issued following the contest.
Barron, who took home a $1,000 prize, was one of nine finalists winnowed down over several months from a starting field of 400 aspiring comedians. Past contest winners have gone on to win the Just For Laughs Homegrown competition and she admits that entering that arena is one of her next goals.
“I’m in good company – now it’s my job to live up to it,” said the former Peace Arch News carrier, whose parents still live “across the street from Camp Alexandra,” and are her biggest fans – along with siblings Allison and Patrick.
Barron, who has quickly built a reputation with her own audience-friendly, energetic storytelling style of comedy, is also producer and co-host of the monthly Treading Water comedy show at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel.
Surprisingly, she only celebrated the two year anniversary of her first try at stand-up in August.
While she was known for her comedic take on things in high school (“In Grade 12 I received the horribly-named title of Orca Queen – for being funny and silly on stage”) Barron said she had no serious thought of doing stand-up until she met some comedians in Toronto and sat in on some of their writing sessions.
What finally pushed her into the field, she said, was a chaotic period of her life that included a break-up with a boyfriend and spending time sleeping on her sister’s couch wondering what her next step in life would be.
“I think, because of all the other changes, it was just a matter of throwing one more into the mix,” she said.
“There was all this uncertainty. I thought, ‘if I’m 32 and seemingly starting over, what’s the worse that can happen? Even if I crash and burn and fail, I just won’t tell anybody about it.”
And she didn’t – until her first performance, at Ossington’s Bar in Toronto, went over unexpectedly well.
“That’s when I let everyone know I’d done it, by posting a photo of the stage online.”
Now she’s not as shy about letting people know the dates of upcoming gigs – and local fans will be pleased to hear she’s planning a return to some of her favourite venues on the west coast before year’s end.
“I haven’t got the dates yet, but I will be performing in the Vancouver in the week leading up to Christmas,” she said.