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Finding a funny side to White Rock-South Surrey

Newly-minted South Rock Comedy Festival has big plans for the future
Organizers of the South Rock Comedy Festival and local comedians gathered at UNITI’s South Surrey headquarters Tuesday night to announce an ambitious Semiahmoo Peninsula event that will premiere this September. (Alex Browne photo)

Ambitious plans were announced Tuesday for a new Peninsula-based comedy festival – one that co-organizer Lizzie Allan said she sees growing into an internationally recognized event.

“Our vision is to establish the festival here and create something that will become a pilgrimage for comedians world-wide to come over here,” Allan told a crowd of local movers-and-shakers gathered at UNITI’s South Surrey headquarters for the announcement.

The South Rock Comedy Festival will premiere September 19 to 21 in multiple South Surrey and White Rock locations, Allan – along with fellow festival team members Eric Y. Lapointe, Gary Yuill, Ryan LaChance, Ellen Bradley Cheung and Lisa Person – said.

“There’s no reason why we can’t become a centre for professional comedy and upcoming comedians,” Allan added.

The team brings together a great deal of practical experience and talent in the comedy world, she noted.

In addition to Allan’s international background as a comedian and co-founder of Hilarapy, Lapointe has an extensive background with Just For Laughs in Montreal and Toronto, Gary Yuill has successfully built the Yuk Yuks brand of comedy shows in B.C., LaChance is a nationally known touring comedian with extensive contacts among top national talents, while stand-up performers Bradley Cheung (who also MC’d the event smoothly) and Lisa Person (who also created the festival’s ‘smiling-white-rock’ logo) signal the festival’s intent to highlight and foster local talents from White Rock and Surrey as well as more high-profile headliners.

“That’s an important part of the DNA of the festival,” Lapointe said.

READ ALSO: Yuk Yuk’s comedy season continues in White Rock

Top headliners already lined up for this year include Vancouver’s Charlie Demers and Graham Clark, Calgary’s Dave Nystrom and Seattle’s Kermit Apio, festival programmer LaChance said.

Lapointe said the aim for year one is relatively modest – to bring in some 1,500 festival goers to South Surrey venues Beecher Place (in Crescent Beach), Ocean Park Hall and Elgin Hall, and uptown White Rock venues Galaxie Public House and the Oceana PARC Playhouse.

But he said the team is already eyeing drawing comedy fans from markets further out – including population hubs in Surrey, Delta and Langley (amounting to some 730,000 people), outlying areas (which amount to another 710,000 residents), population centres across the border in Whatcom County, and, ultimately, Greater Vancouver as a whole (“at least a million people,” he said).

Noting her own background in establishing the comedy-as-therapy Hilarapy program in the community, Allan said the festival will also aim at encouraging educational, inclusive and “healing” comedy as a cornerstone of its approach, rather than more abrasive or shock-oriented comedy styles.

“We want to challenge comedians to look at things a little differently,” Lapointe added.

The team said it is also encouraging additional sponsorships in the Peninsula community – initial sponsors are the Cities of White Rock and Surrey, the White Rock BIA and the Peace Arch News – while noting launch event hosts UNITI and refreshment providers Central City Brewers’ Street Legal for their contribution.

Also at the launch were White Rock councillors Ernie Klassen and Christopher Trevelyan and Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke, all of whom expressed their support and best wishes for the festival.

Locke drew laughter when she said that, while challenged to come along and say something funny, she could only provide insights into the city budget.

“Or the police transition – there’s a hell of a lot of laughs in that,” she quipped.

But she said she supported festivals like the planned event as “a great place to build community.”

“We all need a lot of laughs these days,” she said.

Alex Browne

About the Author: Alex Browne

Alex Browne is a longtime reporter for the Peace Arch News, with particular expertise in arts and entertainment reporting and theatre and music reviews.
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