What and who to see at the 2017 Winnipeg Comedy Festival

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What and who to see at the 2017 Winnipeg Comedy Festival

It's been too long since we've had a chance to punish our livers, laugh on cue for TV cameras and try to act cool in the lobby while standing a little bit too close to some of our favourite comics.

The good news is, the Winnipeg Comedy Festival is back with opportunities for all of that, and even if you missed Ali Hassan's show Muslim Interrupted on Wednesday, there are still a bunch of great shows to fill the void.

If you're not a major comedy nerd, here's a quick guide to some out-of-town comics who will not disappoint and a few shows to put at the top of your list for the weekend, as selected by a woman who spent a not-insignificant amount of time humiliating herself during interviews with comics trying to make this list for you guys.

There are a ton of very talented local comics you should see as well. If you're unacquainted with the local scene, check out Tim Gray, Lara Rae, Spencer Adamus, Ashley Burdett and Dan Verville.

And a quick heads up: CBC is a sponsor of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.

Comics to watch for

Amanda Brooke Perrin

This is a name you're probably hearing a lot more lately — Perrin's comedy album released last year (AKA Randy) went to Number One on the Canadian comedy iTunes chart.

She's hit the Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland, Ore., Just for Laughs and North by Northeast to name a few festivals, but what really sets Perrin apart is her fraught history with Winnipeg.

She's never performed in the city, but she did stop in once to get the name "Randy" tattooed on her neck.

She used to live in Canada, but now she's in Los Angeles, so it'll be nice for both her and us to have her back on her (kind of) home turf.

Her hair will be down at the show to cover the tat, and you may or may not get to hear exactly what happened in the moments before she got it.

Performing at: Alicia Tobin's Come Draw With Me on Friday, I Heart Love gala on Saturday and The Debaters taping on Sunday.

Ivan Decker

Ivan Decker is a Vancouver-based comic who is going to take up the whole stage and be very theatrical and make you laugh.

Decker also released a comedy album last year that had an exclusive run on Sirius XM, and he's one of the few comics who can produce a clean set for a massive audience that isn't markedly less funny than your average set meant for a bar.

Decker is promising entirely new material for his gala show, so even if you've seen him before (he's been at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival twice), you should go again.

His stuff builds, so try to pay attention.

Performing at: Virgin Territory gala on Friday, Tales from Late Night on Friday, Feminist Gong Show on Saturday and The Debaters taping on Sunday.

Robby Hoffman

Robby Hoffman is a gentle bully with a low-key onstage presence and frankly, she has deadly material.

She's in a lot of the big shows for this fest, primarily because she's the kind of comic you can pair with just about anyone and expect the audience to get on side.

Hoffman has been doing standup all over the U.S. and Canada in the last few years, from Just for Laughs to the Funny Women Fest in L.A.

This is her first time in town performing, and so far, she finds the weather egregious. She may not come back, so I urge you to go see her before it's too late.

Performing at: Lady Like gala on Thursday, No Bro Show on Saturday and the Feminist Gong Show on Saturday.

Cara Connors

Cara Connors moved from the United States to Canada, realizing a goal so many Americans aspire to.

She's a Second City comic who does a bunch of writing for CBC Comedy, and is having a pretty intense rise to success on the Canadian comedy scene right now.

- CBC Comedy | Man who's started biking to work makes sure entire office knows

- CBC Comedy | Woman dresses up as men's bag to earn seat on subway

- CBC Comedy I Hilarious man proudly yells out "condom factory" when asked for suggestion at improv show

She might be the newest to the scene on this list, which means she is very happy to be here and she's going to have some fresh stuff.

The only catch to seeing Connors is that you're going to have to go into work the next day a little tired. Her only show is the Lady Like gala on Thursday night.

Connors also wants to know if she can meet Will Sasso before she leaves. Can we help her with that, Winnipeg?

Performing at: Lady Like gala on Thursday.

Patrick Haye

I can say with almost complete certainty that Patrick Haye can make you laugh.

The guy has been in the business for years. He's performed with Gerry Dee and Harland Williams, and done the Canadian festival circuit more than once.

And, unlike virtually every other comic ever, he's also a model. He's an actual model.

But try to focus on his jokes, guys.

Performing at: Coast to Coast: 150 Years of Funny on Friday, I Heart Love gala on Saturday and Rumor's Comedy Club Series on Saturday.

Shows not to miss

Tales from Late Night

WHEN: Friday, April 7 at 10 p.m.

WHERE: West End Cultural Centre at 586 Ellice Ave.

COST: $20

Bruce Clark is hosting this one, with Ivan Decker, Tommy Chong, Jackie Kashian and Barry Kennedy performing, as well as beloved locals Tim Gray and Lara Rae.

The style is a late-night talk show type thing, and I'm looking forward to seeing Tim Gray and Lara Rae hold their own with Tommy Chong and Ivan Decker.

One request: please love Jackie Kashian as much as I do.

Virgin Territory: WCF Gala

WHEN: Friday, April 7 at 7:15 p.m.

WHERE: Pantages Playhouse Theatre at 180 Market Ave.

COST: $35

Gavin Crawford is hosting this show all about firsts with Martha Chaves, Ivan Decker, Adrienne Fish, Dave Hemstad, Ashley Moffatt, Derek Seguin and Big Daddy Tazz.

This is a gala show so they're going to make you laugh a lot before it starts and really ham it up when the camera on the giant moving platform swings by your head. There will also be some restarts. And you will be sitting close to lots of people.

You need to be patient for gala shows, and if you are, you will be rewarded. Have drinks before you go! No sipping stuff for a TV broadcast!

I Heart Love: WCF Gala

WHEN: Saturday, April 8 at 6:45 p.m.

WHERE: Pantages Playhouse Theatre at 180 Market Ave.

COST: $35

Now that you know the WCF gala drill, strap in for a show about love and dating, hosted by Will Sasso.

Kate Schellenberg, Jen Grant, Patrick Haye, Jackie Kashian, Amanda Brooke Perrin, Jacob Samuel and Joe Vu are on this bill. Sets move really quickly, which is great.

I don't think there's too much danger of feeling weird feelings at this one unless you run into an ex.

No Bro Show

WHEN: Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: West End Cultural Centre at 586 Ellice Ave.

COST: $20

The No Bro Show is one of the most popular shows every year. They are top-to-bottom hilarious and, I think, unmissable.

Lara Rae is hosting this year (yay!) with Fatima Dhowre, DJ Lil Win, Robby Hoffman, Jackie Kashian, Shazia Mirza, Ashley Moffatt and WCF veteran Nikki Payne on the bill.

This is a show without bros. That's pretty much all you need to know.

CBC Radio's The Debaters

WHEN: Sunday, April 9 at 2 p.m.

WHERE: Club Regent Event Centre at 1425 Regent Ave. West

COST: $30

The Debaters is doing two tapings for the fest this weekend, one on Saturday and one on Sunday.

Sunday's show is my top pick.

Ivan Decker will be talking personal trainers (he's apparently not married to his position), and Amanda Brooke Perrin will be arguing for the status of redheads.

Steve Patterson will be leading the madness and Jen Grant, Dean Jenkinson, Jackie Kashian, Julie Kim, Howie Miller, Tim Nutt, Lara Rae, Jacob Samuel, Derek Seguin and Joe Vu are all going to be there.

These tapings are inarguably where the comics seem the most excited and come to life like crazy. It's like The Price is Right for people who have chosen an incredibly difficult career based on their social likability. How could you not want to go see this?

If you think these recommendations are terrible, you can check out the Winnipeg Comedy Festival schedule here and pick out whatever you're into. The festival runs until April 9.