Trio of comics coming to Minnedosa
Three Canadian comics are coming to Westman in May as part of a tour that’s seeking to inject some post-pandemic laughter into small towns across the country.
The “DIY Comedy Tour,” featuring Scott Porteous, Frank Russo and Mike Payne, kicks off on May 8 at the Minnedosa Inn in Minnedosa, located 52 kilometres north of Brandon.
Porteous, who is from Winnipeg, Payne, from Toronto, and Russo, who lives in Calgary, will be travelling across the country for the tour. Porteous met Russo in Thunder Bay, Ont., at a comedy competition, and they have kept in touch ever since. Eventually, he became friends with Payne through an online writing platform for comics. Payne and Russo had met while they were living in Halifax.
“Certain people, you blend with more than others, and even though I haven’t actually, physically met Mike yet, I feel like I’ve known him for a while, just because of the workshop that we did,” Porteous said.
The idea to do a comedy tour came to the three comics as a refreshing change after the COVID-19 pandemic, when the only true outlet for live comedy was virtual performances.
“We just pretty much wanted to get back on the road. We wanted to travel, and we wanted to perform,” Porteous said.
The group is looking forward to getting to know small-town Manitoba, and to perform in smaller, more intimate venues during their tour. Smaller communities also often make for very welcoming atmospheres, Porteous said.
“Normally, people in small towns have to travel to a city. It’s rare for someone to go to them. So, we try to take that into consideration.”
Best known for his “Herbert Henries” character, which Porteous performed as when he auditioned for “Canada’s Got Talent,” which aired in March of last year, the comic has taken part in the Fringe Festival in Nanaimo, B.C., and went two solo tours last year.
Porteous first became enamoured with comedy by watching Just for Laughs, a comedy festival held in Montreal whose televised reruns can often be found by flipping through channels, when he was a child. Seeing the way comics at the festival would put a new spin on their acts inspired Porteous and showed him how creative comedy really was.
“I remember that I would see the same joke over and over again, but I would appreciate it just as much. I love the craft of a joke. I love to design,” he said. “After that, I kind of always wanted to try it.”
His first foray into stand-up comedy took place in 2003 at Rumor’s Restaurant & Comedy Club in Winnipeg during an open mic session.
“I just fell in love,” Porteous said.
In the 20 years that have passed since then, comedy has taken Porteous down a long, winding road. 2023 is the year that he hopes to commit to the craft even more.
“Hopefully, I can be at a level I should be, or close to, for the amount of time I’ve been doing it.”
Although he has been practising his craft for more than two decades, the rush of excitement mixed with nervousness Porteous feels butterflies fluttering in his stomach as he is about to take the stage has not abated.
“Someone told me once that if you’re not nervous, that means you don’t care. So I feel like being nervous is not necessarily a bad thing, if you know how to harness or channel that energy,” he said. Thankfully, any nerves abate by the time he has told one or two jokes, though his excited energy doesn’t fizzle out, he added.
In contrast to Porteous’ early interest in comedy, Payne didn’t give it much consideration until he lost a childhood friend to cancer. Having previously spent his career in many different industries, from graphic design to house painting, the loss of his friend reminded Payne that life is too short to not pursue one’s passions.
“I did plays and stuff in grade school and high school, and it just felt like it scratched an itch that was there that I didn’t even know about,” he said.
Getting on stage for the first time at a Yuk Yuk’s in Toronto, Payne added, was eye-opening, and the first time he truly realized what he wanted to do with his life. He immediately felt very welcomed in the comedy scene, thanks to the striking resemblance he bears to Winnipeg comic Garrett Jamieson.
“He’s another travelling comic that’s much more established than me … but we look very similar. So, I got hugged by people. And I was like, ‘OK, I’m not that guy.’ It helped a little bit.”
The other thing that helped Payne’s comic career take off has been the inspiration — and humorous stories — he has gleaned from his family, which is made up of two gay fathers and two lesbian mothers, something that was not very accepted when Payne was growing up in the ’80s and ’90s.
“It’s a really unusual thing to go through as a child, and gives you a different perspective on life,” Payne said. “You’d want to hang out with somebody, invite them over for dinner or something, and then I’d have to come out for my parents.”
Also having spent much of his childhood ill with severe asthma, Payne was able to rise above small-minded parents of classmates and his physical limitations and turn his suffering into comedy, which is mostly observational and slightly dark.
“I have a lot of stories and material based on what I’ve gone through,” he said.
Payne hopes that the DIY Comedy Tour will create a larger audience for him and his fellow comics, who all rotate as the headliner for different stops on the tour.
To learn more about the tour or buy tickets, check out the DIY Comedy Tour’s Facebook page.
Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun