Having been around for only two years, Fraser Valley Comedy is still a fairly new form of entertainment in Chilliwack, but it has been growing like a field of sweet summer corn.
Fraser Valley Comedy (FVC) will be celebrating its second anniversary with a three-day event April 28-30.
Started by Chilliwack’s Yo Trieu in May 2015 with a lineup of amateur comics, FVC has now sprouted into monthly stand-up comedy shows featuring pro comics, upcoming pros and themed nights — and many of the events are free.
“I wanted to bring a different form of entertainment to Chilliwack,” says Trieu. “I like comedy. Comedy is my passion, and it shows.”
He started out in comedy by taking part in amateur nights at comedy clubs in Vancouver. When asked how old he is and how long he’s been an amateur comic, Trieu thinks hard.
“This is an Asian who’s not good at math,” laughs Hanne van den Brink, co-owner of Rosedale Roadhouse Bar and Grill, the birthplace of FVC.
“It’s true,” admits Trieu. “It’s like being a squirrel and having a nut allergy — it’s a death sentence. It’s like being Dutch and being poor.”
The two know each other because Trieu delivers coffee to the pub. In fact, that’s how he brought comedy nights to the majority of the venues used by FVC, through his job with Keurig Canada.
Before FVC started hosting shows at Rosedale Roadhouse, typical entertainment for the pub would be live bands and karaoke. Comedy was completely new for them.
“It’s been great,” says van den Brink. “It started off fairly slow and it’s just mushroomed. Pretty much all of the shows are completely sold out and we have to turn people away.”
Trieu recalls what van den Brink said to him before the very first show: “Don’t say Jesus jokes, don’t say the ‘f’ word, don’t say anything bad.”
That first show went well, despite the fact that it featured a number of fringe comedians, and at least one who was a little risqué.
“After each show you know who to book and who not to book. Now we have budgets so we can charge cover. We have sponsors, so we can bring in pros,” says Trieu.
They brought their first professional comic, John Beuhler, to the stage a year ago. Since then about 20 pros have been featured in Chilliwack.
“Chilliwack got addicted after we brought our first pro in. It’s so much easier when you bring a pro in because you know they can do a good job for you, and the quality of the show goes up,” says Trieu.
Generally, the venue and the sponsors pay for the pros. Admission is charged for some shows, but a good portion of the shows presented by FVC are free.
But Trieu doesn’t limit shows to just the pros these days. He likes to mix it up. People wonder why the shows are so successful, and he says the key is “booking local (amateurs) with pros, and having that balance.”
A typical FVC night will have the host onstage for about 15 minutes, then a handful of amateurs with 5- to 10-minute spots each, then the feature (upcoming pro) comic, and lastly the headliner.
“Amateurs want to do it because they want the time, the experience, and the practice. In Vancouver they can’t get 10-minute spots anywhere, so they come down here to do their 10-minute spot,” says Trieu.
FVC has open mic night once a month. They’ve hosted theme nights like ladies’ night, and First Nations night, and will be hosting an LGBT night in Mission and a mental health night later in the year.
“Right now the hub in comedy is basically Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Edmonton and Calgary. We want to put Chilliwack as one of the hubs of comedy also,” says Trieu.
FVC’s second anniversary show kicks off Friday, April 28 with Ivan Decker at Chances Chilliwack. The night also features Yo Trieu, Helena Paul, Stuart Jones, Shane Clark, Colin Sharp, Lisa Person, and Harry Doupe. Admission is free. Call 604-701-3800 for table reservations.
On Saturday, April 29, headliner Jane Stanton will take the stage after feature comic Alex Sparling at Rosedale Roadhouse (51277 Yale Rd.). Also performing will be local favourites Kim van Dyk, Mike Honkawa, Mike Haire, Helena Paul, Lisa Person, Margo Prentice, Ed Konyha, Cari Norton Moore. Tickets $10 at the door. Call 604-794-3389 for table reservations.
The last show, which is sold out, will take place at Old Yale Brewing on April 30 with headliner Katie-Ellen Humphries, plus Ross Dauk, and Cliff Prang.
“The secret thing is, anybody can book a comedy show, but with Fraser Valley Comedy it’s about building a culture one joke at a time,” say Trieu.