As part of the Crackup Comedy Festival, Yuk Yuk’s and Absolute Comedy will host competition finals in order to determine one lucky winner from each club that will earn the chance to perform with comedy greats Debra DiGiovanni, Derek Seguin, Mark Forward, and Sharron Matthews at TD Place on Saturday February 18.
This has been eight months in the making and takes finalists from various comedy club competitions in hopes of finding the funniest people around. These comics are trying to test their comedic talents for a chance to perform in front of an enormous crowd at the festival’s closing night gala show.
Ahead of the festival, I had the chance to catch up with Ben Hagel and ask him a few questions about his experiences and how he feels about his peers labelling him one of Ottawa’s youngest and up-and-coming comics. Hagel will perform at the Yuk Yuk’s finals, Wednesday February 8.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Apt613: Hi Ben, thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?
Ben Hagel: It’s good to be here and thanks for having me. I am an amateur coming that has been doing standup for about a year and three, maybe a year and four months. As practice, I try to get out about twice a week at open mic shows as I find it a great learning experience.
What got you into comedy in the first place?
Well, I just felt like it was about time to do something different and I kind of knew I was funny with friends. So one day, a buddy and I went to a Saturday show at Absolute Comedy and after seeing the opening act, I thought I could be that funny. At the time, I didn’t realize just how long it actually took to get there.
You’re known for always having notes and constantly tweaking your material before and after you go on stage. Do you find the best time to get inspiration is when you are performing?
Yes, in a way. But to be honest, when it comes to comedy, you don’t always know the size or type of crowd you are going to be performing in front of. So in terms of humour, you sort of have to have intuition.
How did you get involved in the Alterna Savings Crackup festival?
I got an email after a Yuk Yuk’s competition that invited me to a semifinals show at Lonestar Restaurant.
Was there anything you did leading up to the competition that you found helped you in any way during your performance?
I had drawn last to perform [at Lonestar]. Usually that is a disadvantage, but I ended up watching the others go ahead of me and saw what jokes hit and gauged the humour of the crowd. I changed my set leading up, in order get the the most laughs.
Where do you feel is the best environment for a new comic to hone their skills?
It’s important for comics to perform in open mic rooms. You know, I feel there’s a lesson to learn when performing in front of 10 people with 6 comics in the back and 120 people with 6 comics in the back. The first example, you’re playing to the back of the room and other comics will laugh at you for your originality, whereas a packed room, you’re funny based on how relatable you are to the audience. Doing both lets you find a happy medium where you’re being both original and funny.
What’s your game plan February 8?
I’m going to come with a prepared amount of jokes and depending on whether it’s a younger crowd or older crowd, I’m going to tailor my set.
What is the next step for you going forward in terms of comedy?
I want to do anything that lets people on the other side of the world see me being funny. That is the next step, to let people from anywhere have the chance to see my comedy.
See Ben Hagel perform at Yuk Yuk’s (292 Elgin St.) on Wednesday February 8. The 13th Crackup Comedy Festival runs from February 7–18 at venues around town. Show tickets are available online at crackup.ca for $13–50.