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Interview: Ottawa comic Tim Riel gets a shot at the TD Place audience on closing night of the 2017 Crackup comedy festival

By Asim B. on February 16, 2017




Tim Riel is one of two comics to be crowned the winner of the 2017 Crackup Comedy Competition. With that accolade, he has earned a spot to perform alongside comedy greats Jonny Harris, Jeremy Hotz, Debra DiGiovanni, Mark Forward, Sharron Matthews, and Derek Seguin.

Ahead of his show, I was able to get in touch with Tim by phone and ask him a few questions.

Photo from Facebook

Photo from Facebook

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Your family features throughout your stand up routine; how do they feel about you talking about them on stage?

We basically call my wife my co-writer. We realised very early on that she is an excellent gauge of audiences. So every joke I’ve told her that she said wasn’t very funny… she ended up being right. But I would say: “No! This is hilarious!” Then pretty much every one of those jokes would fall flat on stage.

How did you first get into stand up comedy?

I first started acting, doing some sketch comedy and some improv. I liked performing improv and writing sketch while I was part of an improv group, back when I lived in Calgary and Edmonton. Then I moved to Ottawa and joined another sketch comedy group.

As [improv members] got older, it became harder and harder to consistently get people to show up and tape the sketches. I thought I might as well as start standup – because I only needed one person to perform.

Are you originally from Ottawa?

No, I lived in many places. I’m a military kid and moved around a lot.

15056506_1443511802327514_4508616641365450366_nFor how long have have you been doing standup?

I started five years ago. I listened to a lot of podcasts like Pete Holmes and Marc Maron and they were like: “just do it!”

So I thought “why not?” and I signed up to an Absolute Comedy open mic. They told me I had a spot two weeks away. And the Pete Holmes podcast said that I needed to go out like three times a week and do it as soon as I could. I started contacting everywhere I could. The Comedy Nest in Montreal asked me to be there in two days for their open mic night. So my first time ended up being in Montreal.

What other interests do you have?

I’m a video producer by trade. My main goal in life is to be an entertainer and I had trouble getting people hiring me to entertain. I started getting into all the aspects required to entertain, so I could be my own boss and hire myself. I became a video producer, I do stuff on YouTube, some stuff has made it to television. I learned to be a camera operator, editor, how to direct, and how to put all that stuff together. My end goal being that one day I wouldn’t have to do all that background work and can simply be the entertainer.

I started five years ago. I listened to a lot of podcasts like Pete Holmes and Marc Maron and they were like: “just do it!”

Speaking of other interests, I noticed from your Facebook page that you work with Comiccon. How did that come about?

A friend of mine runs an incredible show called BattleCON. It’s a show where we do lightning rounds of debates on really geeky subjects like who would be the best superhero; what would be the best use of a time machine? And you would go head to head against an opponent. Because it has similar themes to Comiccon, we got them to host one of our events.

We became emcees at Comiccon the following year. In exchange for a permanent spot at Comiccon, we agreed to host their guest panels and have been doing so for the last four years. We actually do it in Ottawa and Montreal.

How are you preparing for the lead up to the Crackup festival finale at TD Place?

I’m trying not to think about it too much. I am a six minute opener and that material is pretty much set. So my main goal is to perform around town and make sure I have prepared enough for the show.

Thanks for taking the time to talk Tim and I wish you the best of luck on Saturday.

Thanks very much and same to you.

You can catch Tim Riel performing in the 2017 Alterna Savings Crackup Comedy Night in Canada festival finale at TD Place (1015 Bank St) this Saturday February 18 at 8 pm. Tickets cost $50–75 and are available online at