Greg Houston is an Ottawa based comic who has performed at just about every festival the city has to offer. He is the winner of the Ottawa Comedy Awards – Best Newcomer in 2012 and the Ottawa Comedy Awards Best Independent Show in 2014. His approach to comedy makes him an ideal choice for many establishments and has helped him gain exposure and experience outside the comedy club scene by also performing at festivals and private events.
This summer, Greg is the MC at Yuk Yuks Ottawa‘s Summer Comedy Competition, warming up the audience ahead of the evening’s hopeful comics, some of who are semi-professionals and some of who are newcomers to the stage. All are hoping to finish top 3 on their night and advance to the semi final rounds in order to have a shot at participating in the competitions finals on August 31.
Ahead of the semi final competition nights, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Greg and chatting about all things comedy.
Apt613: Tell us a little about yourself Greg.
I am Greg Houston of Instagram fame and of brunch around town; also of Yoga and softball. I am a comic based out of Ottawa and perform comedy all around town and across Canada. Right now I am the resident host of the Yuk Yuks (Ottawa) summer comedy competition, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the summer.
Apt613: When did you know you wanted to get into comedy as a career?
I think that was probably two years ago, when I was entering my third year of comedy. I was getting some things and not get a lot of other things and I just thought how my passion for comedy was far more than most of the other things in my life. I hadn’t taken those (other) things as seriously as I had taken comedy. Another part of it was also producing shows locally and having a lot of fun doing those shows. The shows made me want to keep pursuing (comedy) and I’ve spent the past couple of years working more on my act and focusing on myself.
Apt613: What do you find is the main differences between producing comedy shows and actually working on an act to be on a comedy show?
Producing shows has so many logistical things that you have to worry about to help guarantee a good show. So my heart goes out to the (Absolute Comedy and Yuk Yuks Ottawa) club owners. And I know both owners pretty well and realise just by producing monthly shows… how much work I put in for one show and they are doing this 7 days a week, 6 days a week. It’s every single little thing that you have to think of and as soon as you forget one little detail, like the mic stand or lights, sound, servers, or any little detail, it can throw off an entire show. And if you throw off an entire show, you may have just burned an entire audience of 40 to 140 people. There’s so many other aspects, like booking all the different acts, making sure there is representative voices, or booking features, or booking venues, or (serving alcohol) or not… there is just so many things to producing a show.
Your act is just so much more yourself. It’s where you have the freedom to just be yourself. There’s no set formula for an act and a career, and a comedic voice. But there is definitely set formulas for producing a show. When you’re doing a set, or you’re working on your own stuff, a new joke, or something…it’s like “hey, I’m gonna go up there and riff everything tonight”. Maybe that goes well, maybe that goes horribly. Or I’m gonna go up there and crowd work someone or try all these planned out jokes I’ve been working on for the past ten years, or whatever. There’s a lot more freedom and creativity there from what I’ve found.
The shows made me want to keep pursuing (comedy) and I’ve spent the past couple of years working more on my act and focusing on myself.
Apt613: How did you get involved with Yuk Yuks Ottawa and their summer comedy competition?
The owner, Howard Wagman, reached out in the spring with the opportunity to host and produce the summer competition. I jumped on it and it’s been good. It’s been difficult, in terms of work (because) it’s more than what I expected, but it’s also been really fulfilling as well. I felt like I’ve helped a product that was already successful be even better and even more successful. I really worked hard on bringing in judges with different perspectives, bringing in features with different (comedic) voices. I’ve been really proud of the shows and it’s been fun hosting.
Apt613: Can you tell us about the upcoming semi final and final competitions?
So (the semi finals) are happening on (August) 15 and 16, and 22 and 23. So we have our top 3 comics from every night from the preliminary (rounds) that will make up the 36 comics competing in these 4 shows. I have two features coming in, Anthony Mlekuz and Julien Dionne, that are really good.
The comics that finish top 2 in their semi final nights go to the finals. If they’re not in the top 2, but are in the top 5, then they go to the redemption rounds. These redemption rounds shows are happening on (August) 29 and 30. And one comic from each show will get to go to the finals. And the big finals are happening on the 31st.
Apt613: What is the prize for the overall winner?
A thousand bucks of cold hard cash, I think it’s cold hard cash, and they get a weekend of work at the Yuk Yuks Ottawa comedy club. They also get a ticket into the finals of the (Alterna Savings) CrackUp comedy competition happening in the fall. So basically you skip their preliminary rounds of competition and get to compete (directly) in their finals for a chance to perform at their Gala.
Also everyone from the finals gets swag from our sponsor, Beau’s. The overall winner will get a VIP ticket to Beau’s Oktoberfest.
Apt613: Are there any memorable moments you can share with us from the competition in terms of a competitor’s set or audience reaction?
There was this one comic that bombed pretty bad and I was waiting (off to the side) to go on stage… but it was very awkward how bad they were bombing, like they got the light (to end their set) but they didn’t go off right away and people in the audience were (whispering) to me “go save him, get him out of there.” Which has never happened to me at a show before, but it was interesting. That’s the thing about live comedy, it’s so organic and stuff happens and there’s certain gems at every single show.
Apt613: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us Greg.
Thanks for chatting with me as well.
The Summer Comedy Competition takes place every Tuesday and Wednesday night in August at Yuk Yuk’s (292 Elgin St). However the competition final will is on Thursday August 31. Visit www.yukyuks.com/ottawa for tickets.