Eight years ago I sat in the National Art Centre in Ottawa with my daughter to enjoy a night of comedy at the Cracking Up the Capital finale. Expecting a night of laughs and joys I gained so much more from the comedians. I learned that comedy was a wonderful way to break the silence about issues: mental health, race, gender, politics… and yes, father daughter relationships. See my daughter was in those complicated tween years and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
As we sat and were entertained by one then another comedian we went from high stress at the mention of teenage sexuality to a total ease as the comedians broke the silence and the tension. They reminded my daughter and I that no issue was too big nor too unimportant for us to discuss openly; pushing it aside had too great a risk for both of us.
The next year I started my long tenure as what we like to call a volunteer beaver. While I was not able to dedicate my time every year I have done what I can whether that was carry equipment and signage, review fundraising proposals, or as with this past year fill the role of Director of Communications. Wherever I could be of the most assistance is where I was.
This year was so special for the festival. Through a sequence of past and present events a partnership has been established and flourished in less than 12 months. The festival sprouted wings and flown to Iqaluit, Nunavut. First for one component of the annual festival in March, and now heading to its own Nunavut wide comedy festival. A festival founded on the same idea, use comedy to talk about mental health and addiction and the proceeds to help organizations on the front line of service delivery.
How did this happen. Listen up, you may be the next influencer.
CBC was a past sponsor of the festival. A member of the CBC team moved to First Air, and with him blossomed an idea. He loved the festival and cause and in his new position was looking for a cause that First Air could support and bring to Nunavut where of course they made a lot of money but also had a lot of influence as they are the main transporter of people and things.
The idea was launched to support Cracking Up the Capital, but even more, take the festival to Iqaluit. One night, one competition and the winner would be flown down to participate in the finale in Ottawa: a huge opportunity for Nunavut comedians. The night was a huge success. The community bought up the tickets, every spot in the competition filled and the fabulous Mary Walsh egging on comedian and attendee alike.
As I watched the show unfold and felt the energy in the room all I could think of was wow, this all started with the passion of a man, a single man that changed jobs. Of course there was a lot of back and forth between the heads of Cracking up the Capital and First Air, but a partnership was launched and matured in such a short period of time.
These two entities have very different mandates but they share a common interest. The common interest is all it took to endure all the logistical challenges and distance divide. First Air is not just the voice of Nunavut now, they are the face of comedy, comedy with a message, Mental Health matters.
What brought me to write on this topic is that from that humble beginning a year ago has led to the first ever First Air Arctic Comedy Festival, with all its proceeds in support of the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line . This initiative was able to leap from the Capital festivals decade of experience and now will have a very direct impact on mental health for all in the Arctic. That was made possible by trust, risk, passion, technology, money, shared resources, comedians across this country…. But most of all, one man that changed jobs and carried the torche.
Join me in congratulating all my old friends and colleagues at Cracking Up the Capital on this huge success. While I have moved away, I will never forget all the festival has done for me, my daughter and mental health in Canada. Today, I know there is no issue too big for me to talk to my daughter (or son) about, and if I struggle to find the words a comedian a few clicks of a mouse away can assist.
Take a read about this wonderful event coming up in October.