A few weeks back I got an e-mail from Devin Pacholik, a journalist and comedian who wanted to write something for Prairie Dog on the end of the Comedy Grind, a weekly stand-up show at Gabbo’s. “How about for Dog Blog?” I said. “Sure!” Devin said. Here’s his piece. The final Grind is this weekend. Check it out!
Role play: Kids in school said you were funny; Karen at work laughs at your jokes; you once MC’d a wedding, and someone’s drunk uncle told you, “You’re going to be famous.”
You decided right then, as his whiskey breath tickled your ego during an intimate hug, you want to be a comedian.
Now you believe HBO will barf money at you if you could just get some stage time in a real comedy club
Comedian and actor Shawn Koch wanted to give degenerate egomaniacs in Regina that opportunity. In February, 2010, Koch introduced comedians in Regina to a new weekly show: the Comedy Grind at Gabbo’s Night Club.
The last Comedy Grind ever at Gabbo’s Night Club is on Saturday; the final show will leave a tragic comedy story as its legacy.
For many new comedians, the Grind is a wakeup call from a swarm of roid-ragging bees you owe money and only calm down by hearing funny jokes. As Koch says, “The Grind is an incredibly tough stage.”
The Grind wasn’t the first comedy show in town, but it’s easily the rawest. The other shows (which are beloved by all!) usually have polite audiences, in which heckling is more like playful banter.
As the host of the Grind, Koch prevents all-out fist fights some nights. My first show at the Grind ended with a drunken audience member threatening physical violence towards Koch after my set. Koch stepped in and put the goon in his place, and it was awesome. He fondly remembers those moments.
Koch’s first performance was at the Comedy Works in Montreal for Monday amateur night. He did five minutes and was decently received, and that was it: Koch was hooked from the first laugh. “It’s like heroin,” he says. “You’re going to want to chase that dragon.”
Koch’s first stand-up routine was in August, 2002 (naturally, he told a bit about “George Bush invading Canada for Tim Hortons,” he explains). After spending some years in Montreal and Vancouver, Koch moved to Regina for his family. He found there were almost no performance options in the Queen City. He was used to Vancouver, where, he says, comedians “can do multiple sets every night.”
In 2010 Regina had Pass the Hat, formerly Queen City Comedy, a once-per-month show and that’s about it. Local stand-up comedy at this time was still growing into its over-sized clown shoes. Through a friend, Koch learned Gabbo’s Night Club wanted to do something different.
He got a meeting and struck a deal. His vision at that time was to host a regular show during the middle of the week. Koch underestimated the demand for comedy though; Gabbo’s wanted a weekend gig — a main event.
The opportunity was double-edged for Koch: While weekend shows can attract larger crowds, Regina’s talent pool basically sucked.
But as Koch says, “If someone gives you primetime, you can’t say no.”
He spread the word to his new Regina friends, put up posters and hyped the show.
The first Grind —a packed house — was “pretty electric,” says Koch. People liked it; same for the second.
The third? “That’s when the bottom fell out,” he says.
The mayor at the time, Pat Fiacco, came to the third show. Other than Fiacco, the audience was tiny and the comic lineup was surprise-colonoscopy bad, as in candidly uncomfortable. Koch says the show embarrassed everyone at Gabbo’s, including the mayor.
Legend has it, Fiacco has never laughed since.
That night set the stage, so to speak, for the legacy of the Comedy Grind. Some Grind nights are packed with energized crowds out for a laugh; others are accidentally watched by a lone vagrant escaping the cold and a table of saucily drunk bro turds who don’t know it’s comedy night. New comedians get better at the Grind by learning how to handle all crowds, good or bad.
Koch says the show was always intended to be “a workout”, and many have been reduced to dust in the grinder. But a core of regular comics kept coming back, became better performers and eventually friends. Koch says the camaraderie was the best part of the four-year run. “I tried to foster a familial feel. It’s a community,” he says.
Newbies might come to the Grind to try and get famous or maybe cross a goal off their bucket list, but those who come back again and again, and survive the ritual and loving mockery of the other grinders become part of the team Koch fostered.
That team is still close. It’s not unusual to get a wedding invitation from a fellow grinder. The Grind is — was — a weekly daycare for adult children with low impulse control and who giggle at fart jokes.
Koch is moving on for his family and other aspirations as a performer, but he says, “There will be another show. Just not the Grind.”
The final Comedy Grind is at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15 at Gabbo’s Night Club. Comedians will include Tim Kehler, Adam Lojewski, Jon Hill, Joel Yeomans and Toronto comedian, Danny Mendlow. Hosted by Shawn Koch.