Every Friday in the Plateau, a residential loft hosts the city’s only bilingual comedy event.
Comedy at the Art Loft, voted #1 Best Comedy Night in this year’s Best of MTL readers poll, began last December as an open mic during the Infringement festival. Now it’s nearly 50 editions deep.
“I live here with four other people,” Kris Dulgar says about the venue. “We were already hosting music events and art exhibitions, so we decided to start doing comedy shows, too.”
“We’ve always had a packed house,” says Quinn McMorrow, Dulgar’s co-organizer and roommate. “It was going to be monthly, then biweekly and then weekly, but there are so many comedians in Montreal that we didn’t have to worry about attendance or booking acts. It was foolish not to (make it weekly).”
Dulgar and McMorrow — both comedians who alternate hosting duties and often perform as part of their events — have witnessed an increase in the number of working anglo comics in recent years, but there hasn’t been a corresponding emergence of new comedy venues. As a result, despite a spike in comedy events at bars and cafés, those who flourish in stand-up still tend to move to Toronto to further their careers.
“We’re trying to reverse that trend,” says Dulgar, who used to run weekly comedy shows at Bifteck. “It’s so hard to get space that my advice to any comedian trying to get time (on stage) is start your own room. That’s the reason we started: it was a guaranteed way to get more time. And it certainly wouldn’t hurt to get more rooms in the city.”
Bilingual comedy has become a thing in the wake of the linguistic crossover successes of comics like Sugar Sammy and Mike Ward, who famously perform bilingually or do unilingual acts in English and French. Dulgar and McMorrow consider their night to be at the forefront of the trend, as they never tell their comics what language to perform in, and always end up with shows that feature both official languages.
The other element that sets their event apart from comedy club or bar shows is, as they put it, “the experience.”
“We open the doors at 9 p.m., so people can come hang out and we have a live DJ and big screen here so people can dance afterwards, too,” McMorrow says.
“It’s a pretty well-decorated place filled with art from the corners of the earth that we’ve gathered as a collective over the last 10 years,” Dulgar adds. Of course the fact that the event is both BYOB and “green-friendly” adds to the casual ambiance. “You’re going to see a show but you feel like you’re part of it. That’s why we get a lot of regulars.” ■
Comedy at the Art Loft happens every Friday at 4152 St-Laurent #203, doors 9 p.m., show 10:30 p.m., $5 before 10 p.m./$10