Human Condition Comedy Tour Concludes in Edmonton

The Human Condition Comedy Tour
Evolution Wonderlounge
October 1, 2019

Review by Austin Nitschke

The Human Condition Comedy Tour made its twenty-second and final stop in Edmonton on Monday, October 1, after spending the entire month of September touring towns and cities all across Western Canada. Hosted at the Evolution Wonderlounge, located inside downtown Edmonton’s historic Boardwalk building, the event brought four comedians together to perform for charity with each of them providing a distinct and varied style of comedic flavour.

There were a few audience members who, like me, arrived early to the show, hoping to get good seats. Little did we know how poor the turnout at the gay bar would be: there was not only an ample amount of seating remaining in the front row, but dozens of chairs in subsequent rows also sat empty. An announcement was made that the show would be delayed by fifteen minutes in the hope that more would show up; but, with the exception of a few, they never did. Altogether, there were no more than a dozen people in attendance.

While the show may have gotten off to a rocky start and prevented the tour from ending with the bang organizers had hoped for, the performers did not allow that fact to sap their spirits or impact their performance; and the comedians, themselves, certainly did not disappoint.

Frank Russo, a 32-year old comedian from Toronto, opened the show and supported throughout; his comedy can be best compared to the likes of Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres, observational in kind, with a focus on the mundane. Russo mused over Toyota’s proposal of introducing a car with emotional intelligence, going on to wonder who exactly asked for that. His play on his car only working when it feels like it and not when he needs it to was witty, and his exploration of the car being at risk of suffering from a mental illness was a prospect that prompted laughter from the audience. More laughter was had when Russo asked  the audience when manufacturers started putting gravel in soap; he recounted a time where he had to use his girlfriend’s exfoliating body wash, and how the scrapes all over his body after exiting the shower made him look like he had just fallen off of his bike.

Scott Porteous, the principal organizer of the tour, had an act that consisted of edgy jokes and one-liners with some deadpan delivery. Porteous said the turnout reminded him of his birthday, “except with people… and he’s invited.” He continued to say, amid audience laughter, “My friends hate that joke; they’re always coming up to me after my set and they’re like ‘Scott, you have to stop calling us your friends.’” Porteous has been performing comedy for 16 years and is the principal organizer of the tour. On the name and purpose of the tour, he said he wanted to do something significant that represents the human connection while bringing everyone together through common cause. It was also important for him that the tour selected lesser known charities to support, as they often do not receive the financial support that others do.

Shawn Gramiak, sporting long hair and a full beard, described his appearance as that of a “civil war cavalry sergeant” (and he supposedly has the costume to match at home); his self-deprecation paired nicely with his anecdotal comedy style. Almost having spent 20 years performing comedy, Gramiak can be considered a veteran–and it shows. His story about being confused for a woman by a driver on Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue was perfectly executed from start to finish, and marked an enviable level of comedic refinement that he managed to retain throughout his act; although, when considering Gramiak has opened at the Winspear in the past, it should not come as a shock.

Nadine Hunt, a surprise guest and local Edmontonian who has appeared on SiriusXM’s Top Comic, headlined the show. Rather than beginning with her act, Hunt opened with a seemingly innocent comment on the timing of an audience member who got up from his seat in the front row for another beer­ just as Hunt walked onto the stage. The audience member, having been quiet during the previous acts, appeared to interpret Hunt’s comment as an invitation to engage with her throughout her set. A comedic battle of sorts broke out between her and the audience member, him interjecting periodically throughout her act with remarks on her material and Hunt cracking back.

Hunt seemed to take a page out of comedian Lisa Lampanelli’s playbook, poking fun at the audience member’s height and prodding him about his relationship with the woman he was sharing a table with. While Nadine Hunt’s comments might have been mistaken as personal, they were pretty tame as far as insult comedy goes; and, the rest of the audience seemed to enjoy them–with the comments yielding a good amount of laughter. Nadine also made an attempt to enlist another couple to help her with an act, but the two, rather bizarrely, could not agree whether or not they had a son. She, nonetheless, had them pretend they did for the sake of setting up the joke.

The above strangeness aside, Hunt played well into the fact that she was a lesbian with a young son, saying that they have a rule where they cannot bring the same girl home for Thanksgiving, so as to not confuse Grandma, as “she’s just getting used to the gay thing.” She also remarked on the likeness in appearance between her and her son, saying she’s not quite sure if that means she looks like a 20-year old boy or that her son looks like a 39-year old lesbian. Hunt’s ability to successfully deal with a persistent audience member and still smoothly transition back into her act conveyed an admirable degree of skill – dealing with a heckler while preventing one’s act from completely derailing can be tricky.

Although the show suffered a small audience, it did not detract from its enjoyability. If anything, it made the performances feel more intimate and personal. And, while the acts were not family-friendly, neither were they overly obscene. The Human Condition Comedy Tour will potentially return next September for its third consecutive year, so make sure to keep an eye out for it if you are looking for some good laughs.

Ticket prices were $15 at the door or could be purchased online. All proceeds from the event went to Youth Empowerment and Support Services, an organization that provides Edmonton youth between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four with access to immediate and low-barrier shelter, temporary housing, and individualized support services. YESS is one of a number of charities that benefited, the money raised at twenty of the twenty-two stops of the Human Condition’s Western Canada tour going to local organizations.