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Arctic Comedy Festival raises funds for Help Line

2018 Arctic Comedy Festival performers. L to R: Angnakuluk Friesen, Chad Anderson, Bibi Bilodeau, Raxhelle Elie, JC Surette, Howie Miller, Paul Rabliauskus, John Helmkay (producer), Dakota Ray Hebert, Samasuni Fortin, Mary-lee Aliyak, Bernard Choquette, and Mary Walsh. © Shawn MacDonell

The Crack Up Comedy Team is pleased to announce that the first ever First Air Arctic Comedy festival in Iqaluit, Nunavut, raised over $6,700 through ticket proceeds, silent auction, and ticket draws for the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line, which provides a vital, volunteer-run service across Nunavut 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Over three days, over 1,000 attendees were inspired by the Festival.

The Festival drew a powerhouse of star talent, including Mary Walsh as host and Howie Miller and his son Tyson Houseman from the Twilight Movie series. The Festival also included fabulous Nunavut comics and provided opportunities for them to break into the comedy scene. First Air and the Crack Up Comedy organizers hope to eventually expand the festival to more communities in the Arctic.

“Laughter cheers our spirit, relieves stress and strengthens relationships, so it makes sense to have a comedy festival that supports mental health and youth in crisis,” says Dan Valin of First Air. “The Kamatsiaqtut Help Line is a life-saving and life-supporting organization, and we’re proud and privileged to support their vital efforts. We hope this Festival continues to raise awareness of the tools available to youth and our communities.”

John Helmkay from Crackup Comedy adds, “The community response in Iqaluit to the First Air Arctic Comedy Festival was amazing — businesses, schools and individuals all got involved. We had a lot of sponsors and partners who stepped up with financial support and in-kind contributions. They provided volunteers, promotion and more. The crowds at the shows and workshops were amazing. Our line-up combined local and visiting comics, and everyone had a blast. Our goal was to have fun and support the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line. Mission accomplished. We’d love to do this again!”

Spin-off events as part of the Festival included:

  • Visiting comedians Howie Miller, Dakota Hebert, Chad Anderson, Paul Rabliauskas and special guest Tyson Houseman spoke at an assembly with over 350 students at Inuksuk High School.
  • Crush Improv gave a presentation about the importance of laughter and well-being as it relates to improv to all Grade 5 students at Joamie Elementary School. It was well received with many of the students choosing to attend the Improv show the next day.
  • Comedians Mary Walsh, Dakota Ray Hebert, and Jenn Hayward visited the local Women’s Shelter and were inspired by their stories and strength.
  • Eight local comics were given the opportunity to perform in four of the shows and they absolutely inspired and impressed the visiting comics from all over Canada.
  • Three workshops were held by Mary Walsh, Howie Miller, and Crush Improv, sharing their experience in Writing, Improv, and Stand-up Comedy with local and visiting comics.
  • Mary Walsh, Howie Miller, and Tyson Houseman visited Pangnirtung to meet with local officials to return next year to hold a show in the town.

Alongside First Air, sponsors included Arctic Co-op, NCC Investment, C&K Services, and Ottawa-based Alphabet Creative. Local venues hosted events and provided support and sponsorship, including the Frobisher Inn, the Astro Theatre, the Royal Canadian Legion, the Francophone Centre, Inuksuk High School, Joamie Elementary School, and Travel Nunavut.