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Comedy Festival heals with laughter

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Comedians join organizer, John Helmkey, on stage after the finale. L to R: Mike Bombay, Paul Rabliauskas, Nicole Etitiq, Peter Autut (emcee for the finale), David Brennan, Abdullah Usman, Janelle Niles, and John Helmkey.

In its fourth year, the Canadian North Arctic Comedy Festival took place in Iqaluit, Nunavut, September 30 to October 2, featuring a line-up of established and local comics. Just for Laughs head talent scout, Zoe Rabnett, was in the audience as well this year as, according to organizer John Helmkay, the festival’s goal is to grow the number of Arctic comics in Canada. 

Performances included those from comedic greats like Royal Canadian Air Farce star Jessica Holmes and Indigenous comics Paul Rabliauskas and Janelle Niles, as well as the Yes THEM Improv Show and Ottawa stand-up rising stars David Brennan and Abdullah Usman. 

“This is a powerful opportunity to not only share laughter and joy during a time of uncertainty, but to also reduce unnecessary stigmas and encourage open conversations about mental health across the North,” says Chris Avery, president and CEO of Canadian North. 

The Yes THEM deliver a fun and interactive show at the 2021 Canadian North Arctic Comedy Festival. For the first time, Lisa Merchant joined The Yes Men Improv Comedy Troupe onstage. L to R: Kevin Frank, Lisa Merchant, and Pat McKenna.

Sponsors also included Northwestel and Baffinland Mining. Baffinland also launched the Canadian Improv Games Program in Nunavut at the event, which engages Nunavut high School students by teaching workshops and developing skills so schools can compete in this year’s national online improv competition and in future in-person competitions in Nunavut and beyond. 

The festival was held at the Aqsarniit Hotel this year and a portion of ticket sales and on-site activities raised funds for the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line. 

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