Breaking the stigma of mental illness through comedy

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The “biggest and best” Arctic comedy fest returns to Iqaluit for its second year Oct. 11 to Oct. 12. After last year’s success, the North Arctic Comedy Festival will now expand its audience by performing in Yellowknife on Oct. 9 and Oct. 10. It is committed to providing opportunities for Arctic based comedians and bringing some laughs up North.

Igupttaq Autut, originally of Chesterfield Inlet, performed at the North Arctic Comedy Festival in 2018. The festival returns for a second year in Iqaluit, Oct. 11-12. photo courtesy of Shawn MacDonell

The event aims to raise awareness and support for mental health issues, according to the Crackup Comedy organizers based in Ottawa.

My favorite part is connecting with local comics and seeing them grow and improve their craft,” says John Helmkay, one of the organizers of Crackup Comedy.

For the second year, this comedy fest is aiming to raise funds for Kamatisiaqtut, a Nunavut helpline, which helps to serve those who are experiencing emotional crisis.

Laughter is the best memory with family and friends, you can smile and laugh at something that happened years ago and giggle and feel better just like that. That’s not a bad thing every now and then. That’s why people should come out and support events such as these,” said Iqaluit comedian Peter Autut in an email to Nunavut News.

Iqaluit comedians Bibi Bilodeau, Peter Autut, Mary-Lee Aliyak, and Wade Thorhaug, along with comedic duo Samasuni Fortin and Bernard Choquette, make up the Nunavut contingent of performers. The program also features well-known comedians from across Canada, such as Mary Walsh, Howie Miller, Big Daddy Tazz, Derek Seguin and James Mullinger.

Many of these comedians plus Alex Sparling, a Vancouver-based comedian originally from Yellowknife, will also be performing in Yellowknife.

With 900 people attending last year, the Comedy Fest organizers are hoping for an even bigger turnout this year. Helmkay encourages people to help support local talent and celebrate Mental Illness Awareness Week by coming out to these events.

Laughter is healing and we could all use a break from daily challenges,” says Helmkay.

The two evening shows on Oct. 11 in Iqaluit are scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Frobisher Inn and Franco Centre respectively. The Saturday finale will take place at 7:00 p.m. on Oct. 12 at Frobisher Inn. For all events, doors open 30 minutes before showtime.

There are plans to have the festival take place in all three Arctic territories by 2020.