Comedy Before Punk with Pouzza Laughs

Montreal’s annual homage to all things punk hits the city with Pouzza Fest, a three day festival. Less than Jake, The Planet Smashers, Red Mass, The Saint Catherines, and Sick of it All, are just a few of the familiar names from the 200 bands playing. But, before the mosh pits and ska hopping starts, the crowd is treated to comedy. I spoke to Gabe Koury about Pouzza Fest’s comedy line up, Pouzza Laughs, a showcase that warms up the crowd before the music begins.

This year Pouzza Laughs has a super solid showing. Mike Carrozza, Ellie MacDonald, Emma Wilkie, François Tousignant, and Shawn Stenhouse are just a few of the comedians who will take to the stage.

“We did it last year before all the bands played,” says Koury. He goes on to explain that this year, he was able to put together two shows, one Anglo, one Franco, on the weekend. The motivation to showcase comedy comes from a desire to start the day for the audience in an entertaining way. As some people from last year told him, “We love it, because we’d rather drink a Molson and listen to jokes than listen to a hardcore band from Denver at 1:30 in the afternoon.”

Combining comedy and punk together is nothing new. Koury recounts how comedy showcases were apart of The Fest FL, a punk festival in Gainesville Florida. “They start the day with comedy and the comedy ends when the bands start,” Koury says. “I got to do the fest last year, and it was huge. It was one of the biggest comedy shows I’ve ever done with 200-300 people at each show, Saturday and Sunday. It was cool. People enjoyed it.”

Koury makes it clear that comedy and punk go together better than most realize. “Why can’t punks laugh?” he asks, rhetorically. Recounting his own experience, not only did he play with a touring punk band, but he was doing stand up at the same time. “It’s another avenue of performance art for me. It bridges a gap,” he says.

He further explains that the two share several fundamental components. He says, “The link between comedy and punk rock is the way both are interested in reality. Also, both the music community and the comedy community don’t make tons of money. Comedians and punk rockers do it because they love it. The passion and the heart is there. A comedian will speak for ten minutes about masturbation, a punk rock band gets up on stage and sing about hating the government. They do it because they love it, because they believe in it. The connection is similar.”

He also notes that there’s a similarity to the process of creating a work intended for the public. “As a band, you got to jam and write songs and record. Comedians got to go up to a mic and make sure their jokes work, going from small venues to bigger ones.”

Koury also points out that many of the performers in the punk scene also do stand up. “We’re celebrating the two lost genres of live performance art that deserve to be together. Punk rock and comedy go hand and hand.”

Koury especially likes how people who come to see the comedians might be exposed to new types of music, and those who come for the music might learn some comics to watch out for. He hosts an event in Toronto that uses a punk band to serve as the house band for a comedy night. Koury says, “I had a comedian who said he downloaded the band’s EP from bandcamp after hearing them play the show, and last year at Pouzza, a few people asked me about Ellie McDonald, because she’s really funny. Why not introduce each scene or spectator of those genres to art they might not be introduced to otherwise?”

Pouzza Laughs takes place May 21 and 22 at Theatre St. Catherine. 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. Information HERE. $5 at door or free for pass holders.

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