High Time for a Laugh: Cannabis Meets Stand-Up Comedy in Canada

Published on May 6, 2019 · Last updated July 28, 2020
comedy clubs
Quinn McMorrow on stage at Studio Sesh. Photo via @PerfectBite/Facebook

A girl walks into a comedy show and sparks up a joint…

If you’re waiting for a punchline, there’s none. Weed-friendly rooms are all the rage on the Canadian comedy scene. These are shows where you can walk in, settle down, and get high while you watch some great stand-up.

Montreal comedian/producer Reese Turner explains the draw. “Cannabis and comedy go together like peanut butter and jelly. Whenever I would go to a comedy show, the first stop was whatever alley was behind the club. A lot of people are like we were, but now we’ve invited them inside.”

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Studio Sesh

“Have you ever wondered how many people it takes to hotbox a room?” Turner asks his audience. “This many. This many people.”

A hearty round of laughter follows from the crowd. Turner has been performing for close to 4 years and started producing in 2017. His show, Studio Sesh, began as a monthly but now runs biweekly.

I’ve attended a few shows (for research purposes only, mom) and they’re some of the best experiences I’ve had with live stand-up.

It’s fun seeing a show in a venue that’s not a comedy club. There’s something about the vibe of his room that’s just super chill. Everyone is friendly and there to have a good time. No one is drunk or belligerent. And it attracts great talent.

“It’s just such a unique space and the crowds are out of this world,” Turner says. “Lately, a lot of people from out of town have been contacting me [to perform on the show]. People are really excited to be a part of something like this.”

Local Montreal comic Lawrence Corber agrees. “The goodie bags are incredible,” he jokes. “And it’s a fun venue for the crowd and the performers.”


Stoner Sundays

Mike Rita got into comedy over a decade ago, while in his late teens. He worked the open mics until he was able to land club spots, and now performs at festivals like Just for Laughs and works alongside comics like Joe Rogan and Tommy Chong.

Rita’s weekly show, Stoner Sundays, offers what he calls the “Pot Comedy Room” vibe. “The enjoyment is internal,” he says. “It makes for a strange show where everyone is smiling at you, but nobody is laughing. It’s one of the longest running comedy rooms in the country and each week we get solid audiences who like the show. It’s really fun to host.”

Jokes N Tokes Comedy Showcase

Andrew Packer started performing five years ago, grabbing stage time wherever he could, from Yuk Yuks to Absolute Comedy. He now runs the JNT Comedy Showcase (Jokes & Tokes). The show features top-notch Toronto comics and an out-of-town headliner. It consistently sells out.

Packer knows he has a winning formula, for both the audience and the performer. “Stage time is king,” Packer explains. “Getting time in front of real audiences is essential to get better. Cannabis-friendly audiences are generally able to sit and watch for a longer time, compared to an audience that is just drinking or sober… my shows offer lots of quality stage time.”


Jokes N Tokes Pro/Am Show

After Packer’s success with his Toronto show, he started a second show called JNT Comedy Pro/Am every Sunday in Vancouver. The show quickly gained popularity and often sells out. It provides stage time for the up-and-comers, and always features 3 professional comics.

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Packer runs the show with help from local comics. “Cory Lupovici is the main comedian on the sound and back mic. Sean McDonnell is another great comic and he often guest hosts or replaces Cory when either of us are away. Ari Matti, Ola Dada, and Dusty Searcy are also regular acts that do a great job.”

Not Just Stoner Jokes

This is not a night of pure stoner comedy. The acts vary and some comics don’t even go there. “We’ve had a few people on that have never touched [cannabis] at all, they just really love to play the room,” Turner says.

I was at a show with a comedian who doesn’t partake. But he was high that night, and it was a glory to behold. He kept forgetting his punchlines but managed to stay consistently funny. Packer explains this, saying, “Doing comedy stoned is kind of like running track with hurdles. Sometimes while high you may forget the next line of your joke and be forced to come up with something right in the moment… It’s a very good comedic exercise.”

Rita expounds, saying, “There’s a select group of comics, young and old, who love the weed rooms. They enjoy the challenge. It’s truly one of the best feeling in comedy to make a weed room laugh. It’s like a small trophy for a well-written joke.”

If you haven’t been to a show, I highly recommend it. If you can’t find a room near you, don’t despair. All three of the comedians mentioned are touring with shows across Canada starting this spring. Keep an eye on their Facebook pages for updates.

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Julie Matlin
Julie Matlin
Julie Matlin is a freelance writer based in Montreal. Her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Canadian Living, and Today's Parent.
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