Winnipeg Comedy Fest Interview: Stand-up veteran Erica Sigurdson on making a career out of comedy and returning to the WCF

Filed under: Interviews

Vancouver comic Erica Sigurdson has been a mainstay in the Canadian comedy scene for well over a decade now. Hitting every major mark for a top comedian in Canada, she's one of the most frequent performers on the popular CBC Radio program The Debaters, filmed a Comedy Now! special, and appeared countless times at festivals nationwide (including Montreal's Just for Laughs and the recently re-branded JFL NorthWest). She's also, of course, performed in comedy clubs, in theatres, and at corporate events from coast to coast.

Sigurdson is also a favourite of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, returning to the festival almost every year, last year winning the inaugural Mic Award for "Funniest Female Comic". She's also been performing in shows across the country of late with fellow comics Rebecca Kohler, Jen Grant, and Christina Walkinshaw. Called "My Jokes Are Up Here", the shows are an opportunity to see 4 of Canada's funniest women on one supershow.

I was all set to speak to Erica Sigurdson for the first time after all my years covering the Winnipeg Comedy Festival a couple weeks ago, but just as I was making the call to her, a technical glitch left my computer both unable to make the call or record sound of any kind. Luckily, she graciously agreed to answer my questions via email, which you can find below!

If you're in Winnipeg next week, you can check out the very busy Erica Sigurdson in one of NINE shows at this year's Winnipeg Comedy Festival, including a headlining set at Rumors Comedy Club on April 5, Coast to Coast Comedy on April 8 (which you can win tickets for here), the 15th Anniversary Gala on April 9, and Sunday April 10's taping of CBC Radio's The Debaters.

Paul Little: You've become a mainstay and audience favourite at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, winning "Best Female Comic" at the inaugural Mic Awards at last year's festival. What do you enjoy about the festival that keeps you coming back regularly?

Erica Sigurdson: Winnipeg was the first festival I was asked to do, so it definitely holds a special place in my heart. My family (on my Icelandic side) is from Winnipeg so there's also a personal connection there. I love the sense of wonder I get every time I try to navigate the underground walkways beneath the Fairmont. The WCF also has the best staff and volunteers who somehow manage to keep everything running like clockwork, despite dealing with dozens of comedians, which I'm sure can sometimes feel like juggling jello.

PL: This year at the festival you have a crazy line-up of shows – I think at last count it's around 50 or so. What shows are you most excited about taking part in this year?

ES: Oh wow, that's almost impossible to answer because each show offers something different for me. The No Bro Show is going to be so much fun – last year it sold out and the energy was electric. Last year I was invited to the Gastrocomique show, and the food was absolutely amazing, so I'm stoked to be invited to perform at it this year (and hopefully eat... hint hint). Of course the 15th Anniversary show is the big one, and I'm so honoured to be included in the line-up as, well as the 10th anniversary of The Debaters – holy smokes I'm going to be busy that week!

PL: Since it's the 15th anniversary of the festival, they're bringing in lots of past favourites this year, plus some new up-and-coming Canadian comics as well. Are there any comics in particular you're really excited to see perform, or just get to spend time with?

ES: It was Brent Butt who first invited me to be part of a show he was doing in Winnipeg at the festival, and he's so funny on and off stage, so I'm stoked that he will be there. My fellow Vancouver comics Kyle Bottom, Phil Hanley, and Graham Clark are all out of this world funny, so it will be fun for all of us to be there. There's actually too many funny people to mention. I'm just excited to be there will all of them!

PL: You were recently in the city for "My Jokes Are Up Here", along with Rebecca Kohler, Jen Grant, and Christina Walkinshaw. You've done a few shows with that line-up now. How is it worked with such a talented group across the country?

ES: It's so much fun. Not only is everyone talented, but we're also all friends and so there is a LOT of red wine consumed!

PL: You keep Vancouver as a home base, when a lot of Canadian comics tend to end up in Toronto or head south to L.A. How have you been able to make it work, and has the growth of the Vancouver scene – including the newly-renamed JFL NorthWest – helped?

ES: I get asked this all the time and I don't really know what the answer is. I love Vancouver and I have a life that I love, so I've worked hard to be able to find a balance between my comedy life and living my life. I adore comedy and it's my career of choice but I didn't want to start making every decision in life based on what is my job. I'm writing the answers to these questions in a Starbucks in the Philippines, where I'm on a two week tour of South East Asia for Magner's International Comedy Festival – that's very cool for me. Live in Vancouver and fly off to cool places like Bangkok and then Winnipeg – it's really perfect for me!

PL: I've talked to dozens of Canadian comics over the years – some who have stayed in Canada and some who have left – but they all talk about how Canada doesn't have a star system and barely has an entertainment industry. Do you see any change in that mentality across the country? Is there a chance for real success without having to leave?

ES: It depends on what you consider success. If you want fame and fortune then Canada is probably not going to offer that. Having said that, YouTube and the million other social media platforms out there are changing the landscape of getting your name out there, so who knows what the next ten years will look like.

PL: The Debaters got its start at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, and is now a Canadian staple. As someone who's performed on the show quite a lot, what is so enjoyable about the format for comics?

ES: It's very fun as a comic to be able to craft a funny argument that you can build to instead of set up, punch, set up, punch. It's a different muscle to flex and it's also so rare that standups are performing with another person on stage with them. We're so used to being alone, it's kind of refreshing to have three people (including Steve Patterson) on stage.

PL: I understand you've got your first book coming out this year. What's it about, and when can people expect to find it in stores?

ES: It's a humour book, funny essays and observations spinning around in my brain. I'm not sure when people can find it in stores, but I'm projecting it to be available online by November.

PL: Besides the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, where else can comedy fans find you this spring and beyond?

ES: I will be at the Edmonton Comedy Festival in the fall, and hopefully "My Jokes Are Up Here" will have some tour dates for the spring of 2017 coming through Manitoba.

PL: And finally, just a random curious question... Do you still remember the first joke or bit you performed that got a really great reaction? Do you think it still holds up?

ES: Hmmm... a while back I pulled all the tape out of my old VHS demos so they could never be used against me, so I'll have to go off my memory. It was probably my bit about spanking kids, so it probably would still work but also get me arrested.

Follow Erica Sigurdson on Twitter: @Erica_Sigurdson

Tags: Winnipeg Comedy Festival, Erica Sigurdson, The Debaters, Vancouver, stand-up, comedy, WCF2016

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Paul Little is the founder and Managing Editor of When not interviewing his favourite musicians and comedians, he can also be found putting on and promoting music and comedy events with The Purple Room in Winnipeg, or co-producing the live comedy game shows Pants on Fire and The Great Patio Showdown. (@comedygeek)

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