October 3, 2011 by Speakers' Spotlight

Planning An Event…Sure Looks Easy!

Guest blog from Meg Soper

For most people, spring conjures up relaxing thoughts of green grass, trees in blossom and the prospect of lowering their golf handicap. But for me it is the season of high anxiety. It is time to gear up for Comic Vision, which is an evening of comedy to raise funds and awareness for the Foundation Fighting Blindness. In 1999 we hosted our first Comic Vision in Toronto at a local comedy club, The Laugh Resort. We thought we had hit the proverbial motherlode when we raked in a whopping $7000! Wow. A class and glamour event? Who would deny it with raffle prizes ranging from car care cleaning kits to a box of giant freezees!

Well, here we are 8 years later and our event has morphed into a multi-city tour across Canada that raises well over a half million dollars.

I am convinced that the key to running a successful event is to encourage everyone around you to maintain a sense of humor. That way when things don’t go according to plan, you don’t self combust. Admittedly, a solid back-up of heart medication and sedation may also come in handy.

The spring of 2007 marked the first time we took the fundraiser Canada wide . On the first night of the tour we found that the energy of the audience was somewhat subdued. For a stand-up, this is very disconcerting. The very first performer, a successful headliner at comedy clubs and conferences commented…”they don’t bury their dead in this city…they put them in seats and expect you to entertain them.”
The next performer in the line up had a similar experience and in closing commented “…well you have been a group of people in a room and I really appreciate that.” As the talent recruiter for the tour, the looks the comics were sending my way were akin to being on a rotisserie spindle.

In any case, on this particular night the audience did warm up in time, but not before a good deal of perspiration had dripped from the brows of those on stage.

Eventually the tour would take us to the west coast for the last stop. Just when everything seemed to be on cruise control and thoughts of lowering my handicap began to surface, one of the comics decided to cancel because he got an irresistible offer to perform in Egypt. In spite of the fact he had agreed to perform six months before, he donned his bullet proff vest and off he went. .

By this point I couldn’t help but think that anxiety is the absolute key to weight loss. But, instead of thinking about how the calories were going to balance out for the week I had to somehow find a funny, clean, reliable, available comedian to come to our rescue. My limitations as a comedy scout soon became apparent. This was a wee bit daunting as many of the prospective comedians did not have at the ready an arsenal of promotional videos ready to be plunked conveniently into the DVD for viewing and reviewing pleasure! Thankfully we located western agents and managed to somehow track down a comic who could fill the bill. He didn’t even own a passport so we knew the probability of an impulsive jaunt to Egypt was remote. We were back in business!

Our respite from stress was short lived. The fabulous location we had booked months before for our Vancouver show suddenly went of business. We scrambled around frantically looking for a venue that could hold 500 people. With days to go, this didn’t exactly give us much in the way of bargaining leverage. Many nervous hours and long distance billings later we ended up finding the only available venue in our price range, the Vancouver Telus Science Centre. We kicked in to high gear to get everything we needed including a portable stage, a sound system and the requisite catering services. It is a monumental understatement to say that the Telus Centre wasn’t your typical setting for stand-up comedy. Start with seating that rose up from the floor at about a 45 degree angle. The audience rose up and away from the stage in such a way that the performers felt as thought they were presenting to a group of people congregating in a tree house The ceiling was a rounded dome that was useful if you had an overwhelming urge to pick out the big dipper. The headliner, whose set was 45 minutes in length, ended up lying down on the stage during his performance because his neck couldn’t handle the discomfort of staring skyward any longer. So there he lay on his side, one hand propping up his head and the other holding the microphone. We questioned the merit of having bothered to rent a stage as the audience towered well above the performers anyway! Interestingly, the audience drew on the energy of this absurdity and it turned out to be one of the most memorable nights of comedy anyone could remember!