In the summer of 2012, there was a boom in stand-up comedy seen around the Sydney area. A lot of that boom came from self-described “one part youthful charmer, one part grizzled grouch” local fella, Stefan MacNeil. However, trying to make a career for himself in the comedy world, Stefan moved out west as so many others have before him (though few are stand-up comedians). Now, after almost two years away, Stefan is returning with a group of other trans-planted Maritime comedians for the West Meets East Comedy Tour. First stop on the tour is Sydney, where MacNeil got his start a few years ago.
After playing an afternoon’s worth of phone tag with Stefan, we finally got to talk while he sat at the Lonestar Restaurant in Toronto, where it was really loud, filled with birds, and many people dressed like cowboys.
Stefan’s plan in 2012 was to prove himself in Vancouver. “Vancouver is known for tough crowds,” explains MacNeil. “You have to be pretty PC for them and watch what you say. But it’s a great place for someone to cut their teeth.”
The experience was very different from that of a comedian on the east coast. “The first six months were horrible, but I love the comedy scene in Vancouver now.” A major difference MacNeil discovered was working with different types of comedy; different types of shows that might include stand-ups, sketch, and improv, as well as longer running “theme shows” like one called “The Cool People’s Court” where a comedian’s stage personas was put on trial. “I was charged with being a forty-five year old man in disguise.” Sometimes MacNeil can be, well, crotchety. But in a good way.
Another major move for MacNeil in Vancouver was when he hosted regular shows at the Railway Club (an indie-punk club) where he would run and promote the show mostly by himself.
The West Meets East Comedy tour was actually an idea of Brad Dorion (from Ottawa, but originally P.E.I.). MacNeil thought it was a good idea to go the show since he was planning on coming home. Also because he needs stage time or “[he’ll] go insane.”
Along with Dorion and MacNeil, the West Meets East show includes Chanel Freire (originally from Saint John, now Halifax) and Andrew Vaughan (from the South Shore). The show is on Tuesday, July 8 at Daniel’s Pub, but if you want an idea of what to expect beforehand, visit the tour’s website or their Facebook group for lots of info on the performers as well as some great videos. If you go the Facebook route and you decide to share one of the videos, you can get into the show on Tuesday for $8 instead of $10. That’s $2 for clicking a button.
The tour has five more stops, across the Maritimes, so if you really like the show and any/all of the performers, it would not be hard to see it/them four more times throughout the week.
Unfortunately, Cape Breton is just a short stop for MacNeil. His plan is to move to Toronto (or “T.O.” – very original) where he will continue his climb up the comedy ladder, or perhaps get a job at the Lonestar Restaurant, get a nice new cowboy hat and enjoy some fish tacos. He really seems to like fish tacos. Went on about them for about ten straight minutes.
If you’re interested in hearing MacNeil’s thoughts on such things as fish tacos, as well as various opinions on a myriad of topics from three home-grown maritime comedians, visit Daniel’s on Tuesday for the first stop in the West Meets East Comedy Tour!