By: Petra Chase, Arts & Culture Editor
Just as the word “snowflake” has been weaponized by conservatives, “killjoy” is another word that has been historically used to silence those who question authority. Documentarist Shana Myara knows what it’s like to be called a killjoy, which is part of what inspired her new docuseries, Killjoy Comedy.
The six-part series highlights professional “killjoy” comedians who prove social activism doesn’t compromise humour. Each episode spotlights an up-and-coming Canadian comedian, featuring hilarious stand-up sets, personal interviews, and all-around “goofball antics,” while investigating “power in the comedy business.”
“I’ve loved comedy all my life,” Myara shared with The Peak. “At some point, I realized — I’ve watched Letterman, Carson, Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno, Seinfeld, all these people. But when you come to think about it, what do they have in common? Pretty homogenous group; so, where’s everyone else? Why have I been denied access to other voices that might have resonated more deeply with me?”
The series features comedians well-known in the Vancouver comedy scene: Lil Clitty, Ashlee Ferral, Sasha Mark, Joanne Tsung, Sunee Dhaliwal, and Tin Lorica. The group is made up of “Black, Indigenous, racialized, queer, fat, women, and gender diverse” comedians — identities who are often the “butt of jokes at comedy clubs.” Redefining traditional insult-comedy, Myara spoke on the importance of “punching up.”
“When you talk about punching up, it’s really about speaking truth to power,” she said. “When comedians do it, it’s so refreshing, convincing, and persuasive, because they can frame things in a way where you end up laughing. And the point they’ve made sinks in deeply. There’s a political potency to what [comedians] can do.”
The series seeks to investigate how comedy is an “ethical tightrope,” considering whether it’s acceptable for comedians to poke fun at their own communities, and what other considerations need to be taken into account. But one thing is clear: it’s a different story when comedians with power target groups who have historically been oppressed, stereotyped, and underrepresented. When these groups punch-up, it’s a way to fight back.
On top of being an award-winning writer, Myara is a documentary hit-maker. Well Rounded, her first documentary about body positivity, won the 2021 Best Canadian Film award by Reelout Queer Film Festival.
She was inspired to make Killjoy Comedy thanks to Candy Palmater, an activist and comedian who starred in Well Rounded. She said the way that Palmater was able to use comedy to make a point made it more “relatable,” “hilarious,” and “persuasive.” This is exactly what Killjoy Comedy seeks to do.
Killjoy Comedy premiered on February 14 on OUTtvGO. Subscribe to OUTtvGO to watch it on-demand. Watch the trailer and read the comedians’ bios at killjoycomedy.com.
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