When Amanda Killeen was arranging comedic talent for her Friday, March 13th Local Laughs Comedy show in Tillsonburg, she focused on two things.
Local and funny.
"I picked the best," said Killeen. "I picked the best and what I think would work for this town. I've watched thousands of comedians. I go to live comedy as much as possible and I'll even go two shows in one night if I can. I'm a huge supporter of Canadian comedians. This is all Canadian comedy."
Headlining her five-comedian event is Debra DiGiovanni, originally from Tillsonburg, along with Killeen who was born Tillsonburg and raised in the Ottawa area until 13. Killeen moved back to Tillsonburg where she attended Annandale School and Glendale HS. She later worked locally in retail, at Community Living, at Otter Valley Foods, AVE Entertainment, and more.
"I lived in Tillsonburg till I was about 26," said Killeen. "The funny thing about me and Tillsonburg is that it seems like I worked everywhere. Every time I turn around, 'yeah, I worked there... I worked there...' It was really hard trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life."
Killeen currently lives in Toronto where she is a full-time flight attendant. About a year and a half ago, she crossed a bucket item off her list – she did her first standup comedy show.
"I enjoyed it so much that I continued on. Afterward I had people contacting me saying 'we'd like you to do our show.' So I haven't done a lot of it, but I've been lucky enough that the ones I have done have been pretty good experiences and good shows."
When NBC flew Aisha Alfa, who will be host of Tillsonburg's Local Laughs Comedy show, to Los Angeles for NBC's Stand Up for Diversity competition, Killeen jumped on a flight too, and went to support her.
"The competition allowed 10 finalists, so they flew her out to LA and I decided to go support her and watch her show (benefit of being a flight attendant, she smiled). She didn't win, but she did a great job and she's been touring around the US with that group. Debra (DiGiovanni) came out to support her as well."
When Killeen asked DiGiovanni if she wanted to do a show back home in Tillsonburg, DiGiovanni said 'Yeah, definitely.' The catch, DiGiovanni lives in Los Angeles.
"That was about a year ago," said Killeen, "but I thought, 'I really want to do this.'"
Her Tillsonburg friends, not able to watch her in Toronto, continued to push for a Tillsonburg show. Eventually Killeen was able to put it together – a huge show with not just one or two, but five comedians.
"I go big. Go big or go home," she laughed. "The thing is, I wanted to do a show in Tillsonburg, but there really aren't many venues here."
It required some creative planning. And taking some risks.
"I thought, 'I love Tillsonburg, I miss it here. I love the community and the support that I get here. And the humour, too. People pick up on my small town humour better here than they do in Toronto. I thought, 'this would be something great for Tillsonburg.'
"I thought it would be really fun to come back here, laugh about my experience in Tillsonburg, and how it's allowed me to be a city and country girl. I always joke, you can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl. I get the best of both worlds.
"I said, 'you know what, I think people would be supportive of this. I think people would really enjoy it.'"
She reached out to friends and said, "instead of me coming out to do comedy for you guys, what if I make it a big event? Do you think I could pull it off?"
Killeen went back to DiGiovanni's agent and negotiated a deal.
"Tell them I'm really excited to do the show," was DiGiovanni's message from LA.
Doors open at 7:30 p.m. on the 13th at the Tillsonburg Community Centre Lions Auditorium. The comedy show starts at 8:30 p.m.
Wanting to keep it local, Killeen added Chaser's Family Sports Bar on Broadway as a location to sell discounted tickets ($55). It's also the site of the after-party. Tickets ($65) are available at Coward Pharmacy and Salon 108 (92 Simcoe Street). Buy your tickets online at Eventbrite and use Coupon Code Laughter to save $15. Tickets are limited. The event can be found by searching Local Laughs Comedy presents Debra DiGiovanni or by city under Tillsonburg.
"If you have lunch or dinner at Chaser's, you save $10 on your ticket. That just started."
Ramblin' Road Brewery has been designated their brewery of choice.
"We want to keep it local," said Killeen. "Local with big city laughs."
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Local Laughs Comedy added a live band to Friday night's comedy show lineup at the Tillsonburg Community Centre Lions Auditorium.
"I would like to extend a guarantee to everyone who purchased – or will purchase – tickets at full price," said Killeen. "I guarantee they will have a great time and if they don't feel like it was 'worth it,' I will refund what they request up to $20 per (full-price) ticket. That's how convinced I am they will have a great time!"
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Killeen stressed her March 13th celebrity comedian show is a bit different from typical comedy shows. She's financing it herself, and most of the $65 ticket price goes toward providing the comedic talent. She wanted bang for the buck, and went for more than the typical one-hour comedy show.
"The setup is row seating, and at the back we have the VIP tables. So people who purchase VIP tickets, available at $85, get a private server, a welcome drink, hot appetizers provided by Chasers, salty snacks, and some fun things are going to happen.
Basically, she said it's three hours of comedy. Sarah Ashby is coming from London, Ont., a comedian Killeen saw for the first time at an open mic. And Ryan Long, who has his own television show, is from Toronto.
"He's hilarious, I'm very excited to have him on board."
Killeen met host Aisha Alfa at a Comedy Writing for Television course taught at Comedy Bar in Toronto.
"These are comedians that I think are hilarious. I think they're great, very professional. I think their comedy can really satisfy a variety of people. I've been looking at people on Facebook (Local Laughs Comedy) who have been purchasing tickets... there's a huge variety."
Who will enjoy the show?
"Anybody who loves to laugh," she said. "Because there's going to be a joke that night that will satisfy every single person."
What she strongly recommends NOT doing is going online for 'sneak previews.'
"The beauty of being in a hall is, laughter is contagious. If you watch it on YouTube, you might say 'ha-ha' and tell someone else to watch it. If you're in a room with 300 other people, all listening together, that laughter is going to explode. You are going to laugh harder than you've ever laughed. But if you've already watched it... you already know the punch line. So I tell people, do NOT YouTube us till the next day. You don't want to ruin it for yourself.
"There is nothing better than laughing live. We are consumed by technology – you get jokes on your Facebook every other status. This... this is connecting with a real human being, and the nice thing is, if you're telling the joke and something else comes to mind, you might 'off the cuff' it and it becomes even better. It's something you can't recreate."
For those who would like to see samples of the comedians' work, Killeen is providing short video clips on her website.
Killeen will be donating 25 per cent of the profits to the Kennedy family in Tillsonburg who recently lost their belongings in a house fire. Killeen also gave Theresa and Robin Kennedy two free show tickets (and is paying for their babysitter).
"They need a good night out," said Killeen.