Health-care comedians: New Canadian show features front-line heroes

A new virtual comedy show features a lineup of health-care professionals from across Canada — who also happen to be comedians.

The idea started as a way to entertain those caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Then the founders of The Unknown Comedy Club realized there were plenty of comedians with day jobs in hospitals, long-term care facilities and ambulances.

“Out of everybody who needed a release right now… these people, they’re at war,” co-founder Rodney Ramsey told Global News.

“Instead of sending just regular comedians, why don’t we send soldiers who are also comedians? Who knows the war better?”

The first Laughter From the Frontlines event was in July. The next, on August 27, features performers from Halifax, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver — along with a registered nurse from Edmonton.

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When Siobhan Theobald isn’t working at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, she’s doing standup in comedy clubs.

“For me, being able to go on stage and take off the nurse hat and embrace an entirely different side of myself as a performer is just a really great kind of escape,” Theobald told Global News.

“It brings some levity to the heaviness.”

The 28-year-old fell in love with the stage in 2019 after taking a standup comedy class. She’s done a number of shows since then, but rarely jokes about the pandemic.

“It’s a careful line you walk because people want to laugh at (parts of the pandemic) of course. But at the same time what’s happening in the hospital still to this day is quite serious,” Theobald said.

“The only pandemic jokes I’ve told are very soft, like ‘Hey — arrows on the floor of a grocery store, toilet paper… am I right?’”

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Both Theobald and Ramsey agree that all kinds of health-care professionals tend to have a similar sense of dark humour.

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“I think it’s the best kind of humour. It’s the morbid kind… the kind that goes three steps too far and you can’t say anything because it’s their job and you know they keep us alive,” said Ramsey.

“It’s a very dark kind of humour… ruin-dinner-parties kind of humour,” laughed Theobald.

She says many of her Stollery colleagues don’t yet know she’s a comedian.

“My colleagues are going to be watching this show now,” Theobald said.

“Luckily, my colleagues are all nurses and they’re impossible to shock or surprise. They’re completely unflappable.”

Tickets can be purchased online here. Audience members have the option of turning on their cameras or not.

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