CARLETON PLACE - It’s a good thing that Lanark County can laugh at itself.
Carleton Place, Smiths Falls, and even Lanark came in for some good-natured ribbing from the boys of the Comedy Night fundraiser for Lanark County Interval House, at the Carleton Place town hall on Saturday, Feb. 16.
Ending off the evening was home-town boy Jim McNally, who had fond memories of growing up in Carleton Place. It had clearly been a while since he’s been back though, which he noted in his act.
“My God you’ve cleaned the place up,” said McNally. “It’s gotten so as you can’t take your skidoo down the main street to go to the Queen’s anymore!”
While Carleton Place has become a bit more of a subdued suburban commuter town than a rough-and-ready Valley town, McNally wanted to have fun with CP’s new, cleaner reputation.
“How many of you are hammered right now?” said McNally, followed by silence. “My God this town has changed! They’ve pretty much run everyone out of town, aye? Take your snow mobiles and ice huts and get out! You’ve got your fancy electricity now.”
Fellow comedian Rick Currie also couldn’t resist the urge to poke fun at CP’s new, more respectable persona.
“You guys ever heard of AA? (Alcoholics Anonymous)” Currie asked, again met by silence. “Oh, right, I forgot, Carleton Place,” said Currie, a beer by his side.
The Rick Mercer Report writer – whose sister works at Interval House – also did not spare CP’s down-south cousin, Smiths Falls, either. Remembering back to a trip he took to see the historic Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton island, Nova Scotia.
“See how people used to live 200 years ago,” Currie recalled of the billboards he saw on his way to the site. “I said, ‘Oh? So what! I’ve already been to Smiths Falls.”
McNally now calls Guelph, Ont. home, but he still fondly remembers climbing up to the top of the town hall with his step brother one Halloween night, to replace the Maple Leaf flag with the old Soviet hammer and sickle, which, during the Cold War, did not go over well.
(Now, this is a comedian telling the story, so, we take it with a grain of salt.)
McNally went to school at Carleton Place High School and said he was glad to be back performing, a far cry from his days in drama at CPHS. Later, McNally met up with Currie and Currie wrote his first five-minute stand-up routine. Both men then entered a comedy competition and McNally won – with Currie’s piece. Currie came in second. The duo also started up the Cracking Up the Capital comedy festival together, and they intend to honour comedy legend Mike Macdonald soon.
Back stage, the “green room,” was a mixed contrast of studious seriousness, and comedians trying to make other comedians laugh, with the aid of various accents, from Irish to Jewish to Newfoundlander.
“This Princess Diana stuff is still good, right?” one asks about his very timely material. “Yeah, use it after Mulroney,” replies another, before riffing on Canada’s ice skating sweetheart from the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, Elizabeth Manley who, in this off-colour routine, comes across as more ice queen than skating girl-next-door.
As the men paced the boards on stage, behind the red curtain, psyching themselves up for their routines, getting into the right head space, as Tracey Lamb, the president of the Carleton Place and District Chamber of Commerce, the evening’s co-sponsor, is the first up to the microphone.
“The chamber has been happy to partner with different groups to bring awareness to important social issues,” said Lamb.
While the issue of domestic abuse is no laughing matter, Interval House’s executive director, Erin Lee-Todd, reminded the audience that laughter is a great tool for anyone dealing with adversity.
“Laughter is a great way to heal,” said Lee-Todd. “It is a great way to honour women. (Please) laugh until it hurts you in your belly because you don’t know how lucky you are to be able to laugh in safety.”