The Lot, Toronto's newest venue for stand-up comedy in the cabaret room of the Lower Ossington Theatre , opened its doors to a sell-out crowd on August 25th. Ryan Belleville , whose accolades include a Canadian Comedy Award , Phil Hartman Award , and an appearance on Comedy Central's Live at Gotham , headlined the affair.
It was only a few months ago when owners Mark Debonis and Garrett Jamieson first got the idea for the club when they performed in the space for NXNE . "The red curtains and lighting screamed old-fashioned stand-up," recalls Garrett, his senses still recovering from a busy tour of the east coast.
"Since we're doing shows four times a week (two on Friday, two on Saturday), our goal is to spread the word throughout the community. We want to get to know the neighbourhood and make people aware that there's an opportunity for them to see comedy before or after going to their trusted local."
To get the word out, they're partnering with hungry comedians interested in distributing flyers to passers-by in exchange for seven minutes of stage time. As a comedian myself, it seems like a fair exchange. Besides, it's a good excuse to practise working a crowd! And, admittedly, it's maybe also a good excuse to talk to a pretty girl, but a paying customer is a paying customer, innit?
One of the best features of the space is the projector which catches the attention of the street traffic by displaying what's happening on stage. It works like a charm, momentarily hypnotizing the locals, and giving the flyering comics a chance to make their pitch.
As you enter, Jeff Leeson , one of the best crowd work artists in Canada (dare I say the world), takes your $12 and makes you laugh all the while. Having a comedian engage the customers as they walk in to pay is yet another stellar idea on the part of Mark and Garrett. Jeff himself hosts a late night show every Sunday at 7 p.m. at The LOT , which originally rose to prominence in London, Ontario before he decided to bring it to Toronto.
The room holds about 100 audience members comfortably, and while the friendly bar staff will keep you as well-lit as the stage, your standard pub fare isn't being served at this time. However, given that the showtimes are 10 p.m. and midnight, the snacks on offer should appease most in the audience.
Moving forward, the owners want to have a Pro/Am night, which will delight the hundreds of local comics who often have to clamour for months at a time to get five minute sets at Absolute Comedy , Yuk Yuk's , and ALTdot Comedy Lounge at The Rivoli . "We want to build a relationship between us, the comics, and the community. Eventually, our goal is to have industry leaders come out to the show and hire the comedians they see for writing, acting, and stand-up gigs," they say.
I'm excited that there's a new opportunity to earn quality stage time. In fact, if you find yourself on Ossington on a Friday or Saturday, chances are you'll receive a flyer from yours truly.
Writing by Michael Jagdeo