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ON THE COVER: Toronto’s only Black and minority-owned comedy club (Mar. 2023)

April 12th, 2023 · No Comments

Sashka DC performs her comedy set at The Comedy Lab during their Thirsty Thursdays show. COURTESY THE COMEDY LAB

Danton Lamar opened The Comedy Lab at 298 Brunswick Ave. in February 2022 to showcase comics whom he felt weren’t receiving enough stage time.

“When I first got to Toronto in 2019, and when I started trying to get booked in town, I was surprised that every show was (made up of) five straight white dudes and one token minority,” said Lamar.

His reaction, ultimately, was to push back against an industry that felt like an “old boys’ club.”

Lamar has produced comedy shows in Germany, Holland, The Czech Republic, the U.S., and Russia. In Toronto, he started producing acts in different bars before an opportunity came up at Lab416. After a successful test show, the bar’s former overflow space in the basement was transformed into The Comedy Lab where Lamar now runs 24 shows per month. A typical week at The Comedy Lab features two shows a night, Thursday through Saturday. These shows are a mix of professional talent and open-mic nights, both of which welcome and prioritize comics from different minority groups.

They’dies Night, for example, is a themed, monthly open-mic night prioritizing female, nonbinary, and LGBTQIA comics. However, many nights aren’t themed or focussed on a specific demographic because Lamar wants to remind people that comics who are minorities aren’t limited to performing on special events.

“Once you get the room rolling (with laughter), there’s no feeling like having the whole room laughing with you; there’s something ethereal about it,” said Lamar. The audience at The Comedy Lab has similar demographics to most comedy bars and everyone is welcome. 

“We are very much an indie club focussed on promoting voices,” said Lamar. “A lot of comics have come (to The Comedy Lab) to do their first sets because they figure it will be a more supportive comedy club than others.”

Lamar finds a lot of his comics through open-mic nights hosted at The Comedy Lab, as well as through peer recommendations. A rotating lineup of commonly underrepresented comedians has allowed The Comedy Lab to grow a reputation for being a welcoming space for new comics of all backgrounds. Setting a tone early on that the space doesn’t tolerate hateful comedy has also let the community know that The Comedy Lab is a safe space for all.

The Comedy Lab is in the lower level of 298 Brunswick Ave. Lamar extends the code WERDCREW to local residents to receive a discount on all of his shows.

—Fox Oliver/Gleaner News

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