We continue our spotlight series in this conversation with Phil LeConte of the KW Comedy Festival (formerly the Uptown Waterloo Comedy Festival). The Centre is pleased to partner with this growing local event to present their Gala performance on March 6, 2014 which will feature a full evening of fantastic comics including headliner Steven Wright.
Q: How did the KW Comedy festival come to be?
PL: Well in 2006 I started the Waterloo Arts Festival, which was an annual event held in Waterloo Park, and four years in I had one of my sponsors ask me if I had ever considered running an event in the Uptown Core. I had already thought about one day starting a Comedy Festival but now I knew that I would have initial support going in. I proposed a plan, budget and 3 months later in March of 2010 we held the first annual UpTown Waterloo Comedy Festival.
Q: What does it mean to you to be the Artistic Director of the KW Comedy Festival?
PL: Artistic Director is only part of my job as executive producer. But I suppose that the Artistic Director portion involves choosing all the comics and performers, putting together all the shows and line ups. And to be honest this is the fun part of the job. I watch a lot of comedy online and try to see as many live comedy shows as I possibly can. It is a great feeling when you put together a show and hundreds of other people get to experience what you made possible.
Q: How do you select comedians for the lineup? Is there a theme each year or do you look for certain types of comedians?
PL: Most of the comics I book I have either seen live or have done much research to make sure that they are up to the highest standards that we have been trying to achieve at the festival over the last 4 years. I want people to trust that even if you are not familiar with a specific comic that you can feel good about buying a ticket and knowing that you will have a great time.
I also review submissions from agents and comics alike. Every year we get more and more inquiries and that is a good sign. To me it means comics and agents are speaking highly of our event and how we run things.
And aside from a few new theme shows we are running this year I always try to have a mix of comics with different styles – this way our audience has more choice and can always find a show that appeals to them.
Q: The Festival has grown significantly since it began five seasons ago. What do you think has contributed to your success?
PL: I think that the growth is due to a few things. Number one we received a lot of positive support from the Uptown BIA, local businesses and all the local media before we even started and that support grew with the event. Second I had great support from my staff, friends and family. Lastly, I think that we / I had a plan to not compromise the quality of the comics or the brand we wanted to create all while taking our time to expand when it was right.
Q: What else is new for the 2014 Festival?
PL: The biggest thing is that we have expanded into Kitchener. So we are now officially the Kitchener – Waterloo Comedy Festival. This expansion opens us up to more venues, which means more ticket sales (hopefully) and that creates the opportunity for more shows and bigger names. It has also allowed for us to partner with Centre In The Square for our opening night Gala. Without such a partnership we would not have been able to secure such a great headliner as the Comedy legend Steven Wright.
In addition we are having 3 theme shows, the Ethnic Late Show, the Rainbow Show and the Homegrown Show, all which are new to the festival this year.
Q: What are your hopes for the future of the Festival?
PL: I hope that the festival will live on for many years and that its reputation both with audiences and performers will be at the highest level for any event around the world.