Image courtesy of The LOT Stand Up Comedy Club
Negotiating layers of old beef; stirring the pot; keeping things fresh and just saucy enough; complimenting a hot smorgasbord with a little spice; beer.
All of this very clever wordplay is not a recipe, as you may have thought, but actually an analogy for what comedian Mark DeBonis has been dealing with through the process of opening The LOT Stand Up Comedy Club, Toronto’s newest comedy club located in the cabaret room at the Lower Ossington Theatre. Starting this Saturday, the 120-capacity lounge will be transformed into a “New York-style” showcase comedy club on weekends, with shows at 10pm and 12am on Friday and Saturday nights. Guests can expect a showcase of the best up and coming comedians from Toronto and, once the club is established, across North America.
After performing in the classy room on the Ossington strip during North By Northeast, DeBonis conscripted fellow Comedy Records comic Garrett Jamieson — the pair describe themselves as “co-El Presidentes” – and set out to inject a dose of laughter into one of the city’s main veins for entertainment and at the same time introduce a format that they felt was missing from Toronto’s comedy scene. In both respects, they hope they fit in.
“It’s like putting a new kidney in your body. We’re hoping that the body accepts us,” DeBonis said.
Opening on Ossington, The LOT expects to compliment an already vibrant entertainment destination and hope to bring in the same clientele that already frequent the area. “We’re going after people in this area, Queen and Ossington, someone who’s going to go out after [the show],” says DeBonis. He imagines an ideal scenario where stand-up comedy and $4.50 beer specials become part of a weekend routine for locals, who would start or end their nights out at The LOT. Adding, quasi-scientifically, “It’s proven that if people are happy before they go out they just have a better time.”
The stated goal of The LOT is to build a comedy scene in Toronto, “more than they already have,” and a hip tuned-in audience is key.
“We don’t really want to appeal to tourists, we want to appeal to Toronto.”
Comments like this have apparently caused some consternation among Toronto comedy’s old guard. It seems that the criticism implicit in adopting a new approach has upset some established members of the comedy community. In our interview, DeBonis is very careful not to name names, but it’s clear that he’s not a fan of how some aspects of the city’s comedy scene operates. “It’s very old school and traditional here where the new, especially in this industry, is not accepted. It bothers me because [the showcase style] works everywhere else in the world.”
He insists The LOT isn’t trying to stir up controversy, but in circles as small and crowded as the Toronto comedy scene, it can be hard not to ruffle some feathers when you’re pushing your way to the top. “Unfortunately, I’m very hard headed and I’ve got to do things on my own.
Despite the friction, DeBonis is confident that this new approach to comedy will catch on in Toronto and he isn’t afraid to state it clearly. When asked what The LOT would emulate from the Yuk Yuk’s and Absolutes of the world, DeBonis is blunt.