Canadian Comedy Awards to move venues after accessibility complaint
The Generally Hospital ensemble perform during the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival. (Dahlia Katz)
A national awards ceremony for Canadian comedy will move to an accessible venue after nominees for a performance involving themes of disability said they couldn’t attend since one of their members uses a wheelchair.
The Canadian Comedy Awards, which were originally to be presented on June 2 at Yuk Yuk’s Toronto Comedy Club, will now take place at Second City, likely on a different date and time.
“It is extremely important to me for everyone in our community to be heard, and to feel included,” said Kyra Williams, the awards’ executive producer, in an email to CTVNews.ca. With no budget for the awards ceremony, Yuk Yuk’s had been offered for free.
“This was the main reason for hosting at Yuks because otherwise there is always a chance the awards wouldn't be able to happen and I wanted to make sure they did,” said Williams. “I believe this raises a much more important issue as most comedy venues in Toronto are not accessible, and they should be.”
The five-person ensemble Generally Hospital was originally thrilled to learn of their nomination in April for “Best Live Ensemble.” The show features skits that take place at the same hospital, involving stories of illness, disability and “bodily functions,” in part to address the stigma around the subject matter. Some performances have been accompanied by accessible features, such as audio description and ASL interpretation.
“It had felt like such a message to be nominated for this award as the little show that could, a show that’s different from standard comedy, tackled different subject matter with different performers on stage,” said ensemble member Ophira Calof, who uses a power wheelchair. She often has to find alternate venues to the standard comedy venues in the city as most are not accessible.
After learning of the ceremony venue switch, Calof said she felt hopeful there would be a shift in comedy circles toward accessibility.
“Hopefully the leaders in our community will acknowledge that shift,” she said. “We had a feeling that the broader community didn’t realize that people cared. I’m not just a blip that can be ignored.”