Comedian’s workload is no laughing matter

GBC graduate Will French works 16-hour days chasing stand-up comedy success

Stand-up comedy, the business of making people laugh, is a form of entertainment that’s also a form of entrepreneurship. 

Will French, a graduate of the fitness and lifestyle management program at George Brown College (GBC), is working hard to turn comedy from an additional source of income into his full-time job.

The 28-year-old, while not completely paying his bills with comedy, is making headway. Along with Austen Alexander, French is in Dirtbag Cousin. The two met at Humber College where French won the Mark Breslin Award for stand-up excellence in 2016. 

The duo recently performed at the 2018 Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival.

“I started doing open mics five years ago, started getting paid work very recently,” French said. “I still don’t get a lot, I mean, here and there, but I am definitely not a full-time professional yet.”

After several years of working in the fitness industry, he decided to change the path of his life. He took a chance and went to study writing comedy and performance at Humber. 

“I was 22, I worked in gyms for six years, and I decided I wanted to change,” he said. “I wanted to try stand-up, so I sort of just stopped working in gyms and took a couple of years, and then I started to do comedy.”

Ever since he was a kid, he liked seeing comedy on TV and was fascinated by the thought of stand-up. He writes his material using his own life experiences.

“For stand-up, I just talk about my own life. Everything is true, I don’t make things up, so it has to be something that really happens to me,” said French. 

While more opportunities are coming for French, he said that most comics at his level have a day job. He himself has been working in kitchens for around 10 years. 

As most comedy shows are after work and later at night, he estimates that a lot of comics are working around 16-hour days.

Besides the ability to go without much sleep or money in the early stages, comedians usually need a unique and recognizable style. For French, he said he recently discovered that the comedy inspired by his life is actually quite dark.  

“I’m not a fan of just angry dark comedy for the sake of being angry or dark,” he said. “I like dark humor a lot, but I only like it when there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, when there’s some optimism there, too.”

Taking the stage, hitting the road and trying to make strangers laugh is every bit the roller coaster that it sounds. For French, there’s a sense that you’re only as good as your last show.

“There were times when it goes so well, you’re like, I’m never going to have a bad day again, this is the best thing in the world, and I’m the king, I’m the best comic in the world,” he said.  “Then sometimes that same night you have another show where you’re like wow, I’m not funny at all, I suck, and I should probably quit.”  

Will French will appear as part of Dirtbag Cousin at the Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street W) on April 22. 

With files from Lidianny Botto.

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Comedian’s workload is no laughing matter