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Mary Walsh to judge Iqaluit comedy contest

By their sheer power to make the crowd and the judges laugh, one local comedian will win an all-expenses trip to the nation's capital to take part in the 2018 Alterna Savings Crackup Comedy Festival finale.

Marg, Princess Warrior – otherwise known as actress, comedian and social activist Mary Walsh – comes to Iqaluit March 10 to host and judge a comedy contest that will see one lucky Iqaluit comic head to Ottawa to take part in the 2018 Alterna Savings Crackup Comedy Festival later in the month.
photo courtesy Alterna Savings Crackup Comedy Festival

The festival raises funds and awareness for mental health, as well as supporting Canadian comedy, explained producer John Helmkay.

One of the distinguished judges is none other than actress, comedian and social activist Mary Walsh, also known as Marg, Warrior Princess. Walsh is the honorary chair of the festival, and has been involved for five or six years.

"I've been doing a lot of volunteer work around mental health and addiction. I'm one of the five people who do the Bell Let's Talk – they've raised a lot of awareness, and I think they've managed quite miraculously to lower stigma," said Walsh, adding mental health should be talked about in the same way we talk about dental health.

Walsh's adopted Inuk son Jesse lives in Ottawa, and that's how she got involved with the festival. She's thrilled to be participating in the Iqaluit contest. Jesse was born in Vancouver and raised in Newfoundland, she explains, and he'll be joining his mother on this trip.

"His family is from Gjoa Haven. So I have a real heart connection to the North. And this will be the first time he's ever gone North," said Walsh.

Additionally, Walsh wrote a musical comedy review called Canada, It's Complicated for the country's 150th anniversary celebrations. The opening number was The Foundation of Our Nation Was a Big Fat Lie.

"We wanted to go up North, because it's such a big part of our country, and we are so cut off from the North," said Walsh.

Juno winners Tiffany Ayalik and Greyson Gritt of Quantum Tangle did music for her 150 show.

"More and more I have a connection with the North," said Walsh.

At the Iqaluit event, the audience will join Walsh in judging.

"We'll all judge together," she said. "We'll decide who's the funniest."

Helmkay says the Iqaluit event is intended to raise funds for Mahaha Comedy, a stand-up comedy showcase in the capital, and Crackup, and to support the Iqaluit comedy scene.

Mahaha's Franco Buscemi says the group's role has been to help connect Crackup with local comedians.

"This goes back to the relationship we've built with one of the comics we've brought up, Derek Seguin. He was one of the headliners last year at this Crackup Comedy Festival," said Buscemi.

The Crackup team decided it wanted to include comics from all provinces and territories.

Walsh said it's time people in the south to stop expecting Northerners to come to them, and instead "go to where the talent is."

The winner's trip is made possible thanks to sponsor First Air.

"Mental health issues are a very real and very important issue throughout our network," said the air carrier's manager of marketing and communications Dan Valin.

"We feel it's important for us to play a role in helping to raise as much awareness as possible and to play a role in finding solutions and support for people affected by mental health issues or people that have someone they care about affected by mental health issues."

Buscemi says there have been at least half a dozen performers at their shows, so at least that many comedians, and there are another half dozen interested. So far the line-up includes Tony Rose as master of ceremonies, with Bugsy, Wade Thorhaug, Bibi Bilodeau and more.

The event is scheduled for the evening of March 11 at the Frobisher Inn.