At Patrick Maliha’s People’s Champ of Comedy, comedians battle for the biggest laughs

Patrick Maliha’s competition, the People’s Champ of Comedy, has a huge cash prize.

If there’s one standup comedian in town who would be a lock for the title of People’s Champ of Comedy, it’s the crowd-pleasing Patrick Maliha. The 42-year-old veteran comic reels audiences in with his stream-of-consciousness asides and has so many impressions in his repertoire that he takes requests.

But unluckily for him, he’s unable to enter for a chance to win the $20,000 grand prize. It would look suspicious, since the full name of the annual competition is Patrick Maliha’s The People’s Champ of Comedy.

Maliha has been running a version of the contest since 2008, but this year’s is the most ambitious yet. In fact, its $30,000 total purse is the largest of its kind in the country. The competition has taken a jump from a $100 weekly prize in its first year; last year, the overall winner took home $1,500, with $500 going to second place.

Since early July, mostly local comedians, from rank amateurs to seasoned pros, have been performing four nights a week at venues throughout town. Audience members (who can vote up to five times if they buy as many drinks) select their top three. Total votes at the end of a given week determine who advances. The final eight comics, each of whom is guaranteed at least $500, have been duking it out this week, with the winner to be crowned on Saturday night (August 25) at the Rio Theatre.

“Everything’s been amped up,” says Maliha, prior to a recent semifinal heat at the Kingston Taphouse & Grille. “When we did it for $100, people would create Survivor–like alliances. Every year it’s like that.”

Maliha describes this year’s event as Survivor meets The Hunger Games, with a little bit of the NHL playoffs thrown in. Only funny.

While the winner can take pride in being named the People’s Champ for 2012, nobody involved in comedy believes competitions settle anything. Primarily, they create a bit of a buzz for the art form, allow comics to perform under a bit of pressure, and bring in crowds at otherwise slow times. A win-win-win.

“Every venue we’ve performed at cannot believe the numbers they’ve done,” says Maliha.

Of course, no competition is without its critics. When judges are used, some comedians feel they’re not representative of the crowd’s reaction. And in this case, when the audience determines the winner, some feel a comedian will stack a house with friends and essentially buy a victory.

“None of the pros like it [the format] at all,” says Maliha, while pointing out that, despite not bringing many guests, three pros—John Beuhler, Dan Quinn, and Jane Stanton—have advanced to the finals from the first week of semifinals. “They feel like it’s just a popularity contest; it’s all about who the audience likes the most. And my attitude is ‘Isn’t that our job description? Aren’t we supposed to entertain most of the people most of the time?’

“Some of the pros who did enter, knowing what they were getting into, said, ‘Ah, screw it, I don’t want to be here anyway,’ threw the show, didn’t do a great set, and then when they didn’t make it through said, ‘See, I told you. It’s fixed. It’s a popularity contest.’ But we had other pros who said, ‘I know what it is, I know what I’m coming into,’ and they gave the sets of their lives. And they ended up winning their nights without bringing people.”

Joining Beuhler, Quinn, and Stanton in the finals are Hollywood Harv, Shirley Gnome, and Chris Thompson, along with two wild cards chosen at random: Badasskatoon (a raunchy musical duo) and Colin Sharp.

“There is no fail-safe system,” says Maliha. “All you can do is treat everybody the same, try to make everything as fair as possible, and move it along. And that’s what I try to do with this competition.”

The People’s Champ of Comedy plays the Sin Bin Sports Grill on Thursday, (August 23) and the Edgewater Casino on Friday (August 24), with the finale at the Rio Theatre on Saturday (August 25).

Comments (17) Add New Comment
I objeect
There were also the pros that went down and gave it there all, only to be buried under a wave of strategic voting. I was one of those comics who "pouted" after losing, claiming that the contest was "fixed". The real question is, if I was so off base with those remarks, then why have the voting rules in this competition been changed twice? I notice that fact was left out of the article. Honestly with all the positive spin we're seeing in the 24hr and Province, I would have assumed that the straight could at least call a spade a spade. C'mon Guy!
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Guy MacP.
Did 24hr and the Province even mention the controversy? I profile isn't the place for me to give a review. I brought it up, asked Patrick about it, and let him give his response. Readers can decide for themselves. I know what you mean, though. I saw Graham Clark clearly win a night only to finish third in voting for the night. So that sucks. But it's a weekly vote total and it didn't help when he didn't show up on the Thursday show.
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Koko
I think the top 20 and top 8 will be different had judges been involved at the very beginning.
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Bush League contest
I sometimes wonder if any of the objectors have ever competed for anything in their lives. There is $20,000 at stake, why wouldn't you strategize?

It's also pretty ironic people are crying that it is a "popularity contest" when it is called the "People's Championship". The two phrases can be exchanged without altering the meaning.

That said, I have never seen any kind of organized competition, at any level, in any discipline, change the rules mid-contest. Astral Radio and Patrick Maliha should be ashamed of themselves.

May the most popular comic win.
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Doug Wong
Comedy competitions are a joke.
This is a stupid "media driven" "promotional" idea.
It's not enough to have a funny show?
If this is what you need to put bums in seats now-a-days--I'm out.
It's demeaning to the great art form that is Stand Up Comedy.
PS: The only person getting rich off this is the organizer--as per usual. It's one more way to get "talent" to work for free. It's same old story.
When are comedians going to grab a few and boycott this BS.

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a fan of comedy
what??? the competition isn't even over yet,,!

doesn't anyone think people should at least hold their comments until after the competition is over,?
let them at least get through to the end, !
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Bush League contest
http://i.imgur.com/sNOCZ.jpg

.... until we decide that we would rather have an "established professional comedian (win the contest) for promotional reasons".

(that's a paraphrased quote from a comedian I spoke with last night)

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Yuk Yuck
If one of the pros doesn't win then next year the contest will be crazy full of contestants. If one of the pros does it'll be good for them but bad for the show next year because it'll look like the fix was in and the rules got changed midway.
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Comedy Fan
A poorly written piece by someone who has a personal relationship with the event organizer. This competition is creating a false comedy scene in the city, and it is disappointing that the Straight cannot recognize that.
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virgo
Some comments from the peanut gallery:
1. Edgewater SUCKS as a venue - too big. Less is more in this case - “Every venue we’ve performed at cannot believe the numbers they’ve done,” is esp. true at the tiny places like Corner, Kingston.
2. Maliha needs to get a grip on himself when the going gets frustrating, and not take it out publicly on unsuspecting Shore Girls (misogynist comments). Get a f'in grip! Esp. since they're sponsors. You don't think that bullshit gets back to them?
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Guy MacP.
Just a point of clarification: having covered comedy in Vancouver for as long as I have, I have some kind of personal relationship with most comics. But that doesn't mean we hang out. I've never done anything socially with Patrick. And in about 12 years on the beat, this is the first thing I've ever written about him. But don't let facts get in your way. If you think it's poorly written, I can't comment on that. Keep in mind a preview is not a review. My opinion isn't part of the story. Also, for all its faults, this competition has the biggest prize money in the country so that's a story.
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Punchedlines
Doesn't Yuk Yuk's have a $25,000 contest? That's more money than $20,000 in Canada right?
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Guy MacP.
Yes, Yuk Yuk's has the Great Canadian Laugh-Off. Winner gets $25,000, which is more than the $20,000 the winner here gets. However the total purse here is $30,000. Not sure what it is in Toronto. I saw one reference to second place getting a year's supply of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese but don't know if that's true.
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congrats john beuller
The judges champ of comedy.
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Laffliner
If they did change the rules halfway through the competition that's good lawsuit for any of the comedians to pursue. make sure you save any web pages with that info on it or any other documentation. you can't change rules at the midpoint after comedians have invested their time and by bringing paying friends to the show, their money.
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The Fix is IN !!!
isn't all of this kind of an embarrassment for the sponsors? will they continue to support this?
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Har De Har Hars
Of course they will. The houses were packed.
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