Edmonton Comedy Festival
Andrew Grose is a little distracted. Every couple of minutes, the veteran stand-up comic and producer of the Edmonton Comedy Festival’s phone buzzes on the table, and he keeps glancing over at it. But these aren’t texts coming in—they’re notifications of new ticket sales. “Nice, eh?” he says with a smile.
The lead-up to the 2018 festival, which includes more than a dozen different shows involving comedians across North America, brings with it all kinds of logistical issues that need solving, just one of which is selling tickets. Managing the festival (now in its eighth year) and its six-figure budget is a long way from Grose’s entry to stand-up, 25 years ago, when he was a last-minute replacement at an amateur variety show in Calgary. At the time, Grose was the MBA-wielding general manager of a trucking company. But it seemed like it might be fun, so he went up there—and promptly bombed. “There’s a big difference between being witty at a cocktail party and actually going onstage,” he says now. “There’s a structure to stand-up comedy that I didn’t understand.”
So Grose went home, and applied his analytical business brain to the art of stand-up. He watched other comedians and broke down how their jokes worked. Then he reworked his first, failed set and went back and tried it again. And again. To this day, Grose thinks of his material in an orderly, scientific grid: each square represents a joke that takes one minute to tell, with one square leading into the next, and the whole thing able to be shuffled around or pared back depending on his audience or how much time he has to fill. “I have more spreadsheets than any other comedian in the country, I swear,” Grose says.
In its first year, in 2010, the comedy festival debuted a show targeting members of the media. The idea was that they would all try stand-up for the first time, and a charity of the winner’s choice would receive $1,000 from the show’s ticket sales. CBC Radio’s Mark Connolly won that first year, and named Free Footie as his charity. Soon afterwards, Grose—who had since become a radio host himself, for 630 CHED—had Free Footie founder Tim Adams on his show, and was blown away by the effect the organization was having on disadvantaged kids around Edmonton. So, in a moment of pure enthusiasm, Grose announced on-air that as long as he was running the festival, Free Footie would get that $1,000 donation every single year. And it has ever since.
“I’m a big advocate for the little guy,” Grose says. “I like giving a voice to people who don’t have voices. Things have worked out for me, so I’ve got to keep continually filling my karma bank back up again. This is the perfect way to do it.”
“It’s one thing to say on a spreadsheet that we put $1,000 towards a local charity,” he adds. “But it’s another thing to actually hand out the product and see the outcome.”
Grose would know. After all, it did involve a spreadsheet.