Inside the new stand-up comedy event in Vancouver guaranteed to get at least one laugh out of you
Valeria Velazquez // Contributor
Some say laughter is the best medicine, and a shot of it will definitely be easier to get than the vaccine for coronavirus. Fire in the Madhouse is a new stand-up comedy show co-produced by local comedians Tom Balog (also known as “Hot Tom”) and Bobby Warrener. Still in its infancy, the show has already sold out twice, boasting a regular crowd of comedy-lovers that flock each month to The Dashes on Hastings to grab a beer, snatch a seat and settle in for a night of laughter.
Balog, who is a communications student at CapU, started doing stand-up back in his mid-twenties in his hometown of Calgary. “I always had an appreciation for stand-up comedy and looked up to people who were able to go up on stage and voice their opinion,” he said. Before moving to Vancouver, Balog organized stand-up shows in Calgary for a few years. “One of my favourite shows I ever put on was in this crystal hippie store in Calgary. There was this one guy that worked at the store, and he just meditated throughout the whole show,” he recalled.
After taking a year off from comedy, Balog decided to jump back into stand-up and set this project in motion with Warrener. They were waiting for the right time and place to put on the event when their friend and owner of the venue, Steven, agreed to provide the space for the show. They decided to keep the name Fire in the Madhouse, which Tom had used for his stand-up shows back in Calgary. The phrase was taken from the last recorded interview of Terence McKenna, an American ethnobotanist known for his interest and advocacy for naturally-occurring psychedelic plants.
Balog and Warrener have been able to network with a variety of Canadian comedians, providing the show with an ever-changing roster of emerging and seasoned comedians alike. Visual artist and musician Aaron Read, veteran comic Jane Stanton and Nigerian-Canadian Ola Dada (a former CapU student) are only some of the talented stand-up acts that have graced the stage.
The show provides a space for people to get together and enjoy life through fun, relatable insights and reflections. “Laughter lets people deflate, lets the steam out of the situation,” said Balog. “[It] helps us be able to reflect on ‘yeah, things are fucked up and strange, but it’s always been that way and it’ll always be that way, so let’s not carry such a heavy weight.’ Nothing’s ever gonna be perfect and we’re always gonna face issues and that’s okay.”
When asked what his vision is for the future of the show, Balog said with a smile, “At this point, it’s a lot just juggling work and school and coronavirus and, you know, World War III and existential issues, and also having to eat every day, like, it takes a lot of time. So, I don’t know—what was the question again?” After a little laughter session, he finally made an attempt at a serious answer: “I don’t know, I don’t know where it’s gonna go, but I like putting it on, and I like bringing everyone together, especially people like friends and people from different communities —[I like] being able to laugh together.”
While Balog and Warrener both continue to spread the word about the event, Warrener is also working on another comedy event himself. He will be hosting the Friday Late Gala for WPG Comedy Festival, which will take place Apr. 25 to May 2 and will be aired on CBC. Even though they each have their own things going on, the friends plan to continue putting on Fire in the Madhouse for everyone to enjoy.
Find the next Fire in the Madhouse show on Facebook at @fireinthemadhouseyvr