Kristeen von Hagen’s first venture into the stand-up comedy world was at a
club in Victoria in the mid-90s.
“It was terrifying. Everyone knew it was my first time so they were super kind and polite … but your first attempt at stand-up is always questionable at best,” she says, now 15-plus years into her career as a comedienne.
“I remember doing this thing about driving and being distracted – looking over and seeing people brush their teeth and playing with the radio. I don’t know if they were even jokes.”
And while von Hagen’s been away from Victoria – where she was born and raised – since 1996, she says returning to perform is always unnerving.
“My parents will come to at least one show, and my aunts and uncles. A long time ago I was performing at a club and two girls I’d gone to high school with were in the audience. … I feel the pressure’s on a bit more in Victoria,” she says.
Next week (Aug. 15 to 19), von Hagen joins a terrific lineup of comedians, including Brent Butt (of Corner Gas fame), for the Blue Bridge Comedy Festival.
“This is kind of my dream scenario,” says festival organizer Dan Quinn. He contacted all the best comedians he knew, they all said yes, and the Blue Bridge Comedy Fest was born.
“It’s going to be an amazing weekend of entertainment, to get to see all these top acts at once. If you’re a fan of comedy, you’re able to get a full fix of acts you might never get to see otherwise… or for way more money,” Quinn says.
In addition to von Hagen and Butt, Blue Bridge will feature shows from Mark Maron, Nikki Payne, Johnny Bagpipes, Sean Proudlove, Damonde Tschritter, Peter White, Paul Myrehaug and Rob Pue.
Von Hagen says her lengthy resumé of experience on stage has helped ease her mind from those first few shows in Victoria, Vancouver and Toronto.
“I no longer have that fear that I’m going to die or it’s going to be a nightmare. I remember a time where I would be phoning in for spots and I would be upset if I didn’t get a spot and I was horrified if I did, because I knew I would have to go do it,” she says.
Stand-up comedy remains an “old boys’ club,” she says, though she doesn’t understand why that is.
“There’s still a lot of people, men and women, who see a woman get on stage and get put off,” she says. “And periodically you hear, ‘there’s no funny women.’ That doesn’t make sense. You’ve never had a funny aunt or wife? Your girlfriend has never made you laugh? That, to me, seems insane.”
For more information on Blue Bridge, visit bluebridgecomedyfestival.com.