Toronto standup comedians’ petition launches battle for shot at government grants

Telling jokes is not considered a performing art by several arts-funding organizations, according to the parliamentary petition, and a Toronto comedian is spearheading an effort to change that.

Comedian Sandra Battaglini, seen here in her recent appearance on Comedy Network's JFL All Access, has launched a petition through her local MP to declare standup comedy to be an art form, and hence eligible for grants from arts funding agencies such as the Canada Council. (PIERRE CREPO / BELL MEDIA PHOTO)

What’s the difference between a one-person stage play and a standup comedian’s performance?

The first one is eligible for various types of government funding while the latter is not, which is a sad punchline to several of this country’s comedians. It has long been the case that various arts institutions across the land don’t recognize standup comedy under the umbrella of performing arts, which has left many comics fuming about what they see is an unfair distinction between types of performances. Canadian comedians are getting organized to try and change it.

Locally based comedian Sandra Battaglini has started an Parliamentary e-petition, a government-sponsored program which ensures an official government response provided the document gets at least 500 signatures. The petition started last week and already has over 2,000 signatures.

“I just thought this is the standup industry, we don’t have anything. This just seemed like this was something that could give comics a bit of relief, because so many comics are living below the poverty line, and it is one of the greatest legacies of our country and nobody talks about it,” says Battaglini.