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January 23, 2022
November 27, 2017

Edmonton’s Indie Comedy Scene is Booming

You like to laugh

Written by Jeff Samsonow

Edmonton is a great arts city. We are all probably quite familiar with our active and acclaimed theatre productions, our sketch comedy groups, and a local music scene that refuses to give up the ghosts of venues past. I’m a big fan of Edmonton’s standup scene too. 

Which is totally a thing!

Over the last few years, comedians have been growing a local and independent standup scene that rivals what you’d find in any other major city. Most of the comedy events aren’t held in purpose-built venues, but in a handful of Edmonton bars and a few other locations. 

The best thing — my favourite thing — about our city’s new and upcoming comedians is that they tend to punch up with their jokes. In fact, you are more likely to feel comfortable and included at one of these events than just about any other comedy show. Hosts of a lot of these indie shows encourage comics to work on humour that’s funny without taking shots at women, minorities, etc. Crowds also don’t tend to tolerate anyone getting up to do a bunch of racist or sexist jokes.

And Edmonton’s bursting with indie and alt-comedy! If you like comedians like Maria Bamford, Hannibal Buress, Cameron Esposito and Patton Oswalt, here are the regular shows happening in the city that will give you even more to laugh at. Just like you’ve got a favourite local band, you’re going to have favourite local comedians.


Goat’s Head Comedy – This one’s got 10 comedians (5 minutes each) and one paid headliner. At O’Byrne’s, 9 p.m. Free.


El Comedy – Top picks from Canada’s diverse stand-up comedy scene, including regulars and out-of-town headliners and guest performers. At El Cortez (in the Tequila Cellar), 7:30. Free.

Devaney’s Comedy Wednesdays, Presented by Big Rock – Local acts combine with touring headliners. At Devaney’s on campus (in the basement), 9 p.m. Free.

Odd Wednesday  – Biweekly sketch comedy showcase with local and touring performers. Includes live sketch, short films, character pieces, performance art, and musical comedy. At the Sewing Machine Factory, 9 p.m. $5 (every other Wednesday night obvs) 


The Underdog Comedy Show – One of the weekly shows that’s helped launch this new indie scene. A regular rotation of local comedians, usually with at least one out-of-towner or touring comic. At the Black Dog (in the basement), 9 p.m. Free.

This show was also the location of a comedy album recording for Canada’s Comedy Records. Check it out to get a better sense of all the fun you’re missing.


Empress Comedy Night – The other show that’s helped build Edmonton’s local indie scene over the last few years. Get there early to get a seat. At The Empress, 9 p.m. Free.

Urban Tavern Comedy Night – This show is the veteran and has been around for years, and includes more of an open mic format. At Urban Tavern, 8 p.m. Free.

Other shows

Weird Al Karaoke, presented by Booty Goose Comedy – Local comedians doing their own parody songs. What’s not to love?! Monthly, at The Buckingham. Free.

Comic Jenuis – CJSR, Edmonton’s community and campus radio station, has a long-running comedy show, hosted by a pair of local comedians. This has a little of everything, with interviews of local and touring comedians and clips of lots of routines and jokes. Thursday, midnight-2 a.m. in your radio (so, it’s free).


You might have noticed how almost every show is FREE. Yes, some of the comics will be new, and many will be working out their jokes but, dang Edmonton, ain’t nothing this good should be free. (The shows are at bars, so maybe buy a couple of pops or a beer to help keep the host venues happy about hosting comedy.)

Once you become familiar with a few Edmonton comedians, you’ll see they’re often doing sets at other venues and Edmonton’s pro comedy clubs (places like The Comic Strip, Yuk Yuk’s and the Rec Room). Don’t wait around for Netflix to load up new comedy specials, get out and see some of Edmonton’s best comics at one of these shows.

Also, thanks to local comic and all around good guy Simon Gorsak for helping me confirm details on all these shows. Watch Simon be funny below. 👇👇

One more thing!

Grindstone Theatre is getting close to finishing work on a performance space dedicated to comedy. Grindstone also produces sketch, improv, standup and musicals. They currently put on a few shows throughout the year and teach a lot of classes, you know, if you want to finally do something with that secret joke book you keep hidden in your Evernote.

Disclaimer: Jeff Samsonow previously produced a series about Edmonton’s indie comedians (that you see Simon Gorsak performing in up above). He also enjoys humour. 

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