Comedy clubs are sprouting all over Canada like bad jokes.

By Robert Sarner, The Canadian magazine, Sept. 22, 1979

From the day Montreal's Stitches opened last March in the former Wrong Number nightclub, crowds have been overwhelming. Twice a night, five nights a week, 100 people - at $2 a head - pack into a basement devoid of tables, chairs, even a proper stage, to watch Anglo comics who cook up a dish of eclectic humor from scatological, carnal and political ingredients - mostly political.

"Good evening," announces one member of the six Comedy After Death players at the beginning of a mock newscast. "Mayor Jean Drapeau has entered Montreal into the bidding for the rights to stage World War III. However, Premier René Lévesque says that if the war is held here, it'll have to be waged in French only." Next item: "Premier Levesque has put a referendum to his new wife - to sleep together, or to sleep separately."

For the audience, which stands cheerfully through 90 minutes and half a dozen comics, enduring stale cigarette smoke and the heat and crush of bodies, the material is obviously worth it. Nothing diffuses anxiety like humor - and nothing engenders humor like anxiety.

Peter Kreisman, bearded and balding master of impersonations, moves onto the miniscule, unelevated stage and performs a Humphrey Bogart rendition of 50 Ways to Leave Your Province to the tune of Paul Simon's 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover:

Transfer to Miami, Sammy,
Open a Swiss bank, Hank,
Move to T.O., Joe...

He is followed by a comic known only as Dean, who dispenses mostly unprintable jokes in rapid succession. "I know a chick who's so ugly," he spits out frantically, "that Peeping Toms stick their arms in the window to close the curtain."

Then Harvey Berger, yet another political satire man. Playing heavily on local dialects, Berger creates a funny confrontation between Jacques, an "enforcer" from Quebec's Francization Bureau, and the proprietor of Saul's Bagel Bakery. Under Bill 101, Jacques says, Saul must change his store's name to a French one. "I change nothing," says Saul in a thick Jewish accent. "Only my socks."

"Comedy has its place in Montreal as a tremendous release from tension," says Stitches' owner Ernie Butler. "There's definitely a need for humor about the situation here." Because of the huge success of Stitches, Butler is planning a move to larger premises soon. "If we stop laughing at ourselves," he says, "we'll be in trouble."

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