Hamilton’s comedy scene has grown exponentially – a few years ago you could count on one hand the amount of venues where you could catch a comedy show. Now there are more comedians working the scene than ever before, and many have started running their own rooms.
Take note: comedy nights come and go, and are subject to change. This is a current overview at the time this is written – check the venues for more detailed event listings.
Yuk Yuk’s Hamilton
The most obvious start is Canadian comedy institution Yuk Yuk’s. Hamilton’s location of the franchise is right in the downtown core, attached to Jackson Square. Originally opened on Upper James in 1984, Yuks moved downtown (120 King St. W) in 2013.
Grab a chair at one of the long communal tables that line the audience. The lights dim, and the boom of the announcer introduces the host – it’s showtime! They have a menu for snacks and a bar in the spacious lobby which is attached to Anchor Bar’s rooftop patio.
You can watch a range of shows from the weekly Amateur Night on Wednesdays (more of an open mic style), and bigger name headliners on the weekends (curated shows). Often comics from Hamilton and the surrounding area are on those booked lineups as openers and middle acts.
Being signed by Yuk Yuks is a milestone for many comedians. Several Hamilton comics are on their roster: Manolis Zontanos, Patrick Coppolino, Anthony Mlekuz, Ashley Moffatt, Michael Moses, and Mayce Galoni (who is now based in Vancouver).
Nestled into the Westdale neighbourhood off the Main St. entrance to McMaster University, Emerson 109 St. is frequented by the student community. The room is super relaxed, with couches onstage and tables scattered throughout the bar. In the warmer months you can step outside onto the patio. The pub also has a menu – gotta have snacks during a show!
Emerson runs various weekly nights from trivia to karaoke, and on Tuesdays it’s all about comedy. This open mic was originally launched by Clifford Myers, who then passed the torch onto Mayce Galoni and Jordan Scherer, which then evolved into Jordan and Devin Bateson as the next tag team host duo. In the fall of 2017, the pair passed the mic onto James Butler who now runs the night.
Hammer Night Live
Host Matthew Surina (Hub Of The Hammer) has been the dapper and loveable host of the monthly Hammer Night Live at The Staircase (27 Dundurn St. N) since 2013. The space has cabaret style seating on the main level, and sometimes the show is moved up to their larger theatre space.
It’s a curated show – the format is along the lines of a late night talk show, often with a video sketch to start, followed by Matt kicking off the show by warming up the crowd in a conversational way. The 2-3 featured comics do their thing and then take a seat across from Matt at his desk for a quick chat. Part of the fun is seeing Matt react and laugh along with the audience, as he remains on stage during their sets.
First Timers Club
Every comedian remembers their first. Another brainchild of Matthew Surina/Hub Of The Hammer, monthly show First Timers Club is a brilliant concept – everyone on the show is trying stand-up for the first time. To balance out this open mic style show, the evening begins with host Matt and a few more seasoned comics to loosen everyone up before handing the mic over to the newbies. Held at Zyla’s (299 James St. N), the room is so intimate and cozy – the perfect space to ease any first time jitters.
Speaking of Zyla’s – also watch for one-off shows hosted by Devin Bateson. Devin curates an awesome birthday show lineup for himself from time to time. You’ll wish you had a birthday party as often as this guy does!
If you’re a first timer, another recommendation is Comedy Church. This one is just for comics – no spectators. Launched by Erinn White, who also runs the same workshop in Guelph, the Hamilton edition is held monthly at CoMotion On King (115 King St. E, 3rd floor).
Laughs On Tap
Even though most comedy shows take place in bars, one taking place in a brewery is next level! The taproom at Collective Arts (207 Burlington St. E) is home to this monthly show, hosted by Jordan Scherer, one of my favourite hosts (podcasts or otherwise). It’s a fast-moving show with Jordan booking one or two comics along for the ride with him. Try a brew you may not find in stores as you kick back at the casual communal tables. Watch Collective’s Facebook page for the events as they’re posted.
Laugh At The Judge
End your week with a laugh at this open mic style show on Sundays. It’s a relaxed atmosphere on the second floor of Augusta’s Winking Judge (25 Augusta St.) – a hidden gem of a hangout space in itself. It’s like kicking back in your living room with a bunch of funny friends. Open mics are a chance for comics to try out new material and this casual pub setting keeps things loose.
A comedy show in a board game cafe? What will they think of next. Happening every 4th Wednesday at Mancala Monk off Ottawa Street (1229 Cannon St. E), Clifford Myers heads up this night called Comic Encounters. Cliff is one of the original Hamilton comics on the scene and he’s one of the best hosts around. Mancala Monk also serves delicious drinks and snacks, and of course you’ll want to go early to enjoy a board game or two.
Clifford also started up a new show called The Dryer: Hamilton’s Sober Comedy Show. Clifford knows firsthand the importance of taking care of one’s sobriety, particularly in the world of comedy when most shows take place around alcohol. The Dryer aims to support people in recovery by hosting this monthly event. You can find all of Clifford’s comedy events on his page Finders Comedy.
Take A Joke Thursdays
On the last Thursday of the month at The Brew Cafe & Bar (22 Barton St. E), Michael Moses hosts an open mic style show. You’ll see up-and-coming comics with a more seasoned headliner to end the show. The Brew is a great sized room for a comedy show – just intimate enough and laid back with some comfy chairs and high top tables.
Rust City Brewery
Another one on every last Thursday of the month happens at Rust City Brewery (27 King William St.) – the former Homegrown Hamilton cafe/bar (RIP!) but the space still lends itself to a great setup for live shows. This night is also another one from host James Butler, who is originally from London, Ontario but quickly made his home in the Hamilton comedy scene.
A classic Hamilton hole-in-the-wall dive, Lionshead (137 John St. S) is home to a comedy night one Tuesday a month hosted by Dan Brennan. It’s another open mic style show and a little rough around the edges, mainly because of the room itself. But that’s part of the fun, right? Search “Comedy Hour at the Lionshead” on Facebook events for upcoming shows.
One of my favourite comedy shows used to be at Strangebarn, which was literally a house party, but also a comedy show open to all. Sketch comedy troupe Safety Zoo now takes this show on the road, and in the words of Carole King, where you lead, I will follow, boys! The show features their quirky brand of sketch (both live and in video form) plus a great lineup of stand-ups. Their latest show is March 10th at The Staircase – but check their page for all event listings.