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Snowed in Comedy Tour rolls with two venues during Victoria stop

Both shows are happening simultaneously, across town from each other, before half-full houses at the Royal Theatre and McPherson Playhouse.
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From left: Pete Zedlacher, Paul Myrehaug, Debra DiGiovanni, and Dan Quinn of the Snowed In Comedy Tour, which stops Friday in Victoria for a pair of performances. Credit: Handout

ON STAGE

What: Snowed In Comedy Tour featuring Debra DiGiovanni, Dan Quinn, Pete Zedlacher, and Paul Myrehaug

Where: Royal Theatre (805 Broughton St.) and McPherson Playhouse (3 Centennial Sq.)

When: Friday, Jan. 21, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $48 from rmts.bc.ca, or by phone at 250-386-6121

Note: The Snowed in Comedy Tour also stops Thursday night (Jan. 20) for two shows in Nanaimo at The Port Theatre

Pandemic has you stressed? Try being comedian Dan Quinn.

The founder of the annual Snowed In Comedy Tour has been put through the professional wringer in recent weeks as he attempts to navigate bad weather, transportation issues, and COVID-19 protocols to bring his tour to stages around the province. “It’s a nightmare,” Quinn said.

“It’s hard on us, but we’re trying to do everything we can. Luckily, the people have been pretty supportive.”

COVID-19 has loomed large, it goes without saying. But everything from a burst pipe at a venue in Smithers, B.C., which resulted in a string of postponements, to extensive re-routing brought on by flood damage to the Coquihalla and flight cancellations due to airline staff shortages have added to his headaches.

Ever-changing provincial health protocols have limited B.C. venues where Quinn and fellow comedians Debra DiGiovanni, Pete Zedlacher, and Paul Myrehaug are booked through February to 50 per cent capacity. The problem? He arranged the shows when capacities were at 100 per cent. Quinn solution was to expand dates in each city to two half-full performances — one early, one late — on the same night.

With a condensed schedule, and no days off, that means the Snowed In Comedy Tour is committed to 14 shows per week for the next several weeks. In any other year, he would have cancelled before agreeing to such a scenario. But the pandemic has been brutal for those who make their living in the performing arts, so he had no other option. The Snowed in Comedy Tour has been off the road for the past two years, due to the pandemic. He didn’t want to extend the hiatus any longer.

“It’s going to be a challenge for us mentally,” Quinn said. “We have no time for dinner or anything. We’re just going to shows. We’ve got to be in the venue at 4:30 p.m. and we’re there until 11:30 p.m. at night. Then you get up and go to the next city.”

Victoria presents its own unique challenges, where the new schedule is concerned. The show Friday at the 1,400-seat Royal Theatre, announced months ago, had already sold 1,200 tickets by the time the new restrictions came into effect — which meant it was no longer doable. Faced with having to refund hundreds of tickets, Quinn decided to mirror the set-up he put into place for other cities where seats were selling at a considerable clip.

In order to do so, he needed to contact every ticketholder personally, in order to accommodate their demands.

Victoria audiences will now have two opportunities to see Quinn and Co. perform tomorrow night, with one unique caveat: Both shows are happening simultaneously, across town from each other, before half-full houses at the Royal Theatre and McPherson Playhouse. How is Quinn planning to pull of such a feat? With careful consideration.

“Two comics are going to start at the Royal, and two are going to start at the McPherson. As soon as they have each done their set, we have two rental cars that are going to drive them to the other venue. Each comic will have about 10 minutes to sit there and calm down after their first set, and they will walk on stage and do it again.”

At the end of all this, the comics still need to find it within themselves to be funny. That isn’t going to be tough to pull off, Quinn said. “That is actually the best part. Because when I walk on stage, all those other problems are gone, and it’s just about making people laugh.”

Quinn founded the Snowed In Comedy Tour in 2009 as way to keep his comedy chops up through the winter months. It has been a runaway success, and is one of the most popular and dependable comedy tours in Western Canada each year. The gong show that is 2022 will put every ounce of its credibility to the test, but Quinn believes the hard-fought early years, when he was just learning the insides and outs of producing a tour package, have set him up for success.

“Nobody cares about any of [the COVID-19] stuff if we don’t make them laugh. They’re not coming back next year if the show wasn’t very good. They don’t care. Nobody does. At the end of the day, they paid good money that they work hard for, and they want a good show. That’s important to us.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com