Tag Archives: awards

We’ve Outgrown Our Baby Shoes

As a young comedian, I believed that I was better than everybody else. I believed I was funnier, more intelligent and more deserving of success than every other comedian in Canada. I believed that my path was righteous and nearly everyone else’s path was not. It’s a not-uncommon trait among young artists, and some mature artists too. But for a number of years, I did have a relatively good streak of successes that only served to fortify my arrogance.

Three events in my life turned this inferiority complex on its end.

The first event was my mother’s descent into the vegetative stupor of Alzheimer’s disease in the final third of her 23-year battle with the disease – not that it was much of a battle, more of a drawn-out surrender. When that occurred, when she lost everything that made her her, nothing about my life was funny anymore. I could still laugh at other peoples’ humour but I could no longer generate any of my own. So I stopped trying.

I became insular. I was introduced to the Internet and I sunk myself into a career in web development, where I could function alone, and anonymously, in the humourlessness of programming code. Believe me when I tell you that there is nothing funny about HyperText Markup Language and Common Gateway Interface.

The second event was meeting a person whose generosity of spirit and capacity for understanding rendered my self-imposed depression obsolete. She taught me that life is meaningless until we bring meaning to it. And whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not, we are always bringing meaning to it. Her name is Diana Galligan. And until I am dead and forgotten, she is my hero.

The third event was a culmination of the first two. I became involved in the Canadian Comedy Awards, a national awards process that was still in its infancy. Ironically, years earlier, the arrogant person I once was had ridiculed this organization for all the reasons anyone might ridicule it – as a self-aggrandizing stew of mediocrity.

My entrance into the CCAs occurred halfway through the 2008 awards season. I was tasked with building a new website for the CCAs and constructing the online mechanism by which voters could vote on nominees. I had about 3 weeks in which to create this structure.

Any sane person (or team of people) would have taken several months to carefully plan the steps required to build such a thing and five figures would be charged to do so. I charged $5,000 for it. I’m not bragging, clearly. Being paid $5K for something for which someone else would charge ten times that amount is in no way something to brag about. But web development has never been my true calling, so my tendency has always been to undervalue myself. I never wanted to be successful at it. Because that would be the death of me as an artist.

In 2009, I created the online mechanism by which jurors could select their Top 5 submissions to the category in which they were a juror. And the Top 5 of those Top 5’s become the nominees.

What happened next is something I will always carry with me.

One of my tasks was pulling clips from all the submission DVDs to convert them into video files so they could be viewed online by the jurors. In that capacity, I watched every single submission to the 2009 Canadian Comedy Awards. 230 videos. I’m the only person on the planet who got to watch all of them. And I wear that as a badge of honour.

Because in those 9 days of non-stop video processing and entertainment consumption, I was exposed to the kaleidoscope – I’m sorry, I know that’s cliché, but there really is no better word for it – the kaleidoscope of talent and gifts that hundreds and hundreds of comedy artists in this country have to give. From standup comics, to sketch and improv troupes, to playwrights, TV writers, directors and actors, and filmmakers. Those 230 fifteen-minute videos transformed me.

If you were one of those submitters in 2009, thank you. You helped me disempower a fucking asshole that had taken residence inside my heart decades earlier. There is no dollar value that I could possibly assign to that – $5K, $50K, $500K, all pale in comparison.

In 2010, I created the online submission form. The total number of submissions that year was a little over 300. If you were one of those submitters in 2010 (including those that were disqualified because they didn’t meet the criteria), thank you. You proved to me that my transformative experience the previous year was not an anomaly.

In 2011, to better accommodate video submissions, I added a video upload application to the submission process. The biggest challenge was this app’s limitations to a very specific set of parameters. Without a much larger budget, it was simply not possible to create a wide berth for the various digital formats that accompanied submissions.

So in 2012, I outsourced the storage of all submission videos to YouTube, a company that has invested millions of dollars into ensuring that videos are capable of being uploaded and viewed by as many people as possible. This made it much easier and more cost-effective for artists to submit their work.

In each of these years, I found myself viewing submissions videos. And each year, I was subsequently reassured that the comedy artists who work in this country are not funnier than anyone else, as I once thought myself to be.

They are as funny AS THEY ARE.

And they are – YOU are – Really. Really. Really. Fucking. Funny.


I’m a firm believer in democracy. Who gets nominated and who wins is kind of irrelevant to me. The most important thing is the process. If the process works, the nominees will be great and consequently the winners will be great.

So I’d like to provide a few facts which are often overlooked whenever someone challenges the integrity of the CCAs, as a few recently have.

There have been changes to some criteria every awards season in which I’ve been involved. These changes are developed by the Chair of the Awards & Nominations Committee, in consultation with members of that committee and with the community itself. This list of proposals, usually averaging 10-15 each year, is then brought before the Board of Directors of the Canadian Comedy Foundation for Excellence, the foundation which guides the growth of the CCAs. If memory serves me well, the Board of Directors has at most rejected 3 of these proposals in any given year.

So while a person might have the perception that favouritism could exist in certain members of the Board of Directors, any self-serving bias that person might believe exists is easily stifled by the fact that no one has complete and undeniable control over the process. The Board of Directors – the list of which has been publicly available on the CCA website for quite some time – do not make the criteria. They either approve or reject the criteria proposals suggested by the Awards & Nominations Committee.

The Awards & Nominations Committee is made up of members of the community who volunteer their time because they believe in and feel passionately about the awards. They do not participate to childishly stack the odds in anyone’s favour; they participate for one reason and one reason alone – because it’s an honour to participate in something greater than themselves.

The Chair of this committee is responsible for assembling the juries and vetting the submissions in every category. They are responsible for ensuring that artists are not jurying a category to which they’ve submitted and that artists are not jurying a category to which their spouses or business partners have submitted.

Every awards season in which I’ve been involved in the CCAs, at least one member of the Awards & Nominations Committee has been a submitter or a nominee or a winner. Two of the three Chairs of this committee in the past 5 years have been submitters while they were Chair of the committee. That is a by-product of the relatively small size of our community, the volume of work generated by our community and the grassroots nature of our organization.

I was honoured to serve on the Awards & Nominations Committee in 2011 under chair Cory Mack, who I admire greatly. I know of no one in the Canadian comedy community who is as dedicated, fair-minded and prudent as Cory Mack. Cory was personally responsible for ensuring that hundreds of submissions met the criteria in the categories to which they’d been submitted. I was present when she made decisions that were obviously difficult decisions for her to make, to tell her peers that they couldn’t be included because they didn’t meet the criteria. This was not something that needed to be asked of her; she took it on because she knew it had to be done.

For as long as I’ve been involved in the CCAs, there has been an Annual General Meeting which all members of the community who are registered to vote are invited to attend. It is also streamed over the Internet. The purpose of the AGM is for the Chair of the Awards & Nominations Committee to hear criticisms and suggestions directly from the community. These are then used to inform what proposals that committee will make to the Board of Directors. It is the one place where anyone who has any stake whatsoever in the CCAs is guaranteed to have their voice be heard. No other platform – not a blog like this, not a Facebook status update, not the back of a bar – can guarantee that those voices are heard.

However, without a standardized annual budget, it is impossible to ensure that action is taken on every great idea suggested by the community.

Therefore, recently, the CCAs introduced an annual membership fee for anyone who wishes to submit to or vote in any of the industry-only categories. The reason for this fee is simple. The trajectory of the CCAs cannot be maintained without it.

In 2009, Harry Doupe produced a great awards ceremony at the Imperial Theatre in Saint John. In 2010 and 2011, he did the same at the Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto. This past year, Gary Rideout, Jr. produced a great ceremony at the Royal York Hotel, a landmark hotel in our country.

In 2013, the CCAs are going to Ottawa. Ottawa fought other cities in order to bring the CCAs to their city.

In short, we’ve outgrown our baby shoes.

No one should be expected to volunteer hours upon hours upon hours (of lost time and, therefore, lost income) ensuring that hundreds of submissions adhere to the criteria of the categories to which they’ve been submitted.

No one should be expected to use their domicile as the headquarters for a national awards process.

No one should be expected to go into personal debt to ensure that an artist’s airfare has been paid or suffer the community’s wrath when they correct other people’s mistakes.

Will there always be challenges? Yes.

Will there always be failures? Of course.

Does any one person have a monopoly on integrity? No, that is impossible.

Will we always all agree on the best course of action? No. Because we’re artists, not robots.

Whether they know it or not – whether YOU know it or not – every comedy artist in Canada has the opportunity to contribute to this organization. The CCAs are not our community. To mistake it as such would be foolish. They represent our community. And every comedy artist in Canada has the opportunity to be transformed by their community in ways that could astonish them.

Every comedy artist in Canada also has the opportunity to do nothing, to sit in the cheap seats, heckling those whose heads are actually in the game.

That is the choice.

I’ve made mine.

Simon Fraser
Voting Member
2013 Canadian Comedy Awards

(Please feel free to leave a comment below if you’d like. They’re moderated only to prevent spam postings for brand name knock-off’s and poorly-designed porn sites. I don’t reject comments simply because I might disagree with the opinions they express.)


Some tips on videos submitted to the Canadian Comedy Awards

As the guy who has processed all the submissions to the Canadian Comedy Awards from 2008 to present, I’m fortunate to find myself in a position where I get to view all of the videos that are submitted. This builds the great pride that I have in my peers and my culture on an annual basis.

However, it can sometimes be frustrating when a submitter has not really done everything they can to put their best foot forward, video-wise. So I give to any who might care some pointers for videos that accompany your submissions to the Canadian Comedy Awards.

For the record, I’m publishing these tips independent of the Canadian Comedy Awards. These tip are my best practices. So if you have any issues with what I’ve written here, take it up with me or comment below; don’t waste the time of anyone at the CCA’s.

My hope here is that it becomes easier for jury members and voters to be able to judge the quality of the talent, rather than the quality of the tape.

  1. We Need To Understand What You’re Saying
    It is almost impossible to judge a cacophony of voices echoing in a large room or anything quieter than a stage whisper. Ensure that the people in your video can be heard AND understood. Otherwise, jury members and voters may not have any basis to judge the submission.
  2. We Need To See Some Faces
    It is hard to make out little white blobs at the other end of a performance venue. Ensure that the people in your video are recognizable. Otherwise, jury members and voters may not know who they’re supposed to be judging.
  3. We Need To Know Who’s Who
    If you are submitting to one of the single artist categories (such as Male Improviser or Female Improviser) and everybody in your video is wearing the same kind of outfit, identify which one of the similarly-adorned people you are submitting. For instance, in your video notes, write “[Name of submission] is wearing the red tie.” Otherwise, as above, jury members and voters may not know who they’re supposed to be judging.
  4. What Everybody Else Does
    The majority of submissions to Live categories are delivered as audible video recordings from live performances. We can see the visual elements of the performance and hear the sounds of the performance. Some of them are edited highlights, some of them are a continuous clip.

    Most TV and Film submissions submit video of entire episodes or films with their selected in and out points for their jury and voter clips.

    Radio submissions submit MP3 files or audio CDs.

    Web Clip submissions submit their entire web clip.

    If you stray too far from how everyone else has assembled their videos, you may be shooting yourself in the foot. If you submit a montage of shots without audio and set to music, you may have made a nice music video but you’ve probably wasted your submission fee.

  5. Jury Video & Voter Video
    With the exception of the Web Clip category (which shows the full clip), you have a maximum of 15 minutes for your Jury Video and 2 minutes for your Voter Video. I have to embolden this because every year, many submitters screw the pooch on this.

    If you go over the maximum amount of time for your clips, your clips shall be chopped off at 15 and 2, and no one will hear that punchline at 15:05 or see that hilarious sight gag at 2:03. THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS.

    Jury clips have a maximum of 15 minutes running time but do not have a minimum running time. So you do not need to scrounge together a full 15 minutes if you only have an exemplary 10 minutes, or an exemplary 5 minutes… or 7 minutes. Fifteen is only the maximum.

    Edited videos are allowed. You can make a highlight reel from multiple performances, suffice that they all occurred within the respective awards year. So choose your most exemplary content. Use clips that feature your submission. Do not use clips in which the first appearance of the artist you’re submitting is five minutes into the clip.

  6. E. I. Y.
    The Canadian Comedy Awards does not edit video for you. You cannot specify multiple in and out points in your submitted video and expect CCA staff to patch those together. If you want to use multiple clips to build your jury or voting videos, you need to get these clips edited yourself before submitting them. Otherwise, you’ll get a phone call or email and you’ll have to pick which one of your in and out points you want to use, and the rest of them will be ignored.
  7. Direct Messages & Commentary
    Do not directly address jury members or voters in your videos, in overlaid text, voice or image. In other words, do not insert “VOTE FOR ME!” messages into your videos. Any additional production to your videos that directly addresses jury members or voters will be cut out of your video and, in the most extreme cases, your submission will be disqualified.

    Do not insert commentary into your video. Any commentary in your videos will be cut out of your videos and, in the most extreme cases, your submission will be disqualified.

  8. Aspect Ratio
    All jury members and voters view videos in a 4:3 aspect ratio. If the submission video(s) you send are already in 4:3, no change to the image will occur. If the submission video(s) you send are in 16:9 or any other ratio, they will be letterboxed at the top and bottom to fit a 4:3 ratio.

    If you’ve made an aspect ratio error in your post-production process and you have a stretched or crunched image in your submission video(s), it will not be corrected. What you send is what gets viewed by jury members and voters.

  9. Your DVD
    Please ensure that your submission DVD is not set to auto-play AND chapter menus are not removed.

    There was once a huge mix-up because a DVD that was submitted was set to auto-play and the menus had been removed and the submitter failed to indicate that there was more than one chapter on the DVD. The result was that the jury in that category was viewing a video that barely contained the artist for whom it was submitted. Fortunately, this particular mistake was corrected before the jury process ended but it could have easily been prevented by the submitter by NOT setting to auto-play and NOT removing chapter menus.

  10. Just The Facts
    To avoid confusion in the processing of your submission, do not put video content on your DVD that has nothing to do with your submission. Your submitted materials should not require a goose hunt to process them. If your submission DVD has your submission videos plus some other stuff you’ve done, MAKE A NEW DVD THAT DOESN’T HAVE THE OTHER STUFF. TV episodes and films are the exception here since they are typically submitted in their entirety.
  11. Multiple Submissions per DVD
    You can put more than one submission’s clips on the same DVD, as long as you list all the submissions’ tracking numbers on the DVD. For example, if you are submitting a film that has 1 submission each in the Film Directing and Film Writing categories, 2 submissions in the Male Film Performance category and 3 submissions in the Female Film Performance category, send the one DVD and label it with the tracking numbers for all 7 submissions.