BY: IRELYNE LAVERY, SARAH TAHER, JADEN HAMILTON
Humber College is known for its innovative and growing North campus and its green Lakeshore campus, but not many students know about the building located at 300 Birmingham Street in South Etobicoke. It is one of significance to the school.
In programs that run out of “Birm,” a term coined by students for the building, classes don’t take place lecture style. Classes are taught with hands-on approaches and collaborative learning methods.
The building includes theatre space, a sound lab, prop and wardrobe rooms, and workspace for Humber’s carpentry program. It also showcases many of the Humber creative arts programs, including the renowned comedy program. With prestigious graduates such as comedy show host Nathan Fielder and YouTube personality Kurtis Conner, the comedy program helps students to “hone [their] craft while gaining an understanding of the commercial side of the industry,” according to the college’s website.
The comedy program doesn’t provide students with a typical post-secondary education. It’s eccentric. Students have to audition by writing a script or sending in a video of themselves performing. Once accepted, a majority of class time spent in the program happens in room 108 and 208 of Birm.
108 is located on the first floor of the two story building. It includes a large stage space for students to rehearse. The program coordinator has even created an after-school sketch program, or “ASS” as the students call it, in the space. It is a practice session that takes place once a week that allows students to perform scripts in front of their instructors and peers.
Classroom 208 is a dedicated sound lab for students. The comedy program has used the recording studio to practice recording commercials. They’ve made mock up commercials for Home Hardware and Sobeys. Current comedy student Evan Klim said that commercials tend to look for comedians to voice their advertisements because, “they add their own flare.” The room is also home to the “Whisper Room,” which is a private sound booth for students to record.
“Perform stupid, in a smart way.”
Evan Klim, 26, a first year student in the comedy program, spends a lot of his time at Birm. His classes include improv, acting, and clown class, a class that allows students to be “paradoxical” and “perform stupid, in a smart way,” according to Klim
Before Humber, Klim received his BA in sociology at Western University and his MA in sociology at Carleton University, where he was also a TA to a first year sociology class. He always used humour throughout his university experience, whether it was speaking during a class discussion or getting ideas across to his students.
He even used his comedy skills while writing his thesis. He titled the piece “Satirizing Ethics,” which explored late night television coverage after mass shootings. Klim took part in Second City’s script writing program in Toronto, while writing his thesis. It was here that he got to further explore his comedic side.
Klim compares his university experience to a “prerequisite” to the comedy program at Humber. At age 10, he knew he wanted to be a comedian, but “didn’t know what that meant.” He looks up to comedians like George Carlin, Sarah Silverman, and Mitch Hedberg.
“Being in the Humber program, you get to be a fan of other people’s work,” said Klim.
Along with the famous comedians that influence Klim, he has also grown to love his fellow classmates’ work.
He became such a big fan of his peers’ work that he created an event to showcase their work.
Towards the end of January, Klim held an intimate event in a unique venue: the living room of his apartment on the Danforth. He called it “Milk Navey presents: In the Bedroom with Evan Klim – 2020 Vision.” This was the second event hosted and held by Klim and his roommate Kristiaan Hansen. It created a platform to not only showcase the talent of Klim, but also the talent of several other comedy students at Humber.
With nearly a dozen acts, there was a wide range of stories shared and diversified acts. Klim even passed around a joke bowl before the event commenced for audience members to take part in the show. He also rented out the equipment for the event from the Birm, free of charge.
“The first time we had an event like this, 10 people showed up. This time we have over 25, it feels surreal,” said Klim after he performed an act. “I think people found us through word of mouth. Visitors from the first show spread the message and told others that this is something worth coming to.”
Upon first glance, the idea of hosting a comedy show from an east end apartment building living room seems odd, but it is a reflection of how tightly knit the Birmingham community and comedy program really is.
Many people in attendance made the trek across the city from west-end Etobicoke. Each supporter paid what they could while listening and laughing as each act presented.
Clown class and events
Although hosting an event in your living room is a performance option for Humber students, there are also many other opportunities.
Comedy students don’t just spend their time rehearsing at the Birmingham building. They also have the opportunity to perform, both on and off campus. During the holiday season, they put on a Christmas special. First-year students are also putting on “The Clown Soiree” this Wednesday, which will be an evening of Humber students showcasing their talent and yes, wearing a red clown nose.
In addition to performing at events organized within the comedy program, students also have the opportunity to perform off campus at Yuk Yuk’s on Richmond Street, once a week. These Tuesday shows are free to all students. Klim has performed at this event several times, throughout his first year in the program. “Sometimes you bomb, sometimes you do really good. That’s just how standup goes,” he said.
Every Monday night, students also have the chance to perform at Comedy Bar on Bloor Street West. Comedy Bar has also made Monday nights free to all Humber students to come out and watch the comedy program perform.
The program’s instructors play a huge role in the success of its students. Many currently or formerly worked in the industry. Robin Duke, who formerly worked for Saturday Night Live and SCTV, teaches the students after their first year in the program. Another instructor, Larry Horowitz, has appeared on Just For Laughs and helped to start Yuk Yuk’s in Toronto.
Students are not only taught skills such as acting and script writing, but also the business side of the comedy world.
They learn the importance of producing headshots, resumes, and taking risks.
Klim values having instructors who have industry knowledge. “They really do reward students who are working hard,” he said. “You could be a class clown in comedy school but a shitty student,” he added.
Not only do the students look up to the instructors, but they also look up to the program’s alumni. Nathan Fielder declined an interview and Kurtis Conner was unresponsive, however, both personalities have major things on the go.
Fielder is currently busy with his “production schedule,” according to his management team. Not only does he run “Summit Ice Apparel,” a Holocaust awareness clothing brand, he is also set to star in Showtime’s “The Curse,” directed by Benny and Josh Safdie.
Connor is currently at 2.6 Million subscribers on Youtube, with an Instagram following of over one Million.
Both personalities started their road to stardom from the Humber comedy program.
The Humber Lakeshore comedy program differs from other programs because it feels less like traditional educational programs and more like a group of diverse people doing what they love.
With a long list of events coming up in the near future, Evan plans on being busy for the next few weeks. You can catch Evan and other Humber comedy students performing on:
- March 6th, 11 PM – Sketch in Sixty Revue @ The Theatre Centre
- March 10th, 24th, 31st, 7 PM – Humber Student Showcase @ Yuk Yuk’s
- March 13th, 11 PM – Friday Night Special @ Underground Cafe
- March 20th, 9:30 PM – Comedy Kapow @ 120 Diner
Back at the Birm, Evan’s enthusiasm about his program and resources remains constant. His eagerness and optimism about upcoming shows is just one thing that he shares with his fellow classmates.
Klim is expected to graduate in 2021, but before then will be taking classes in comedy video production and physical comedy. He will also continue to perform at events both on and off campus.
“I just want to be silly. This program allows me to make people laugh,” he says.