“Comedy is merely a funny way of being serious” is a simple wisdom I’ve been returning to lately. I am as easily amused as anyone; I’ve been as consoled by TV wit and dad jokes as by sharp-tongued satire. But while jokes and laughter are often a reprieve, comedy can surpass its entertainment value through inclusivity: a subversive, funny way of being serious. As a woman, to be able to laugh at and with other women can turn escapism into empowerment. Those that can humorously tackle sensitive topics are a force to be reckoned with, and talking to Jackie Hoffart of Fox Hole Comedy has reminded me not only how important comedy and performance is, but how it can be bettered, like most things, by expanding the pool in a serious way.
Fox Hole Comedy is a weekly stand-up comedy show that takes place Wednesday nights in the Projection Room above the Fox Cabaret—the actual projection room of the repurposed porno cinema. Cozy, adequately sleazy, and draped in a dreamy vintage disco aesthetic, the Projection Room is a cocktail bar made for comedy. Hoffart books “Eight stand-ups each week, across experience levels, and the majority of the comics are...women, gender non-binary folks, people of colour, and queers.” Fox Hole is expanding who to expect at a comedy show by stacking their lineup with marginalized voices. It is the place to witness the sharp edge of humour’s ability to “punch up,” where the personal isn’t synonymous with dick jokes and trite “binaries-am-i-right?” punchlines. Hoffart’s programming for the event puts a primary on underrepresented comics, limiting cis white male performers in an industry that is nearly monopolized by their voices. “Honestly I'm just bored of mainstream comedy,” she says, “which happens to be very white, very straight, and very male. I want more voices to tell more stories from more perspectives forever. In order for that to happen we need to foster an environment that is not openly hostile to people who aren't white, or straight or very male. It actually seems really obvious to me, like— I didn't make this up, ya know? It sounds more woke than it is to be honest,” she adds, “but I have been told by some of my comedy colleagues that the room creates a valuable space for them to do their thing, and I feel humbled and honoured by that.”
Since being passed Fox Hole from Little Mountain Gallery’s Brent Constantine, Hoffart has carved out a space for performers in Vancouver that is integral as well as mindful and smart. With a characteristic humility, she tells me that hosting the event makes her “weirdly relaxed each week,” even admitting that it is “kind of spiritual for [her] at this stage.” She is endearingly nonchalant, and quick to pay respects to everybody involved, including her co-producer/wife Robyn Pekar, who she indicates “is essential to the show, even though she does not like the spotlight. Lucky for her, I do.”
Alongside Fox Hole’s programming, Hoffart works as Curator and Host for SAD’s comedy series, “a comedy show that always evolves—or to be less linear, morphs—with each incarnation.” This month, SAD Comedy Volume 7 is set for a bigger venue and wider audience than normal as part of Just For Laughs North West, offering spots for comics and performers that might not otherwise have been highlighted in such a large festival. By cracking trends and forging new communities, Hoffart and the team at SAD Comedy are giving Vancouver a wider comedic scope. “Like many people, I have so little tolerance for hateful, sexist, racist (hack) comedy.” Hoffart tells me, “[this] is by design, to create more space for more people to experience comedy in a way that doesn't leave them feeling disrespected or offended—and I mean that for the comics as much as for the audience.”
This reverence for community is the kindling around which our conversation burns: Hoffart is the heart of Fox Hole and the brawn behind SAD Comedy, but has focused on making room for those around her. “I'm excited about all the young people coming up in comedy who grew up with the internet. They're smarter and kinder than me and everyone my age—I'm here to be a good support for their creativity.” This is how comedy gains an edge, how a funny way of being serious translates to a subversive act. “Political Correctness” has too long been considered the inverse of humour on the comedy stage, so that empathy is cast as lame. In fact, it is this empathy that revives comedy, honouring new voices and stories. As a guiding ethos for Hoffart—with both Fox Hole and SAD Comedy—it is working.
You can catch Fox Hole Comedy every Wednesday at the Projection Room, and February 20th as part of JFL Northwest. SAD Comedy Volume 7 goes off February 15th at the Red Gate Revue Stage - tickets still available!