The fifth annual Canadian Comedy Awards and Festival is currently taking place through to October 31 in London, Ont. One of the most intriguing categories is the Pretty Funny Stand-Up Newcomer category, which will showcase some of the top young upcoming talent in the Canadian comedy scene. The newcomer category has an interesting mix of nominees: Trevor Boris, Terry Clement, Tommy Campbell, Brian Lazanik and Ron Sparks.

Winnipeg native Trevor Boris, now residing in Toronto, made the move here after Yuk Yuks comedy chain owner Mark Breslin encouraged him to relocate after recognizing his potential. Boris is quite accomplished for a 26-year-old comedian. He’s performed at the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal, the CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival, and toured across Canada hosting shows at Yuk Yuks comedy clubs.

Boris was also head writer for Fairy Tale, a dating show on Pridevision TV, and will host a new fast-paced, interview-driven show about gay weddings on the same network. Boris is thrilled with his nomination and was shocked when he found out.

“I thought it was a typo,” he explains. “I thought it couldn’t have been me. I thought maybe in my wildest dreams that maybe in a year or two I might get nominated. It’s really cool-it’s validation.”

Terry Clement fuses music and spoken word in his act in very unique ways. His comedic songs are off the wall and really edgy, and Clement’s onstage persona is very theatrical. Clement actually didn’t think of performing at comedy clubs at first, but tapped into that market after it was suggested to him.

“I started opening for punk bands,” explains the 29-year-old comic, “and from there I did a couple of open mikes, people told me to go to amateur nights, and that was it.”

Five years into the craft of comedy, things are working out well for Clement, as he has appeared at Yuk Yuks clubs across Canada as a headlining act. Despite his success, Clement constantly tries to improve and has changed his act drastically in the last year by adding a whole new theatrical portion. His comedic influences include Monty Python, Peter Cook, Andy Kaufman and Steve Martin. In the musical realm, Clement credits Alice Cooper and The Ramones.

Clement describes his comedy is “surreal,” and feels he is unique in that he doesn’t perform traditional stand-up comedy. “I think I take way more of a theatrical approach to what I do. I don’t really tell jokes or stories, and that makes me very different from other stand-ups.”

Born and raised in Calgary, now living in Toronto (sensing a pattern here?), Tommy Campbell started working full-time in his teens doing various jobs at night while going to school during the day. Ten years of working and searching would lead Campbell to find a job he loved: stand-up comedy. At age 20, Campbell first started doing stand-up at a bar in Calgary. He did well and after a year began touring around Canada.

All those years of working different jobs paid off-it was the basis for Campbell’s cult classic book The Slacker Confessions. The book chronicles the hilarious and intense experiences at his numerous jobs, how he gained more knowledge from them than through formal schooling, and his search to find something that he loves. Campbell was named best emerging author by NOW Magazine in 2003, the book was featured on Canada AM, and it is required reading for the University of Houston’s personal narrative course.

Campbell’s stand-up comedy is akin to the style of the book-from the heart and brutally honest. “I’m trying to be extremely honest on stage, which I think enough people don’t do,” the 26-year-old comic explains. “So many people are just being goofy and they’re not saying anything that matters. I want to say stuff that matters. I want to have jokes with staying power.”

Campbell has some political portions to his act, but it mostly consists of social commentary. “I point out the rough spots in society,” he notes. “I poke fun at things that a lot of people don’t notice.”

“Kind of twisted and observational” is how Brian Lazanik describes his act. The 30-year-old started out doing stand-up on and off over ten years ago at open mike nights, and like many comics had to struggle in the early stages.

“I was pretty crap right off the start,” explains Lazanik, “because it’s one thing to be funny just hanging out with your buddies, but it was another thing to bring it on stage.”

Things have changed since, as Lazanik has toured around Canada, performed at the Just For Laughs festival, and been featured on the festival’s regular television special on CBC as well as their Christmas special Lazanik gives credit to George Carlin and Steven Wright for being comedic influences. His hard work writing and performing has paid off, and he is happy about getting some recognition with the nomination.

Already a one-time Canadian Comedy Award winner with his sketch troupe The Minnesota Wrecking Crew, Ron Sparks is looking to pick up the best newcomer award this time around. In just a year and half into doing stand-up comedy, Sparks has achieved astounding success. Just a few months into performing, Sparks won the Tim Sims Encouragement Fund Award, given to Toronto’s most promising new comedian.

Since then he has had a regular role on Toronto 1’s The Toronto Show, as well as being a regular at Toronto comedy clubs including The Laugh Resort, Yuk Yuks, and Spirits Bar and Grill. The Chatham, Ontario native moved to Toronto to attend York University, where he earned a double-major degree in film and Canadian history in 2002.

During his time at York, Sparks began his sketch comedy career by joining Vanier College Productions and the Vanier Improv Company. In April 2003 Sparks decided to take his comedy solo and found his writing ability and stage presence made for a hilarious stand-up comedy act. Sparks’ act is mostly observational with a twist of absurdity, performed with a deadpan and dry delivery. Despite his great success in the world of stand-up, he still has a great passion for sketch comedy and hopes to one day write for a sketch show like Saturday Night Live.

Sparks is pleased with the nomination, and if he wins he will add another nice resume stuffer to an already remarkable young career. “It’s great, we got the sketch award last year, so I hope I can take this one this year,” he enthuses.

The nominees for the best newcomer award take the stage tonight in London at the Canadian Comedy Awards. Check out www.canadiancomedyawards.ca tomorrow to find out who won!

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