Toronto-based comedian, Kyle Lucey, found a (safe) way to continue to bring laughter to a few people during the global pandemic through The Secret Show! Learn more about how he did it below.
Hi Kyle! Can you tell us about The Secret Show! and what was the inspiration behind it?
The Secret Show is part of my comedy company, “Renegade Comedy” that has been producing sold out shows at bars, comedy clubs, casinos and theaters for over 5 years now. When the lockdown hit Toronto, every comedy club in the country had to closed its doors to keep everybody safe. Comedians were greatly affected by this because we had no way of doing our art. Comedians were labelled, “non-essential” and our industry was decimated. Around June 2021, the Ontario government started allowing up to 10 people outside. I saw an opportunity there. I thought, “let’s turn my backyard into a comedy club!” This would give myself and fellow comics some much needed stage time. We made sure we capped the audience so we would be abiding by government protocol for outside gatherings. I branded it as a secret show so that I wasn’t sending out my address to strangers but it was a happy accident. Audience loved the speakeasy vibe The Secret Show created and we have been sold out every week for over 3 months!
Now in present day, the Ontario government has given the okay to allow up to 30 people inside. Several venues have approached me to take my Renegade Comedy to their establishments due to its success and I’m happy to say we landed a weekly residency every Tuesday at the legendary music venue, The Bovine Sex Club! We have done 3 shows there so far, each one sold out. At a time when there is very little work for comedians it’s nice to say I’m making a living in comedy. I couldn’t be happier.
What was it like creating this space for comedians during a global pandemic and making sure that everyone would stay safe while gathering? What was the biggest challenge for you?
When I first launched this show, it was at a time where people were so sick of everything being closed and feeling like they were in jail. People desperately needed to laugh to the point where everybody was incredibly respectful of my home and the COVID rules. The audiences were so grateful everybody was willing to “play ball” so to speak. I made sure to sanitize everything after the show but that wasn’t much of a chore – I was just so happy and grateful to be doing comedy again. The only difficulty was when I had to turn people away if we were at our capacity. I hate saying no to people. Another challenge was promoting a comedy show without a location on the poster or a ticket link! Thankfully, during a lockdown, a safe speakeasy show sort of sells itself.
During a time when people were forced to be in isolation, how did The Secret Show! help comedians and the audience cope with the situation?
Comedy is a special art form unlike any other. Comedians take what is happening currently and extract the truth out of the situation. You laugh at a joke the same way you experience the eureka effect when you finally understand a math equation. The Secret Show allowed comedians to voice their thoughts on what the hell was going on in the world in a funny and entertaining way. Moreover, it gave the audience the cathartic feeling of laughter and also the feeling of, “okay, so it’s not just me who thinks this way!” Especially in isolation, “an idle mind is the devil’s playground”. The Secret Show had a huge positive impact on the mental health of comedians and also audience members who attended our shows. To add, since The Secret Show was one of the first (if not, the first) weekly ticketed comedy show to start up in Canada in 2021, it inspired everyone that even when we are supposed to be isolated, we can still “get together” if it’s done safely and thoughtfully.
For you personally, how did it help you with your own well-being?
In 2019, if I were to take off a Saturday night from comedy, I would return on stage Sunday night thinking, “Man why did I take Saturday off? That’s the hottest night of the week. Millions of comedians were on stage Saturday getting better than me and I stayed home eating chips”. That is not a rare thought to have amongst comedians. We are work horses! Then, the lockdown hit and we were taking months off at a time in between lockdowns. This crushed my confidence. The Secret Show gave me guaranteed stage time every week. It gave me back my swagger. It made me feel funny again. If I didn’t do this show I don’t even know where my head would be at. The Secret Show resurrected me.
Do you have any favorite moments or memories currently while hosting The Secret Show!?
The very first show we did was pure magic. Everybody definitely felt as if they were a part of something. It grew past being just a comedy show and sort of became a movement of people who refused to live in fear. I’ll remember that night for a very long time.
Tell us about yourself– when did you know you wanted to become a comedian and who/what inspired you?
I guess you would call me a workaholic. I am a stand-up comedian, actor, content creator, producer, personal trainer and martial artist. I have starred in TV shows such as Blood and Fury on AHC and Motives & Murders on Discovery Channel. I do 15 stand-up shows a week. I train Muay Thai six days-a-week. I produce an original podcast and original sketches for YouTube and post content daily. I enjoy being busy, I come from nothing so I love that I live in a country with high social mobility. I make my own opportunities. I have a deep feeling in me. I grew up extremely poor and I refuse to die that way. I’m first generation Canadian so I call it “immigrant hustle”. I am commonly known as the hardest worker and I wear that very proudly.
As far as comedy goes, I knew I wanted to do it since I was 5. My first stand-up set I was 12. I won the Durham Comedy Festival at 16 and as one of the prizes for winning that festival, I got to open for The Trailer Park Boys. That gave me a lot of confidence. But what made me realize that I could do this as a career was when I got signed to the biggest stand-up talent agency in Canada at only 25 years old, Yuk Yuks and Funny Business INC. I am now one of the youngest headlining comedians in Canada – that gives me so much confidence. To sum it all up, hard work gives me confidence and makes me realize that any dream can come true. Nothing is impossible with hard work. I come from the bottom. My family and I were nearly homeless. Dad lived in a van; mom lived in a trailer. We sold our furniture to buy food. It was common to go home and there would be no lights or heat. Cockroaches in the kitchen. People were shot and guns were prevalent in some neighborhoods we lived in. I was abused nearly every way you can abuse a child. But while all that was happening, I would be 16 years old at a bar doing stand-up so that I wouldn’t have to return to home to abusive parents. Stand-up saved my life. I am inspired by hard work because it makes the impossible, possible.
Do you have any insight on how the local comedy and entertainment scene will come out of the pandemic? What kind of changes do you foresee?
Toronto comedy definitely took a hit with some venues permanently closing their doors due to COVID. That being said, with over a year of behaving, this city wants to have fun. They need to have fun. Although venues are still at limited capacity due to COVID, nearly every show is packed right now. I’m anticipating a boom in the near future. People want to live again and we have some major catching up to do.
Lastly, if you could have one super power, which would you pick and why?
Don’t judge me but I would be the most over-powered freak! Think of superman fused with Goku. I dumpster dived as a teenager with my father. That humiliated me beyond belief. My whole existence is just trying to prove to myself that I’m not trailer trash. If I was ever given powers, lifting a car wouldn’t be good enough, I’d want to lift planets with ease. Also, Dragon Ball Z energy blasts because it would look too cool to not have that in the back pocket. KAAAAAMEEEEEHAAAAAAAAMEEEEEEE…