This document is an overview of the spirit, vision, and direction of CASC at this moment in the Association’s history. While it will be reflected in the forthcoming proposed Constitution and ByLaws that will be shared with Members in advance of a vote, this doc is not the rule of law. It has been created based on the experiences of those who have been involved with CASC over the past twenty months, and the feedback we’ve received during that time from CASC Members and non-members of the comedy community across the country, especially since the most recent Town Hall.
Through action and support, it will be all Members going forward who will bring to life this document, as well as the Constitution and ByLaws. In the future, the Association’s spirit, vision, and direction may be very different. Our membership will express that naturally in our engagement, involvement, and amendments.
THE NEW ASSOCIATION:
The Canadian Association of Stand-up Comedians (CASC), currently a not-for-profit Organization, is proposing to become a not-for-profit Incorporation.
To build a thriving and dynamic comedy industry in Canada, CASC will engage aspiring and established professional Canadian comedians through advocacy, career opportunity, support for programming, as well as professional development and industry education. CASC will strive to enrich and further Canada’s professional comedy industry domestically and abroad.
There are two main objectives for CASC:
1) To advocate on behalf of professional Canadian comedy writers and performers and collaborate with private and public sector stakeholders in the comedy industry. CASC will build and maintain a “Cycle of Advancement” in the production, promotion, presentation, broadcast, and distribution of comedy content to maximize the economic benefits to the Canadian Cultural Sector and communities across the country.
2) To promote and insist upon a safe, harassment free environment for comedy professionals that fosters racial, social, economic, physical, mental, and gender justice and equality. CASC will endeavour to address immediate and ongoing injustices, and pursue programming and development opportunities specifically directed at marginalized comedians within our own comedy communities.
The Canadian Association of Stand-up Comedians (CASC), had its beginnings in 2017. Sandra Battaglini spirited a movement to get stand-up comedy officially recognized as an art form by the various levels of government in Canada, and make it easier for Canadian comedians to work in the U.S. and around the world.
A small group of stand-up comedians rallied around Sandra, met with industry stakeholders, and took action on advice to form an Association. An ad hoc Executive Committee approved a Constitution and ByLaws in February 2018, and began working on the two initiatives: recognition as an art form, and labour mobility.
An e-petition to the Canadian Government to recognize comedy as an art form was signed by thousands of comedians and sponsored by Liberal MP, Julie Dabrusin. On September 24th, 2018, when she tabled the petition on Parliament Hill on behalf of CASC, it was received by a standing ovation from MPs in The House of Commons. The efforts continue in getting the government to respond.
CASC Members and supporters met with government officials and staff, including Global Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Canada Council for the Arts, and Heritage Canada in the Spring, Summer and Fall of 2018, when NAFTA was being renegotiated and eventually became the proposed USMCA. The Canadian government, much to our disappointment, eventually abandoned the issue of Labour Mobility for cultural workers. But, for the first time in Canadian history, stand-up comedians were at the table and had a voice inside government offices.
In February 2019, there was a bold and brisk response from individuals and groups across the country to plans by Just for Laughs and SiriusXM Canada to revamp and rebrand “Canada Laughs 168” to “Just For Laughs Radio”. The response included massive social media activism from countless stand-up comics, an unprecedented boycott by Edmonton stand-up comics of a JFL showcase, and a CASC Town Hall meeting on February 26th, 2019. The next day JFL informed CASC, and then the public, that they decided to make their revamped and rebranded “Just For Laughs Canada” on SiriusXM 100% content from independently produced Canadian comedians. Private industry stakeholders demonstrated that they were prepared to listen to the stand-up comedy community. CASC again demonstrated the value of a unified, informed voice to its Members.
CASC will continue our efforts to collaborate with other stakeholders in the comedy industry. We are expanding our Membership to become the first-ever platform for a unified voice to advocate for ALL comedians to make Canada a comedy nation. While our name, for now, will remain the same, Membership will no longer be restricted to just those who identify as stand-up comics.
THE FUTURE FOR CANADIAN COMEDY PROFESSIONALS
CASC works to strengthen Canada’s rich comedy legacy, celebrate diverse comedic voices, and collaborate with other Canadian comedy industry professionals. We provide leadership, strategies, and resources to individual comedians and troupes to develop and advance their careers in performing their art for live audiences, landing roles in, or writing for TV and film, as well as creating and sharing content on digital media platforms.
At the same time, CASC’s advocacy work aims to unify Canada’s professional comedians providing a collective voice at all levels of government. This includes research initiatives, community engagement, government relations, and stakeholder relations with the private sector. It is in this fashion that we can help establish a “Cycle of Advancement” by creating an infrastructure in which writers and performers can create the most exceptional content possible. This will give other stakeholders in the comedy industry in Canada the best and most diverse body of content and artists to select from when presenting, or broadcasting their programming in Canada, and distributing it to the global market.
Our initiatives and programs are designed to enable comedians and troupes to reach new and existing audiences in Canada and internationally. Our development and training pathways provide Canadian professionals with the tools they need to hone their skills and advance their careers within Canada. Our mandate to further the export of Canadian professionals provides access for Canadian comedy creators to work abroad as ambassadors of Canada’s rich cultural identity. As a result, CASC helps to reduce obstacles and connect Canadian comedians with audiences that they might not otherwise have been successful in reaching. CASC is committed to improving the competitiveness and profitability of the Canadian comedy industry domestically and abroad.
Our Membership is inclusive of all performing comedy artists striving to work as professional comedians. As well as advocating externally, CASC looks internally to ensure marginalized voices are heard and can engage in opportunities for career advancement in a safe and harassment free environment. Our Workplace Safety and Harassment Policy and Code of Conduct will command a commitment from all Members to respect and comply with standards in order to maintain Membership status.
CASC will be working within our own community and with outside experts to come up with a working definition of a “Professional Comedian”. Eventually, it will be attached to our Constitution and ByLaws. This may be used to create categories of CASC Membership, (i.e. Associate Members and Professional Members, with respective privileges and benefits). But, all Members will benefit from the execution and advancement of our Seven Pillars: Respect, Identity, Pathways, Funding, Protection, Foundations, and Horizons.
1. RESPECT: A Safe and Accessible Work Culture For All Comedy Voices
A culture of toxicity will no longer be tolerated, or ignored. Behaviour, in action or words, that threatens an individual’s, or a group’s sense of safety or professional opportunity will not be dismissed as the nature of doing business. Concerns about marginalization, violence, assault, discrimination, hate, exclusion, and exploitation are not unique to our industry. It is within our control, however, to actively work to reduce and eventually eliminate conditions in which some individuals fear for their own physical and psychological well-being, and/or fear unjust limitations on their career advancement. This seems to have historically been an after-thought by our community. Through a Workplace Safety and Harassment Policy, and Code of Conduct, CASC will support a future that begins with RESPECT.
2. IDENTITY: Comedy Is An Art Form Created by Professionals
CASC will help elevate comedy to an officially recognized art form by all levels of government in Canada, and maintain this status for future comedians. In particular for stand-up comedians, official art form status will bolster careers for professional comedians to ensure Canadian talent remains in Canada, encourages domestic content creation by Canadians, and attracts global customers to Canadian content.
This process begins with arts funding bodies including the Canada Council for the Arts, via resources from Heritage Canada. Comedy, and specifically, Stand-up Comedy, must be included as a “Field of Practice” for applicants of public funding. The lasting impact will be to further strengthen the artistic integrity and economic viability of Canada’s Cultural Sector. Research, analysis, and engagement with industry community stakeholders are core to the success in this pillar.
3. PATHWAYS: Reach and Engage Comedy Audiences
CASC will help professional comedians overcome the challenges of connecting with audiences across the country and around the world. We will support the building and maintaining of pathways for Canadians to engage new audiences with original content in live performances, and in all media and fixations. This may include live performance, professional recordings of audio and video production, as well as digital content. Support and direction for programming will prioritize professionals, (individuals or troupes), who look to overcome geographical, cultural, financial, or other obstacles in reaching Canadian and international consumer audiences. The focus of Pathways will include the implementation of a competitive creative export strategy for Canadian comedy business professionals.
When comedians develop their craft as artists, they simultaneously nourish the greater entertainment industry as innovators and ambassadors. Their work as stand-ups, improvisers, and sketch artists, both in front of live audiences, in media, and online, gets them noticed for employment as actors, hosts, writers, and producers of comedy content in Canada and around the world. By supporting investment in these pathways, CASC helps to broaden access and benefit Canada’s greater creative sector. Through our support for funding efforts, CASC will help develop export initiatives and alliances that provide professional comedians with the tools they need to maximize their export potential and their opportunities in foreign markets.
4. FUNDING: Infrastructure of Economic Support for Comedians
CASC will help source, develop, support, and secure streams of private and public funding to assist Canadian comedians in their careers and the advancement of their professional success. With the intention of supporting the development of intellectual property and the dissemination of that property, programming will focus on development, creation, production, and distribution, as well as promotion, collaborations, sponsorships, and partnerships.
The development, administration, and execution of this funding infrastructure, (facilitated internally by CASC, and/or by an external organization with a mandate congruent to our Mission/Mandate and Objectives), will also have demonstrable economic benefits to communities and industries throughout the country. The comedy industry is fuelled by fan consumption, broadcasters, digital content distributors, the operation and management of venues, merchandisers, promoters, agents, managers, producers, and their respective employees. CASC looks to enhance the development and operations of these stakeholders with the intention of growing the industry while benefiting, for example, the travel and tourism sector, leisure and recreation sector, as well as the transportation, telecommunications, and food and beverage sectors. Through an economic and cultural impacts analysis, CASC will confidently take our message to market.
5. PROTECTION: Promote and Protect Canadian Comedy Content/Creators
CASC will work with industry professionals, stakeholders, and government officials to establish guidelines for the development and implementation of Canadian content legislation that directly serves Canada’s professional comedy industry. These collaborative guidelines or policies will serve to, amongst other things, create a copyright and intellectual property framework that helps professional comedians domestically and internationally in all media forms and fixations. Within our own community, CASC will introduce a Code of Conduct outlining processes for conflict resolution. These include disagreements or concerns between comedians, as well as between comedians and other industry stakeholders.
6. FOUNDATIONS: Development, Health, and Affinity Benefits for Comedians
CASC will cultivate programming or access to programming that is conducive to the creative development, mentorship, knowledge sharing, education, and business acumen of aspiring, experienced, and established comedy professionals. Working in unison with existing educational infrastructures, both formal academic institutions and community based, grassroots groups and organizations, comedians will have access to creative resources and educational tools for the advancement of their careers.
The lens on development opportunities will focus special attention on marginalized voices in the comedy industry. Within any given comedy community, rural or urban, there are diverse voices, some under-represented or restricted more than others. CASC also understands and will advocate on behalf of comedy communities that have had to develop unique approaches to the industry, and must respond to challenges that are incomparable to other regions in the country.
Furthermore, CASC will work with industries, unions, and service providers to establish and administer Affinity Benefits for all Members, which may include options for: dental and medical insurance; travel discounts, telecommunications discounts, research materials and resource discounts; training and education discounts; investment, accounting, and legal advice discounts; amongst other offerings. CASC will ensure competitive and affordable rates for the benefits Members choose to opt into. CASC supports the physical and mental health of the entire comedy community in Canada.
7. HORIZONS: Comedy Industry Advancement
CASC is committed to the development of Canada’s comedy industry as an economic driver. Through an economic and cultural impacts analysis, as well as public and private sector collaborations, CASC will operate with a mandate to further the profitability and health of our entire community. This includes industry stakeholders that produce, broadcast, and distribute comedy content, as well as those that operate in a representational capacity, such as: agents; managers; producers; presenters; venue operators/owners; promoters; casting directors; and the relevant companies, organizations, and agencies that define Canada’s comedy industry.
Communicating and collaborating with stakeholders to advance the industry will result in the elimination of restrictive practices and modernization of antiquated policies. Comedy industry professionals, especially comedy writers and performers, will no longer feel like second-class citizens, and take pride in promoting their brand of comedy to audiences in Canada and around the world. Canadians will be able to confidently share the stage with international artists in our communities without feeling a threat to our identity or ability to earn a living.
Well done. This gives me hope for the future.