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Night of Hilarity and Awe kicks off WTF Festival (10 photos)

This year's WTF Festival much more than just stand-up comedy

This year’s WTF Festival kicked off in Sault Ste. Marie Friday night with an old-fashioned variety show full of stand-up, music and improv.

“It’s a real cornucopia of comedy. That’s alliteration,” chuckled WTF Festival Creative Director Tim Progosh at The Machine Shop during the show. “It’s been something that I’ve loved to do, because I was involved with the Canadian Comedy Awards for 17 years, and during that time I saw so many comedic acts, I just think it’s a shame to focus so much on stand-up.”

“There’s so much to be gained from seeing other kinds.”

Progosh says the comedic duo Men In Tights - who performed during Friday night’s variety show - is a prime example of exposing WTF Festival audiences to different types of, well, funny.

“They create a whole Shakespearian play in 20 minutes with members of the audience. It’s like magic,” said Progosh. “Seeing these things over the years, I want to pick and choose and get different assemblies of artists so that you get a full evening of entertainment.”

Improv, meanwhile, has always been a passion for Progosh, and his choice of co-hosts for Hilarity and Awe - Naomi Snieckus and Matt Baram - reflect that love for the art of improv.

“Improv is something you can use in your everyday life,” he said. “It makes you sharp, it makes your brain sharp - it makes you, in social situations, a little more gregarious.”

Friday’s show also included the Dave Broadfoot Awards, which saw Sean Cullen take home the Dave Broadfoot Award for Comedic Genius, and Carly Heffernan take home the Roger Abbott Award for comic excellence in a breakout year.

Progosh says the Dave Broadfoot Awards should be a fixture in Sault Ste. Marie given the vision of the well-known comedy act, The Royal Canadian Air Farce.  

“I talked to the [Royal Canadian] Air Farce, and they wanted a place where it would become central to that event, and they wanted to carry on the tradition of those two great men,” Progosh said.

The WTF Festival continues tomorrow with a series of workshops aimed at bringing a family-friendly comedy experience to the public.  

“It’s a chance to see how these people develop their art, and if some kids come in and see the magician, it’s always a start. If they see them doing improv, it’s always a start,” Progosh said.

A full event schedule for this year’s WTF Festival can be found here.

A press release follows: 

Laugh. Applaud. Repeat. A pair of comedians will be honoured at the 2019 WTF Festival in Sault Ste. Marie. During the Night of Hilarity & Awe variety show on June 7, the following awards will be presented:

  • Broadfoot Award for Comedic Genius - this accolade is named after the late Dave Broadfoot, known as the father of stand-up comedy in Canada, who entertained audiences as an integral part of the Royal Canadian Air Farce. This year’s recipient is Sean Cullen, a Gemini Award-winning impressionist, comedian and author. A finalist in the television show Last Comic Standing, he’s also a regular on The Comedy Network program Match Game and CBC Radio’s The Debaters.
  • Roger Abbott Award – this honour, named after a founding member of the Royal Canadian Air Farce, recognizes comic excellence in a breakout year. The 2019 winner is Carly Heffernan, an accomplished writer, director, actor and improviser. An alumna of Second City Toronto, her writing credits include George Stroumboulopoulos TonightRoyal Canadian Air Farce and The Irrelevant Show on CBC Radio.

The awards are being presented by actor and producer Don Ferguson, an original cast member of the Royal Canadian Air Farce. Both award winners, along with several other comedians and entertainers, will be performing at the Night of Hilarity & Awe variety show. To view the full lineup, go to

“It’s an honour to be carrying on the illustrious Royal Canadian Air Face tradition and recognizing the contributions of our country’s great comedians and comic writers,” said Tim Progosh, Creative Director of the 2019 WTF Festival. “It’s going to be a very special awards ceremony, with a number of Air Farce alums present. Come on out for non-stop laughs while honouring some of the best in the business.”

The 2019 WTF Festival is taking place from June 6 to 8. Along with the Night of Hilarity & Awe variety show and awards ceremony, this year’s event also includes a celebrity Jokers Poker Tournament, Ryan McFarling’s Imposter show, improv and illusion workshops, David Merry’s Magic Tricks With Household Items, and Sing-A-Long Productions presents GREASE. For ticket and other information, visit

The WTF Festival was developed last year by Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, a division of the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation. The event was named Best New Festival for 2018 by Festivals and Events Ontario.



James Hopkin

About the Author: James Hopkin

James Hopkin is a reporter for SooToday based in Sault Ste. Marie
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