It is commonly referred to as “the best medicine,” but for Waterloo-born comedian Ben Stager, laughter is much more than medicine — it’s a life force.
“It’s really fun to see if it works or not,” said the 22-year old about what drives him to keep performing.
Stager describes the defeat of having a joke flop, with a series of groans that only someone who has experienced the defeat of bombing in front of an audience, while rounding the edges off of his craft, could elicit.
“It’s so scary trying out a new joke,” says Stager, “but when it goes over well it’s such a sense of relief.”
The young comedian got his start at an improv show hosted by a high school friend. A graduate of Resurrection Catholic Secondary School, he reminisces on his first set.
“It went okay,” he emphasized. “I remember my closer really didn’t work out at all. It was really awkward.”
Stager admits there is a strange beauty in the uncomfortable situations of life.
“I used to think that stand up was more just telling jokes, but now I’m convinced that it’s a lot funnier if you expose your vulnerabilities from real life experiences. People find it more relatable.”
Cutting his teeth at the local Yuk Yuk’s in Kitchener, Stager quickly moved on to performing at many bars and cafés throughout Kitchener-Waterloo. While the Humber College graduate now calls Toronto home, he is humble and appreciative of his Kitchener roots.
“I owe Carl Zehr my life,” he said jokingly. “You should make that the headline of the article — that would be hilarious!”
A favourite location of his, The Princess Café Comedy Nights, returned this past July 18th.
“It’s such a great room,” he said brightly. “Marc, the owner, does such a great job promoting. All the headlining comics that come through from Toronto love it too.”
Another major contributing factor to Stager’s early successes were local music shows.
“I played a bunch of house shows opening up for my friends’ bands and stuff. It was really cool.”
He went on to discuss how the arts and culture scene in Kitchener-Waterloo is open minded and supportive of people trying out new art forms.
“Stand up comedy is growing in Kitchener-Waterloo and I think that local arts supporters are a big contributing factor in that.”
When asked for advice on starting out as a stand up comedian in Kitchener-Waterloo he simply replied, “it doesn’t matter what art form, people around here are supportive of it as long as you just go for it.”