Headliners John Dore’s and Debra DiGiovanni’s unique brands of stand-up had the crowd roaring with laughter at the Brantford Comedy Festival Gala on September 24.

The line-up of spectacular performers also included local talent Graham Chittenden.

Chittenden’s witty lines and ability to think on his feet has gotten him noticed on the comedy scene since 2009, when he was one of eight comedians chosen to participate in the Homegrown Competition at Just for Laughs, a stage shared by the aforementioned Dore and Giovanni. A former York University student, Chittenden dropped out to pursue his dream after majoring in filmmaking and then comedy writing.

He described his last three years as a comedian as, “A slow build, but it’s fun. You don’t notice your own progress, you just go and do shows and every once and a while realize you’re farther along.”

As Chittenden is from the Brantford area, he was going to be performing in front of family members and life-long friends.

“It would have been hard here to grow as a comedian with people monitoring you, whereas when you tour nobody knows who you are, especially when you’re the opening act,” he says. “It’s almost nice to start out having no one remember you or notice you.”

Chittenden’s career began with mostly “rough” gigs, ones he wasn’t worried about messing up because he knew they were simply stepping stones to better opportunities.

Mark Forward also entertained the crowd with his somewhat crude but hilarious routine.

Forward has been in the business since winning the Canadian Comedy Award for Best Stand-Up Newcomer in 2005, and being a finalist for the prestigious Phil Hartman Award, whose namesake, a proclaimed comedy legend, was a native of Brantford.

Forward is a writer for Dore’s The John Dore Show, and the two are close friends. He won a second Canadian Comedy Award in 2008. His sarcastic and witty nature shines in both his stage performances and interviews. After discussing wrestling a bear and describing meeting his fellow comedians as “terrible,” he became reflective.

“Any night could be your last,” he says.

Dore gave the evening’s final performance. He travelled from Los Angeles to tell his colourful stories, with his laid-back, cynical approach to life and death. Dore’s experiences include winning the Impression Award for Best On-Air Personality in 2001, competing in the Homegrown Comedy Competition at the Just for Laughs Festival in 2003 (which Graham Chittenden also participated in) and returning to host the competition in future years.
Dore’s on-stage style is all about varying comfort levels.

“I like to try and make the audience feel awkward,” he explains. “And afterwards I try to relieve that tension. Offensiveness is all subjective.”