Looking forward at the 2017 Winnipeg Comedy Festival

Ethan Krushel, CONTRIBUTOR 

Last year, the Winnipeg Comedy Festival packed the Pantages Playhouse Theatre with smiling faces, and it expects to do the same this year. SUPPLIED/ Winnipeg Comedy Festival

The Winnipeg Comedy Festival returns April 3-9, and it brings with it a fantastic lineup of international and local comedians. The festival is featuring the most comediennes yet in its 16-year history.

The festival features headliners such as the Grammy Award winning comic and Cheech counterpart, Tommy Chong, Gavin Crawford from This Hour Has 22 Minutes, and semi-finalist on Last Comic Standing, Nikki Payne.

“One of the things I guess that’s unique about this year is we have this kind of go local theme,” said Winnipeg Comedy Festival co-founder and artistic director, Lara Rae.

“We’re really promoting the idea that the festival is an annual fundraiser for the Gas Station Theatre. That we have the chance to use a lot of local comics. That the television show hires a lot of local people and just to celebrate the region and the locality of the festival,” she said.

The festival happens at a number of local venues, including the Club Regent Events Centre, the West End Cultural Centre, Pantages Playhouse Theatre, Jekyll and Hyde’s Freehouse and the Millennium Library.

“It’s a real treat, especially for local comics,” said Tim Gray, a Winnipeg local and a member of the sketch group, H.U.N.K.S.

“I was first in the festival in 2012… It’s so exciting when you get your first shot in the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, because it’s a big deal festival,” he said.

Gray will be opening up for some of the larger acts at the galas, which will be on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre.

“They are a lot of fun, and there is a lot of top comedians at the top of their game,” said Gray.

The gala shows are taped and aired on CBC so comics can be expected to bring their best performances.

The festival will have a little something for everyone in all price ranges.

“From free to 150 bucks, most tickets sitting in the $20-40 range. They are very accessible,” said Rae.

For more information on tickets, scheduling, or the festival itself, visit winnipegcomedyfestival.com.