About the Ontario Arts Foundation

       

Fraser Young

Comedian / Comedy Writer

Tim Sims Encouragement Fund Award

1999 Recipient

" The money and exposure at that point in my career was enough to convince me to not get a day job and try to live off comedy. If it weren't for the Tim Sims award, I wouldn't have had the opportunity or availability to travel to other places, which was crucial in my development. "

     

What are you currently doing?

I'm writing for CBC's Still Standing and we're wrapping up season 3, which has been a lot of fun. I also have a couple of other projects in various stages of development. I do stand-up a couple of times a week when I'm in town and have a few clubs around the country where I go to headline.
 

What did receiving the Tim Sims Encouragement Fund Award mean to you? 

 It kickstarted my career. In 1999 I was a business student in university, had been doing standup comedy regularly for about a year and a half, hoping to make a career out of it. I figured I would get a day job after university until I was able to make a living as a comic (and not ironically, even business school couldn't help me figure out economics). The cash award was obviously great for a student, but the intangible aspect was huge as well. The budget and promotion of the show raised the profile of the event.

Winning the award got me on the front cover of Eye Weekly (I promise it's not my fault that they're no longer in business. They had over a decade of quality operation after my cover. Congrats to everyone.) It also helped me get a couple of other TV spots including a Comedy Now, my own 1/2 hour national comedy special (also defunct, don't bother looking for a pattern here because there isn't one) and an appearance at Just For Laughs (still going very strong, FYI).

The money and exposure at that point in my career was enough to convince me to not get a day job and try to live off comedy. I got lucky and was able to book a tour of college and university gigs across the country, as well as a few clubs who were willing to try me because of my resume and word of mouth. I was able to travel to these places because I didn't have a job tying me to the city. If it weren't for the Tim Sims award, I wouldn't have had the opportunity or availability to travel to other places, which was crucial in my development.

   

What does private arts philanthropy mean to you as a working artist?

It's a way to keep artists working on their art. I've been very fortunate to get to a point where I don't need grants or awards to keep me going, but without the recognition and funds early in my career, I would not be where I am now. To blossom as a stand-up comic, you need to get out of your city and your local references. You need to see other things and what it is about your comedy that is relatable and not just familiar.

A little boost can help out for a few months when work slows down but creativity doesn't. I don't know of any government funding available for stand-ups, so private philanthropy is the only way to get financial support. It frees you to write. It frees you to go to an extra open mic and work on a new joke even though it's late. It frees you to travel to an out of town club as a middle act making scraps, just to show the owner that you can headline. It frees you to re-read your paragraph and see if you started 4 consecutive sentences the exact same way, in case that was a bizarre typographical error. So much freedom everywhere.

 

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