Sarah Stupar is an actress, comedian and screenwriter. Born and raised in Cranbrook BC, she left as soon as she could for the bright lights of Vancouver to study acting, where she promptly learned what a redneck she truly was. She began doing stand-up after moving to Montreal in 2012 and continued after returning again to Vancouver in 2015 to pursue an acting career (catch her pretending to drink coffee in the background of your favourite Hallmark Rom Com!) As a screenwriter, her work has been featured at JFL Northwest Short Shorts film competition. As a comedian, she’s toured all over BC and Alberta and even performed in Mexico.
How would you describe your comedy style?
Some of the major themes of my comedy are being a redneck, and small town life. My delivery style is probably best described as dry, dead pan, or sarcastic, although I have notes of a quirky upbeat energy as well. I’m also somewhat political. I became a comedian because I have something to say about the world, and it’s easier to confront people if you couch it in humour.
Who are some of your influences?
I grew up on Royal Canadian Air Farce and This Hour Has 22 Minutes in the late 90s (original casts). As I said, I’m actually a pretty political person and watching those shows as a kid probably had a hand in it. I loved Rick Mercer’s rants and I think they are most likely a part of why I turned to comedy as a way to express political frustrations.
Jeff Foxworthy is also a comedian that I consider as a trailblazer if not a direct influence, and that sentiment goes for basically every professional female comedian. Was I huge into Joan Rivers? No, but I recognize that I wouldn’t be able to do this if it wasn’t for comedians like Joan, who worked so hard for her right to stand next to her peers.
Before I started doing stand up comedy I trained as a “triple threat” actress, meaning I can also sing and dance. These days I feel more like a comedian than an actress, but I’d say Mae West and Marlene Dietrich are also among my influences in the sense that I see them as models for my ideal career, one that mixes film with being a touring live performer. Both women had long touring careers with cabaret or vaudeville style shows melding stand up with song and dance.
I’m a huge history buff and I’m fascinated by Vaudeville and its influence on the development of cinema. Many famous Vaudeville stars appear in early sound films, and I love trying to imagine what it was like to see them live. I also love watching silent-era comedy films, which were often directed by vaudeville artists. Throw on The General with Buster Keaton and play whatever music you want in the background. You’ll be surprised how funny a silent film can be.
Who was your favourite comedian growing up?
I wasn’t actually big into stand up as a kid, the way some of my peers were. I remember watching Comedy Now specials and Just for Laughs Galas on TV, but my parents weren’t really into stand up at all. I owned two comedy albums as a kid: Rowan Atkinson- Live in Belfast and Mike Bullard- Stick 2 Comedy. I was a huge fan of the Mike Bullard show.
Who is your favourite comedian now?
Dusty Slay is a must for anyone from a small town. Love to hear some good material about drinking and driving.
What is your pre-show ritual?
I wouldn’t say that I really have a pre-show ritual. It definitely depends on the show. Sometimes I’m also the producer, so I have a lot of other non-performance tasks that take up my time. If I’m not producing, I usually like to arrive early and lurk around in the back to try and get a read on the crowd and the space. If I happen to feel excessively nervous, I’ll put on headphones and dance around in the green room. When I get nervous I like to dance it out.
What is your favourite place you have performed? Why?
Jaffray BC. I don’t know why but I got it set in my head that it would be hilarious to do a show in Jaffray, which is a small community just outside of my hometown of Cranbrook. I reference Jaffray in my jokes as being the place where the real rednecks live. When I moved to Calgary I ended up driving through Jaffray a lot when traveling back and forth between Calgary and Cranbrook. It just hit me that I should try to do a show in Jaffray, and I basically bullied the owner of the local pub into letting me do it.
The audience was pretty split. There were some people in the audience who were absolutely stone faced the entire time. They looked miserable, but were too polite to leave. Another portion of the crowd was absolutely loving it though, laughing out loud, hootin’ an hollerin’.
One table showed up pretty late, and pretty drunk. I had to ask them twice to “please keep it down” and I guess they didn’t like that, because later, one of the women from the group snuck up behind me and flicked me in the head. Part of me really wanted to fight her in the parking lot just for the story, but I had a pretty bad back injury at the time. But it was pretty much exactly what I wanted out of a show in Jaffray; new fans and new haters.
What is your favourite bit you have written and why were you proud of it?
Right now I think my favourite bit is my Treaty 7 jokes. I’m Métis and I know some Indigenous people really hate land acknowledgements and think they are stupid and meaningless, but I also know some Indigenous people who value them. I can see both sides of the argument, and so I decided that the best thing for me to do to find my own opinion was to try and write Treaty jokes. I’ve since inspired at least one person to actually read Treaty 7, so I take that as a win.
What is your favourite medium for listening or finding new comics/comedians?
Going to open mic! On the one hand Youtube or Netflix specials are doing a lot for comedy, but on the other, I strongly believe that stand up is meant to be enjoyed live. Open mics are often free or cheap, and you never know when you are going to see a breakout star, or a pro trying new jokes. Open mics can be terrible, but they’re always an experience. There are also a lot of great booked ‘indie shows’ that happen in Calgary, and I actually created a Facebook page called Calgary Comedy Event Listings to try and share them all in one place.
Tell us a joke about your city.
I live by Nose Hill park and I have to say, Calgary is the perfect place for me because I really wanted to live in a city, but I also still wanted to worry about hitting a deer at night.
Do you have anything to promote right now?
Every Thursday I host a comedy variety show at Rose Luxury Lounge called Speak Easy. It’s so much fun. It’s in a nightclub so I’ve decided I must wear sequins every show. I also perform every Monday at the Comedy Cave, where I usually wear sweatpants.
Where can we follow you?
Follow me on Instagram and also check out my website.
PAY IT FORWARD: Who is another local comic/comedian we should know about?
There are two Calgary Comedians who have made a huge impact on my comedy career: one is Katie Westman, who took me to my first open mic, and the other is Dale Ward who helped me out in a big way when I first moved to Calgary. They are both awesome people and absolutely hilarious.