“Being a fly on the wall, not really knowing anybody, checking out the scene, [being] sort of surprised that there was no resort show in town, and coming from a performing arts background, I was like, ‘I’m going to do it,’” he recalls.
Eleven years, an ongoing pandemic and a lot of hard work later, that dream is finally becoming a reality. Laugh Out LIVE launches at the Maury Young Arts Centre theatre on Thursday, Dec. 9 for the first of two preview shows, before officially beginning its 16-week run on Jan. 6.
“The seeds have been planted and this feels like the closest we’ve got to making that [resort show] happen,” says Pettle.
With the support of Arts Whistler, Pettle, his teammates Rebecca Mason and Dave Francis and a series of special guests will take to the stage every Thursday night until the end of April for “a comedy variety show of sorts,” he explains.
Laugh Out LIVE audiences can expect each show to follow a similar structure, featuring a mix of improv—think Whose Line Is It Anyway?—sketches and stand-up, sprinkled with a dash of musical comedy.
“But the content within that structure is going to vary week-to-week, so someone could come every week and they will see a totally different show,” says Mason.
One constant? R-rated humour. Pettle may have earned himself a reputation as Whistler’s premier children’s entertainer, but this show (reserved for audiences aged 19 or older) is taking a considerably different tone. Arts Whistler bills the event as “Not your average night out at the theatre,” and its cast as “Whistler degenerates,” “here to bring you hilarious, loose and lewd comedy.”
Says Pettle, “We’re really trying to appeal to the younger demographic—the 20-somethings and up—and mix that in with sort of a Whistler mentality. We’re all a little bit nuts here anyways, so we’re kind of creating a show that mirrors the energy of our town.
“We’re just going to lose our shit onstage, pretty much.”
They’re also hoping to rope audience members into a few of their antics.
“We’re going to be talking to the audience; the audience is going to be talking to us,” says Mason. “We’re going to get the audience to shout out suggestions and play along.”
With the added benefit of drinks flowing in the theatre, the show aims to make its audience feel like they’re heading out to a bar rather than a play, adds Pettle. “So it’s a little bit loud, it can get rowdy, people can talk back,” he says. “It’s alive. It’s not like the lights go down, you’re sitting in darkness, and you’re there to watch the show. It’s the opposite of that.”
Francis likens Laugh Out LIVE to a dive-bar open-mic night with the production value levelled up a few notches. “In the same way that an open-mic night encourages locals to get up and give it a crack, we hope to [do the same] over the course of this run,” he says. “In the future, our goal is to turn the light onto local talent … We really want to bring the community into this experience.”
To that end, the production marks both Francis and Mason’s stage debuts in Whistler. While Pettle and Mason are both trained actors—he’s a graduate of Toronto’s prestigious Second City Conservatory Program; she studied acting internationally before switching gears to work in Vancouver’s film production industry—Francis’ first brush with acting came as a student in Pettle’s improv classes a couple of years ago.
The invitation to now put those newfound skills to the test in front of a 200-person live audience is “terrifying and awesome in equal measure,” says Francis.
“It is not my background at all,” he admits. “I [signed up] on a bit of a whim and had a few classes with him, and then he invited me to join the team for this … It’s a super exciting thing to be to be part of for me, because it’s such a departure from the norm.”
It’s not just Francis and Mason’s talent, wit and open minds that make the partnership function, says Pettle, but their “tremendous dedication” and commitment. Because while it might be all fun and games onstage, the trio has been grinding behind the scenes for three months, meeting two to three times a week to iron out their vision for the show and chip away at the endless administrative tasks ahead of their Thursday night debut.
“We’ve been working our asses off,” says Pettle.
“The show is really just being born, so I don’t know where it’s going to evolve to and I’m hoping that this is only the beginning. But with the work we’ve put in so far … I think we’re poised for a good start.”
Tickets are $10 and available for purchase online at artswhistler.com. The Dec. 9 show is sold out, though a small block of tickets will be available at the door. Theatre doors open at 7:30 p.m. with show time set for 8 p.m. Proof of COVID-19 vaccine, government-issued ID and masks are required for entry.