VanCityBuzz Covers Say Wha?!

 VanCityBuzz recently covered a Say Wha?! show. Read their original post HERE. Or see check out my repost below.

Say Wha?! slams badly written books with comedic flair

Sara Bynoe by Kathryn Mussallem

“Say Wha?! Readings of Deliciously Rotten Writing” takes a new spin on your traditional comedy night out, which is welcome news for those getting sick of the usual players and show format.

Instead of relying on the performer to come up with a 100% original act, “Say Wha?!” is based around “readings of deliciously rotten writings.” On the night I dropped in at Main Street’s Cottage Bistro, the ‘education’ lineup included a 1960s swingers advice book, two Twilight rip-offs, a former Wheel of Fortune model’s personal memoir and a local B.C. teacher’s tell-all on her real-life affair with an underage student.

Image: Kathryn Mussallem

Golden material aside, Say Wha?! relies on the interplay between book and performer, in a novel way that leaves most of the frat boy humour at home. Audience participation is just as important, cries of “say wha?!” goading the performers onto new highs (or lows). The night pokes fun at the pitfalls of dime-a-dozen paperbacks (or is it $4.99 red-sticker discount books? What is the going rate for bargain bin fodder nowadays?) – bad writing, continuity errors, author pseudonyms and blatant copycatting. Say Wha?! mimics the commentary in your head of that ill-considered vacation read, putting badly-written yarns under the close scrutiny of sharp-witted comedians.

Image: Kathryn Mussallem

The performers couldn’t have been any more different, and this is the great levelling effect of the night. No matter how big (or modest) the name, everyone starts off on the same foot – a novel, a microphone, and an appreciative audience. At $10 at the door, Say Wha?! is a steal for a great night out.

More information here.

Disclaimer: Vancity Buzz’s Jon Keller, was one of the performers at this particular edition of Say Wha?!

Look! I Got a Shout Out In The Georgia Straight

Vancouver’s comedy scene branches out

As a wave of whacked-out theme nights proves, our comedy scene is moving beyond standup and improv into a twisted new world

Fifteen years ago, Sara Bynoe had the bright idea that our youthful inner turmoil is comedic. Distance from our raging teenage hormones makes them funny. All the gut-wrenching humanity we spilled into diaries and notebooks is, in time, pathetically hilarious. She just knew that getting performers to step away from a polished act or tried-and-true improv game to share entries from their shitty adolescent scribblings would kill.

And she was right. Her show Teen Angst, held bimonthly at the Cottage Bistro, has been a hit ever since. She tapped into a market for comedy that is not standup, not improv, not sketch and, to date, hasn’t run out of performers willing to open up and share their deepest, darkest, most cringeworthy secrets—their most embarrassing crushes and their most heart-ripping breakups.

“If you don’t see the humour in that, it’s not the show for you,” she told the Straight. “People are sharing such vulnerable things. It’s shocking what people wrote when they were teenagers.”

In 2010, she added to her producing credits by creating Say Wha?!, subtitled Readings of Deliciously Rotten Writing, another bimonthly gig at the bistro that taps into truly awful published prose. As bad as it is on the page, it’s good coming out of comedians’ mouths.

But is it real comedy? It most certainly is. People love to laugh and there are many routes to arrive at that destination. Is it traditional? It most certainly is not. It’s not what the average person envisions when they think of comedy. But regular shows would kill for these kinds of laughs.

These days, fans of hybrid comedy have any number of uniquely themed performances they can attend at venues around town, like Little Mountain Gallery (where actor-improviser Ryan Beil curates a hodgepodge of hilarity, spanning original song parodies, riffs on wrestling, head-to-head roasts, fake talk shows, knockoff British-style panel programs, and absurd tribunals), Hot Art Wet City (where comedian Alicia Tobin books such fare as audience draw-ins, crowd-sourced standup premises, and stories about adjusting to Vancouver living), the Rio Theatre (where you can see bad movies made great through hilarious commentary and a variety show to end all variety shows), the Cottage Bistro (where Bynoe presents her comedic readings), and the Fox Cabaret (for Beil’s high-concept hip-hop smackdown, Rapp Battlez).

That’s a whole whack of comedy happening in this city that’s not your standard fare. Standup, improv, and sketch shows aren’t slowing down, either, so why the demand for this kind of anything-goes, twisted specialty programming? There are any number of theories.

Chris James, who plays a jerkier version of himself as the host of his Talk Showcase at Little Mountain Gallery, has one. It’s a variation on why Vancouver comics are considered to be so good: because there’s no industry here. Performers are free to experiment and grow because there’s no pressure from execs.

“It probably has something to do with the fact we have zero other outlets here,” he says. “If I lived in Toronto and I wanted to be creative, I could write for a television show and have a different outlet, but here there’s nothing other than standup. So it makes sense to me that there’s a bunch of people trying to find other ways. I got into this not to just be a touring standup. It was to do all kinds of weird, creative things.”

But these types of offbeat comedy shows are thriving in other cities, too. Who else has an idea of why they’re so big here?

Patrick Maliha, of the Gentlemen Hecklers’ movie-roasting night at the Rio, offers: “I think there’s a lot of standup-comedy shows around town and there’s not a lot of money to be made. So because nobody’s making any money, we might as well not make money doing something fun, different, and exciting. Let’s just do the best show possible, put a lot of work into it, deliver as high-quality a product as we can, and not worry about the money.”

Bynoe probably nails it with the simplest explanation. “It’s easier to sell to an audience if you have a hook,” she says. “I think because people are onboard with the concept when they arrive at the venue, the energy of the room is much less judgier. People are not like, ‘Make me laugh.’ They’re like, ‘Oh yeah, this is fun.’ ”

That’s just it: these shows are fun. And different. Standup is standup and improv is improv and both are great, but there is a sameness to the shows (individual performers notwithstanding).

Alicia Tobin, who hosts Come Draw With Me, where she offers up witty commentary on dozens of bad audience-drawn doodles (and some pretty good ones, too), says: “There’s certainly enough open-mike nights in the city to ruin anybody’s opinion of what good comedy is, but I think it’s really balanced out by there being incredible comics doing their own thing. It’s doing something you really like and doing it well. If you’re a funny person, it’s going to be very funny.”

One of those funny people is Ryan Beil, who had already established his name for warped humour with his improv night Sunday Service at the Fox Cabaret, not to mention his career as an award-winning actor in movies, on TV, and in commercials (hello, A&W guy). The city’s reigning king of independent improv also launched his own version of Toronto’s Rap Battlez, the competition that finds participants taking on bizarre personas as they bust out rhymes: at the Fox Cabaret theme night, you might hear a soccer ball and a stop sign spitting dirty raps at each other.

When Beil took over the hole-in-the-wall Little Mountain Gallery at 26th Avenue and Main Street, he let it be known to the comedy community that this was a space for funny people doing out-of-the-ordinary funny things. Enter such deranged concepts as the Panel Show of 1000 Topics, in which a group of comedians tries to plow through that many subjects projected on a wall, and Weird Al Karaoke, where comics perform their own song parodies over a karaoke track.

“I wanted it to be not just normal comedy shows, not just standup nights,” he says. “So I just put the word out. As long as there’s kind of a shtick to it, if you want to try something a little bit different, there’s plenty of nights to have at it, so come get it.”

The tiny 60-seater hosts six of these out-there comedy nights. Most are monthly, so nobody will OD on their oddness. And Beil will keep them coming as long as he’s running the place.

“While I’m there, I don’t wanna just be some guy who cleans the toilets,” he says. “So I’m going to do my own work while I’m there as well and use the space while we got it. As long as I’m involved in that space, we’ll just keep throwing those ideas up against the wall.”


Laugh Track


Cartoon Sara by Serena Chan

More media whoring! I was lucky enough to be interviewed by The Peak and got this lovely drawing as a bonus! I love it so much! 

Interview by Jacey Gibb, Illustration by Serena Chen, Original Posting on The Peak

Join The Peak as we catch up with and interview some of Vancouver’s finest funny people.

Even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, you’ve undoubtedly heard of something Sara Bynoe’s had a part in. The Vancouver comedian has been hosting shows for 15 years — from Say Wha?!, where people take turns reading from humorously awful, surprisingly real books, to her new monthly show Novelty Act, co-hosted by Riel Hahn. The Peak caught up with Bynoe to talk about the local comedy scene, dolphin lovers from the ‘70s, and why she thinks people shouldn’t take themselves so seriously.

[Interview has been edited and condensed for print]

Your website says you’re an “Actor, Writer, Producer of Fun Times.” Was your plan always to be this multifaceted?

When I was 14, of course my plan was to be like Winona Ryder and just do feminist movies. I remember having a dream when I was little about being at the Academy Awards and she’s behind me being like, “Good job!” The other story I always tell is from when I was 10 years old, my mom had this psychic friend and she said, “You’re going to be an actor and a writer,” and I was like, “Yeah, that’s what I want to be.” So I’ve been pretty clear for a long time that I wanted to go that route.

How would you describe the comedy scene in Vancouver?

It’s super fun, very integrated. There are lots of people doing stuff and the people who are super active are doing stuff in different facets, whether they’re doing stand-up, they’re doing improv, they’re doing my weird shows, they’re doing podcasts. We’re all guests on each other’s shows at some point or another.

Are there any recurring themes in your comedy? Cringe-worthiness seems to play a prominent role inTeen Angst and Say Wha?!

A lot of the books from Say Wha?! that I make fun of, someone thought this was serious. Someone wrote a dating book on how to pick up topless dancers. People reading this are earnest and think they should date a stripper. Same with Teen Angst, these moments when the world was out to get you and everything was so important. It’s like, hold up, take a step away from yourself for a second, and if you can find a way to laugh at yourself.

Have any of the writers ever found out that you read their book at Say Wha?!

This guy wrote a book called Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover, which is a fictionalized memoir of his time in the ’70s having a relationship with a dolphin named Ruby. He must have had a Google alert on the book and he commented on our video and said, “Oh, I didn’t realize this was so unintentionally hilarious.” You wrote a book about fucking a dolphin. How can you not have a sense of humour about yourself?!

What has been your favourite project over the years?

Teen Angst is the longest running. That’s the show that won’t die. As long as people are having fun and wanting to read, I have fun doing it. It’s one of those things where I’ve been making fun of my teen angst longer than I was a teenager. But I love it. I’m really enjoying Novelty Act now. That’s a huge risk; it’s me and Riel Hahn, and we haven’t performed a lot together. This is my first time duo-ing with someone on a regular basis. It’s really exciting to get to understand a performer’s dynamic like that.

This month marks the fifth instalment of Novelty Act. How did the show get its start?

Riel and I were looking to have a show together and we were like, “Should we have guests? Let’s just try it by ourselves,” and to me that was a huge risk. Two hours, just me, and no gimmicks?! Riel was very trusting and thought we could do it though.

The name came from an encounter with a stand-up comedian who invited us to stay for a show and Riel asked who was on it and he was like “Dude, dude, dude, dude, dude.” That’s a lot of dudes, I don’t know if I’m into that. A lot of women I know aren’t into seeing comedy shows with all dudes. The Novelty Act name sort of evolved from that, where he’s like “Well, I wouldn’t have a lot of magicians on a show, so there are only a couple of women that I would want to have on my show,” and Riel’s response was “Wait, are you saying that women are a novelty act?” And he said yeah.

I don’t think he was really aware of what he was saying though. Riel said, “Let’s do a show with just us and call it Novelty Act.”

It sounds like Novelty Act is pretty unstructured. Do you ever have a set plan for the evening?

We have segments. We start with a check-in where we talk about funny or just weird things that have happened in our lives. Then we have question period with the audience, whether they’re questions about what we’ve been talking about or you have questions about your life and want advice.

They can be totally random. One time, a guy had been stood up on a date and he’s like, “What’s with people in Vancouver being super flaky?” and so we all talked about that. His next question was “Can I buy everyone a round of drinks?” He bought two bottles of champagne and cake that was cut up into little pieces and so we had cake and champagne. Amazing stuff happens at this night, I have no idea what we’re doing that’s creating this environment where people just feel inspired to buy everyone champagne.

The second half is usually more structured, we do some improv games. It really involves the audience. The whole evening, people have said it feels like a super-fun party hosted by your funniest friends.

Any closing remarks?

Get off your ass and come to more shows in Vancouver. You will have fun.

Your next chances to catch Sara Bynoe are on May 26 at The Emerald (555 Gore Avenue, Vancouver) for Novelty Act or on June 7 at Cottage Bistro (4468 Main Street, Vancouver) for Say Wha?! Tickets for either are $10 at the door.

CFOX Says “Teen Angst Night is a good time”

Last night was Teen Angst Night; my long running show where people read from their melodramatic teenage diaries/ poetry collections and more.

The show was great with lots of new and new-ish people sharing text that hadn’t seen the light of day for years. Jeremy Baker from CFOX attended and talked about the show on the radio today. Have a listen:

Here are some of last night’s gems in tweet form:

Apparently hard-ons were a theme.

The next Teen Angst Night is July 7.

BeatRoute Wrote About Me. Does This Make Me Cool Now?


BeatRoute Magazine is a monthly arts and entertainment paper with a predominant focus on music – local, independent or otherwise based in the West Coast and last week they published an article about me. Wha?! For reals.

Before they realize their mistake I’ve copied it for my records in this post, but you can read the original post HERE.

Multidisciplinary comedian Sara Bynoe is more than just a ‘Novelty Act’

Monday 27th, April 2015 / 16:48

By Gabriel Laubach

VANCOUVER — As much as Princess Diana was the Queen of Hearts, Sara Bynoe is the Queen of the Arts. In the way that Diana brought attention to humanitarian causes and was a bridge between the elite and the less fortunate, Bynoe brings attention to the arts and is a bridge between all different facets of the arts community. She is woman that cannot be pigeon-holed as one dimensional or singularly as an actor, writer, producer or performer; as she embodies all of them. It was spoken into her life at a young age of what she was to become, “I remember when I was 10 years old my mom had kind of like new-agey friends and one of them was a palm reader and she read my palm and she’s like ‘You are gonna be an actor and a writer,’ and I was like ‘Yah! Good, that’s what I wanna be!’” As a teenager growing up in Calgary, Bynoe was involved in the all ages punk-rock community and could be found selling homemade zines at local shows; this was the first public display of her art. When asked what inspires her to perform, Bynoe said that she has always had a voice and that she has wanted to engage people with it; she also likes to be silly. In combining those attributes, you arrive at great the great live shows she’s produced and preformed in such as the Teen Angst Night, Say Wha?!, and Sparkle Bunny: The Last Raver Dancing. The first in the aforementioned list helped put Bynoe on the comedy map, the show has been running for 15 years and even spawned into a well-regarded book, “Teen Angst: A Celebration of Really Bad Poetry.”

The Teen Angst Night was Bynoe’s inaugural step into performance art, the whole idea for the show began when she discovered a binder full to the brim with bad poetry that had belonged to her ex-boyfriend. Her response was to share her own poetry from those emotionally confusing and loathsome years that we have all stumbled our way through. Sure enough, the piece connected with the masses and received a warm reception. The day we spoke with Bynoe she was amidst orchestrating her newest piece, “Novelty Act.” This new show features Bynoe and Riel Hahn exploring comedic performance that is both scripted and spontaneous interaction with the audience; Bynoe essentially put it as “an evening with two funny ladies.” The title “Novelty Act,” arose from a discussion Riel had had with a male comedian friend, “whom is a decent human,” in Bynoe’s words, who curates a stand-up comedy night that rarely books women. When confronted as to why he doesn’t book more than a few women he preceded to state “he wouldn’t book a whole bunch of jugglers on one show,” to which Riel asked, “Are you equating women to novelty acts?”

As Vancouverites we can all agree our city is cold and not only in the temperate sense. Bynoe truly believes, “Vancouver needs more opportunities for people to connect,” and “Novelty Act” strives to create a place for that to happen. Apparently it is not a show for the faint of heart, “If you are someone who is willing to take a risk, that’s what our show is. It’s a little risky, we don’t always know what it’s going to be.” There will be a section called “Question Period,” where audience members will be able to ask any question or advice on anything from deep relationship issues to which way the toilet roll is meant to roll – “it’s over,” Bynoe asserts. So make sure to bring your sense of humor, an open heart and your “party-pants.” With a goal of creating community through comedic performance, Sara Bynoe is a Queen of Arts whose policies have us swearing to the throne. Long live laughter!

You can see Sara Bynoe’s Teen Angst Karaoke Night at Hot Art Wet City on May 5, and Teen Angst Night at Cottage Bistro on May 19.

Cover Girl

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How do you get on the cover of the paper? Leave town, apparently. I guess it’s the consolation I get for losing my bus pass yesterday.

If you’re in Vancouver you can catch me, Dino Archie and Say Wha?! show alumni (and names in their own right) Paul Anthony and Ivan Decker on the cover of the WestEnder this week. I’m humbled, thrilled, flabbergasted, and astonished to be featured. Vancouver is full of great comedic talent, how the heck did I get included in this group?

From the article:

Funny Business

Vancouver’s comedy scene is blossoming thanks to some home-grown talent

Kelsey Klassen — WE Vancouver
June 5, 2014 01:19 PM

Vancouverites have long since earned a reputation for being as dour as our miserable weather. But like the welcome rays of sunshine on our Vitamin D-deficient faces, the brave women and men of Vancouver’s comedy scene seek to make us smile, or at least have us shoot beer out of our noses. Night after night, they take to the stage in their attempt to take over the world, one laugh at a time. Kelsey Klassen rounds up some local comedy kingpins to find what makes them tic.

Sara Bynoe 

Who are you? Sara Bynoe actor, writer, host and producer of Teen Angst Night and Say Wha?! Readings of Deliciously Rotten Writing.

Age? Why do you want to know? Are you trying to steal my identity?

Where are you from? Canada. Stop trying to steal my personal information, you crook!

What is your claim to fame? I’m the most single woman in Vancouver.

What is the Canadian equivalent of “making it”? Getting on The Mike Bullard show. Is that still on?

The comedy scene in Vancouver: Still growing, already peaked, booming? Explain… It’s growing. There are so many shows now that I never see my friends in my audience – they’re too busy doing their own shows. Y’all should check out Instant Theatre, Little Mountain, The Laugh Gallery, The Hero Show, Comedy Gems at the Emerald, The Ryan and Amy show, there are also great comedy shows happening at Hot Art Wet City and the Rio Theatre and so many more. It’s the indie comedy scene that inspires me the most.

Darkest day so far in the journey? The day I was asked to wear high heels and a trench coat and show up to an audition in Room 306 at Bosman’s Hotel.

Read the full article HERE.


Tonight’s Say Wha?! is a Media Star

Tonight is my last show that I’m producing in Vancouver until the fall. Why? I’m going to Toronto for June, July and August. Why am I going to Toronto? Many reasons. I’ll share them in a few days. But now I’d like to draw your attention to the wonderful support I’ve received from local media for tonight’s Four Year Anniversary Show of Say Wha?! Readings of Deliciously Rotten Writing.

Show details

8-10pm | Cottage Bistro | 4468 Main Street | Funny people reading from terrible books | $10 at the door, sliding scale available | Facebook Event

WE Vancouver | WestEnder


The Courier

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The Scout List | Scout Magazine

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Can’t make it to the show? That’s so sad. Why don’t you console yourself by listening to the podcast.

Teen Angst and Say Wha?! Review


The Charlebois-Post is a blog that focuses on Canadian performing arts, mostly theatre.

TJ Dawe has recently participated in both Say Wha?! and Teen Angst Nights and wrote this lovely review of the shows. Who’s TJ Dawe? Well, he’s one of my theatrical heroes. He ruled the Canadian Fringe circuit for many years. He’s a writer, director, and performer who is always doing great and interesting work. 

You can read his full review here. Highlights below.

“I like it when the definition of “theatre” gets stretched. That’s what Sara Bynoe’s doing.”

“I gut laughed the whole evening. So did the rest of the audience. It was a full house. It always is.”  – About Teen Angst Night.

“I almost pissed my pants. Which is its own kind of catharsis.” – About Say Wha?!

” If you get a chance to attend one, or participate – take it. It’s a healing experience.” – About both shows.

The next Say Wha?! show is Wednesday, January 15 at the Cottage Bistro, 4468 Main Street, 8-10pm 

The next Teen Angst Night is Sunday, February 23 at the Cottage Bistro, 4468 Main Street, 8-10pm

SCOUT LIST: 10 Things You Should Do

Fifty Shades of Say Wha?!

Every week Scout Magazine rounds up some of the best things happening in Vancouver. I’m lucky enough to have been on it a few times in the past. Today it happened again.

From Scout Magazine

LAUGH | Say Wha?! (Readings of Deliciously Rotten Writing) goes down Friday night. If you’re not familiar with it, Say Wha?! is a comedy show wherein performers put their spin on some of the most cringe-worthy, embarrassing and painfully earnest writing ever found in print. This Friday’s readings, hosted by comedian and Say Wha?! founder Sara Bynoe, will be dedicated to satirizing the Fifty Shades of Grey series – what could be more cringe-worthy and embarrassing than that? Hustle over to Main Street and settle in for a night of schadenfun.
Fri, Nov. 29 | Doors: 7:30pm | Hot Art Wet City (2206 Main Street) | $10 | Tickets

Special guest readers include: Dina Del Bucchia, Shirley Gnome, Conni Smudge

Media Coverage of Say Wha?! Toronto

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Producing a show in a new city is always stressful.

You have no track record of good shows, your email address is unfamiliar to journalists, and just who do you think you are coming all the way from Vancouver putting on a show in Hogtown?

I was nervous and starting to feel sad that no one was paying attention.

Sure, my show made it into BlogTO, The Grid, and Now listings, but I hadn’t been contacted by anyone for any sort of preview about the show. I’ve been spoiled in the past. Last time I did a show in Toronto was for the 2007 Fringe when I did F*ck Off and Die: Tales in Teen Angst Poetry and I got all sorts of great pre-press. It was silly of me to produce a show during the Toronto International Film Festival. Wah. Wah. Wah.

Then Friday morning I woke up to a bunch of text messages and tweets from friends and followers telling me that CBC Metro in the Morning was talking about Say Wha?! and how it was one of their recommendations for things to do this weekend.

Here’s a screen grab from their post.

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Then to make my Saturday sparkle my best friend texted me this photo. The Globe and Mail included my show as one of five things they think you should do in Toronto this weekend.

I’m cheekily gazing over to the  Queen of literary Canada, as if to say, one of your books is next.

I know it’s terrible to equate self-worth with media recognition, but it makes me feel respected and a part of the creative community when the crazy shows I produce get covered in the media.

I’m really looking forward to tonight!

If you didn’t buy your ticket in advance I suggest you come to the box office early, it opens at 6pm, doors are around 6:30 and the show is at 7pm, Comedy Bar, 945 Bloor Street.

If you don’t live in Toronto, or my current home of Vancouver, you should listen to the podcast. You should also subscribe on iTunes, give it 5 stars, and write me a nice review. ;-)

Toronto flyer web