Team Coostin’ – Presenting profile pieces on friends of ours, interesting people doing really cool things.
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We all get told that it’s never too late. Never too late to change and never too late to make a fresh start. But there’s only a small percentage of people that actually believe it, and fewer that embody it. Montreal’s Jon Selig is one of those people.
Leaving an 11-year career in the corporate world just before his 37th birthday, Jon went into stand-up comedy. Over the last five years he’s performed at festivals and clubs all over North America, started his own weekly showcase comedy show for travellers visiting Montreal (called “Comedy Abroad”), and has turned it into social enterprise of the same name. Marrying comedy and travel to create a social impact, Comedy Abroad sees comedians head to Latin America to perform live stand-up comedy, assisting nonprofits that help with healthcare, education, and social conditions for kids in the region.
In 2017, Comedy Abroad will be embarking on it’s third tour. But the project needs your help. We’ll let Jon tell you more…
Jon, you started stand-up comedy in 2011, just before you turned 37. You left a long career in the corporate world to do so. That’s a big and admirable move. What prompted it?
I’d been selling technology and professional services to large companies for about nine years or so. It was OK, but at the same time I felt like I wasn’t using my talents to the best of my ability and I really had no passion for any of it. I wasn’t really satisfied with the work I was doing, talking about how CEOs need advanced analytics in data warehousing solutions to really solve their business needs. I also didn’t know what the hell that meant.
So I kinda wanted a change. I wanted to take advantage of some things that I felt I could be better at and learn some new skills. I started getting on stage and saying ridiculous things to live audiences. I figured I’d try stand-up comedy, put myself out there, learn about this world, and invest myself a little bit. And that’s kinda what I’ve done.
How’s the comedy game treated you? What opportunities have presented themselves?
It’s been a blast. I’ve performed at comedy clubs here in Montreal, Toronto, as well as in places like Denver, Orlando, Austin, New Orleans, and have made it into a festival. I’ve performed all over and had a blast doing it. I’ve met some fantastic people, some hilarious people, and of course, started running my own show here in Montreal.
Right, Comedy Abroad in its home-base in Montreal. How’s that going?
It’s great! We just celebrated our four-year anniversary. We’ve had amazing audiences, and an incredible partner in the owners & staff of MBar, where the show has been held since day one.
You’re the founder of Comedy Abroad. What’s that all about?
Comedy Abroad is a social enterprise that marries comedy and travel to create a social impact. I’m bringing some comedians down to Latin America where we partner up with some nonprofits who are helping in their communities to enhance education, healthcare, and social conditions for kids. They promote the shows to their community of people who live down there. It’s a way for them to tap into tourism and raise funds off the back of live stand-up comedy shows in these places.
These shows are all in English. There’s some North Americans living down there, and travellers who are passing through. And they all come together for a night of English stand-up comedy, they laugh hard, and the ticket proceeds benefit those nonprofits and all the projects they’re working on.
It certainly doesn’t hurt to be in Latin America when Montreal’s yearly post-apocalyptic winter hits. How many times have you done this before?
We’ve done two of these tours so far. This will be our third and most ambitious, we’re going to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Mexico.
Those previous tours must have gone well if you’re going again for a third time.
Yeah, we’ve raised over $18,000 US Dollars for four nonprofits and now we’re working with six nonprofits in those three countries on our upcoming tour.
How does a social enterprise differ from a nonprofit?
Social enterprises are businesses that combine profit with a purpose. It’s important to make that clear. We are not a nonprofit. As a social enterprise we cannot issue a tax receipt (laughs). We’re trying to become a business that has a positive net social impact with everything we do.
Alright man, here we go. Here’s your chance to convince John Coost Public to donate to Comedy Abroad’s Fundraising campaign. And, GO!
John Coost listen – we could use some help. Our crowdfunding campaign ends on December 24th. We need to reach a minimum of $8,750 US Dollars or else we keep NONE of it. We would love it if you guys would contribute to the campaign. Basically you’re empowering these nonprofits to bring us down, to tap into tourism to raise money to, like I said, improve healthcare, education, and social conditions for kids in these countries.
The nonprofits do give us a little bit of money to offset our expenses – flights, accommodation, food, travel insurance etc – but in reality it’s not enough, and if we are not there to perform for their community, they’re not able to tap into tourism and raise new funds that they really need for all their programming. So that’s a major reason why we could use some help on this.
We have great rewards, and we’re going to be launching a lot of video from our travels – ridiculous postcards documenting everything the comedians do. We’ll show you what these nonprofits are up to, we’re going to show you some footage of the shows and you’ll be helping to enhance the lives of kids in these places. You can see what we’re up to, you can see the work that we’re doing, and how nonprofits are really benefitting from this and your dollars.
So please, if you guys can contribute to this worthwhile project we’d really love it. And get ‘er done before Christmas Eve.
Who are the comedians going down with you?
We’ve got a cool bunch of comics from Montreal, New York, and Australia. From Montreal, Darren Henwood and Jason Hatrick. Both local guys, really funny, they’ve been on two of these tours.
From New York we have four comedians: Courtney Fearrington, Jessica Watkins, Travis Irvine, and Nate Fridson. We also have Australia’s very own globe-travelling one-man show vagabond Jon Bennett.
Do you see these Latin American tours going indefinitely? Do you have plans to visit any other parts of the globe?
For the time being, we want to visit new places where this all makes sense, and return to the ones we’ve already been to.
To learn more about Comedy Abroad and to donate, please visit StartSomeGood.com/ComedyAbroad. Please donate before December 24th.
For more on Comedy Abroad’s weekly show in Montreal, click here.
Words – Zac Strevens
Camera, Audio, Editing, Direction – Zac Strevens