Culture | See you in the funny pages

The Red Herring’s bi-annual comedy show promises to tickle McGill’s funny bone

When one thinks of McGill, it’s unlikely that high comedy will be the first thing to spring to mind. There are few outlets here for satire, or even the general expression of humour. However, we do have the Red Herring, the self-proclaimed “only intentionally funny student publication” on campus.  On March 10, the Red Herring will host “Spring has Sprung,” its third semi-annual display of McGill comedy and musical talent. The event aims to simultaneously alleviate the drag of winter-related grumpiness and raise money for this sparsely-funded publication.

“Spring has Sprung” will comprise, among other acts, four stand-up comics – all of whom graduated from or are currently attending McGill – four bands (also from McGill), and a performance from McGill Improv.  Perhaps the event’s Facebook page provides the most appealing description:
“Do you crave live comedy? In need of a hearty laugh? Do you enjoy receiving auditory or visual cues, translating those cues into neural impulses, organizing those impulses into discrete messages which the brain perceives to be somehow incongruous, attaching an abstract meaning to those messages and then contracting your larynx at irregular intervals?”

In reference to the show’s aims, Editor-in-Chief Matt Essert explained to The Daily, “We want to showcase talent from people in Montreal and McGill.”

Editor Elinor Keshet added that the Red Herring is a “one-of-a-kind publication. It’s a community.” This uniqueness is true in various respects, especially when considering the potentially awkward job of editing a humor magazine. For example, an author could easily perceive an attack on an article as one on their level of funniness. In reference to an editor’s job of evaluating the effectiveness of a satirical piece, Essert responded, “Nobody judges ‘funny’ from ‘unfunny.’ We sometimes get a story or two by an author who thinks the piece is funny, but we can’t publish just a story. Aside from that, we’ll basically publish anything, as long as it isn’t racist. Nobody should be afraid to submit work.” Both Essert and Keshet emphasized that interested students should not fear a bruised ego in writing for the Red Herring. “We don’t reject many people,” Essert added.

The publication is notable not only for its racy content, but also because of its unusual inner workings. There is a high degree of anonymity between editors and writers, and among contributors themselves. Because the editing process is usually completed over email and there are no regular meetings, “you could write for four years and never meet anybody,” explained Keshet. At the moment, the publication has about fifteen regular contributors.

Budget issues are a familiar struggle for the Red Herring. As Keshet pointed out, “We never really know how much money we will be getting from SSMU. Although this year hasn’t been that bad, one year, editors had to pay for funding themselves” in order to keep the publication in circulation. This inconsistency in funding is largely due to the Red Herring’s avoidance of using advertising. “We’d have to make a rate card…it’s just so much easier this way,” added Essert. For now, the Red Herring can only receive funds through SSMU and its bi-annual variety show.
If you have an interest in helping to preserve one of McGill’s more unusual creative outlets on the varied list of campus publications, Thursday’s show promises to amuse. To once again quote the event’s description, bring your friends and  “help this poorly funded publication, put out. More issues that is.”

Spring Has Sprung is March 10 at Trois Minots, 3812 St. Laurent, at 8:30 p.m.


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