This is a really tough industry to crack and there’s a lot of people who give up. The coolest thing, is waking up every morning staring at posters on my walls of shows I’ve been in, thinking, they hey, I’m doing it. I’m on my way to becoming a comedian.

When we think of live performances, comedy might not be the first thing that comes to mind, as it is not particular “serious”. However, it takes no less preparation for the performers, who have the added expectation to write their own materials for their show. How many performing arts do you know in which the artists is responsible for both the creation and performance of their art?

In this Q&A, we’re very lucky to have comic Evan Desmarais share the comic’s perspective with us. He is launching the first annual I Heart Jokes Comedy Festival happening in Toronto starting on Sunday March 3, leading up to the second annual I Heart Jokes Comedy Awards on Saturday March 9.

We’ll be doing a ticket giveaway next week for their Sunday show featuring Joe Derosa. Check out a video of his stand up material at the end of this post and stay tuned for the contest next Monday!

Evan, tell us about yourself. What is your interest in comedy and performing in general?

The art of making someone laugh has always interested me. Since I was a child I’ve always loved attention. That attention came from being charming and silly. Making people happy became all that I knew. When I discovered performing comedy, it occured to me that there was money to be made doing this. Yet, when I stepped on stage and felt the bug, I knew that it wasn’t about money; it was about that connection that existed between the performer and the crowd. It’s that connection that’s had me dedicate my last 6 years doing it.

Evan Desmarais

Tell us about “I Heart Jokes”. What was the impetus that led to its creation? How has it been developing?

“I Heart Jokes” started because I wasn’t able to get on the Yuk Yuk’s amateur night. I’d call in every week, with no luck. So I decided to take life into my own hands and started producing shows. I stumbled on The Central Bar and decided to produce the show on Tuesdays. From there the brand—which exists to help sell the shows—has grown to having three shows a week at The Central and one show at the Fox and Fiddle at Keele and Finch.

All of these shows are run by different producers featuring all sorts of amazing comedians. We have also started using the brand to bring in bigger comedians including Kyle Kinane, James Adomian, and different show formats such as Strip Comedy where if the comic fails to get a laugh, they have to take a piece of clothing off!

Can you tell us more about the the 1st annual “I Heart Jokes” Festival? What is on the program and what kind of audience are you reaching out to?

This festival is a way to bring in some amazing talent that fans want to see and mix in some of Toronto’s best. It’s a way to show Toronto that we have some amazing comedians right here in the city that they can see any week. Its unfortunate that the best way to expose them is piggy backing off of more popular comics but at least we’ve figured it out.

The lineup for the festival this year are Joe DeRosa, Eugene Mirman, Kurt Braunolher, Eddie Pepitone, and more. One thing that we’re incorporating as part of this festival is the I HEART JOKES awards which I started last year. It is a part-comedy part-appreciation award event that celebrates the comedy that has been going on in the past year in Toronto.

The 2011 “I Heart Jokes” Award ceremony

What do you see as the main challenges for performers in general, and comics and entertainers in particular?

There is two main challenges for performers in this city. The first challenge is giving better exposure to comedians who put on independent shows. If you haven’t done any television or film, you unfortunately don’t have a name to sell. People tend to trust brands like Yuk Yuk’s and Absolute Comedy more.

The second challenge is the reality that once you get to a stage in your career where you’re making money with your performances, you will get the smallest cut of the pie unless you are producing the shows yourself. There’s a controversy going on right now in New York city, between Kurt Metzker and the Upright Citizens Brigade over them having sell out shows and pulling in over $1200 (at least for the show in dispute) while not paying any of the comedians.

It just something comics deal with, because we love performing, and when we love something its easy to get taken advantage of. UCB argued that they needed the money to replace lights, pay bar staff, sound guys and rental of actual space, but its boggling the mind how they don’t account for paying the acts, which is the reason why they have a show in the first place.

Tell us a cool story that sums up your journey as a comic artists thus far.

The coolest thing, is waking up every morning staring at posters on my walls of shows I’ve been in, thinking, they hey, I’m doing it. I’m on my way to becoming a comedian. This is a really tough industry to crack and there’s a lot of people who give up. I went to Humber College where they produce 60 plus comedians a year. It’s a competitive school, but after the first year over a quarter of them drop out, and then even less graduate. As I continued performing ever year, going to the bars every night, you slowly notice those people you’ve started with give up and go back to school for something different.

last year I got to fly to Vancouver to open for Jim Jefferies and hang out with him for the night. Not only is he a comedian I look up to, but I got to look out into a crowd of 700 people, and make them laugh, all the while having flash backs to the first couple times I tried to do stand up, realizing that this is what it could be. And now, turning on the TV and watching Jim’s new show on FX gives me chills, knowing that I’ve worked with him on a professional level. That makes me feel cool.

What words of advice do you wish you had been given when you were first starting out?

The words that I wanted to hear and did hear were to “Keep at it and never give up.” That truly is the best advice, especially in comedy. There will be a lot of hard times, but the more you work at it, and the harder you work at it, you’ll see those shitty times, turn into the times of your life.

And here is a video of Joe DeRosa who perform as part of the festival on Sunday March 3. Follow us on twitter and facebook for a chance to win tickets to see him as part of the I heart Jokes fesival! [WARNING: some explicit language in this video]