Game-changer evening funnier, queerer than expected

The sold-out event attracted 100 people eager to support the pump track and enjoy an evening of talent.

By Andru McCracken

Well that was unexpected.

We showed up to help raise money to build a pump track for the community, but came away feeling pumped at how cool this community already is. Every act last Saturday night at the Best Western whether musical or comical, showed up prepared, humble and vulnerable, and the result was a night to remember and a great start to fundraising for an “all-wheels” skills park and pump track.

The skills and pump track project is the brainchild of Sean Kelly and his wife Maggie Lee Inrig. Kelly is the high school physical education teacher and an experienced mountain biking coach. He is leading an ad hoc committee of the Valemount Area Recreation Development Association called “Project Pump it up.” The addition of the pump track – a looped paved trail slated to be built south of John Osadchuk park – is a way to foster bike skills (and other rolling sports) in a safe environment and the project resonates with the acclaimed Valemount Bike Park.

Those of us wise enough to get our tickets early were treated to a lovely dinner, a funny, welcoming MC in Zac Ruttiman (who straight off threatened to bounce us if we dared to heckle), six amazing musical acts, three stand-up comedians and for many of us, the opportunity to meet our first trans man, all the while raising money for a visionary “sky is the limit” project that resonates with this growingly active and involved community.

If you weren’t there the question likely on your mind is: how horrible was the stand up comedy?

Performers Inrig, Spencer Hall, and Miwa Hiroe hit it out of the park with their funny candid reflections on being new to town, being trans and being a mom, respectively.

The chances of seeing any three stand-up comedians in a row and finding them all funny is unlikely. But it happened. I and 100 other people can testify.

Inrig (who you may know incorrectly as Mrs. Kelly) reflected on how strange, wonderful and confusing it is being new in a tiny village. She poked fun at our endearing local naming conventions (“Tete Jaune” sounds like ‘Dijon’, let’s meet at 10k), how difficult it can be to make dinner with our grocery options and she slagged Toronto: Did you know you are 11 times more likely to be shot by a stranger in Toronto than to be mauled by a bear in Valemount? True or not, her fresh recollections about what is different living in a village endeared her to us. For her troubles Inrig left the stage with raucous applause, a standing ovation and two “egg dealers” (according to her: a symbol of being a local).

Maggie Lee Inrig riffed on the process of becoming a local in her first-ever stand-up comedy set to the great enjoyment of the audience.

Newcomer Spencer Hall opened with this bombshell: he is a trans man and has been out since he was 15. With kindness and humour Hall opened up about the politics of men’s washrooms, the practicalities of transitioning and his nearly 11-year journey to becoming a man: It was informative and it was hilarious.

He said one of the pitfalls of transitioning is looking like one of your parents.

“The unconditional love award goes to my mother, who had to watch as her eldest daughter slowly evolved to be a shorter, balder version of her ex-husband,” he said, and the room erupted in laughter and applause.

Spencer Hall spoke about his transition to becoming a man in his hilarious and irreverent comedy set.

Miwa Hiroe reflected on her real name “mom,” the unlikely coincidence that Santa’s handwriting is a very close match to her own and the benefits of copious holiday drinking.

Six musical acts graced the stage. Notably, Jess Hammerstrom and Ray Bessette performed for the first time and they killed it. Musicians John Crowley and Molly Murphy, Ben Coyle & Rebecca Wylie, Ross Ballard and Cat Crowley-Wied shared short inspiring sets betwixt the comedy performances and HALF/ASIAN with Amy the CODA ended the night causing an impromptu dance party in the tiny amount of space available in the overflowing hall.

Ben Coyle played two of his own enrapturing songs, one of which was accompanied by Rebecca Wylie.

Project Pump It Up raised more than $5000, a wee bit shy of the estimated $400,000-$600,000 required to build a world-class facility, but just as importantly it gave the gathered people a sense of the scope of the project, why it is worth it, and what’s involved in getting there. Project Pump It Up has sewn the seeds of success, recruited an army of supporters and made very clear three things: 1) if you want to attend the next event, you’d better get your tickets early, 2) we are getting a pump track and skills park and 3) Valemount is an open and friendly place full of humble, cool, talented people.

The next fundraiser, a movie night, is set for February 9. Stay tuned to the Goat for more details.