Ask a comedian to describe their comedy, and you’ll get a slew of different answers—anecdotal, deadpan, improvisational, insult. Ask Halifax-based comic Kyle Barnet, though, and he describes his stand-up as “weird.” It is a word that kept popping up during our recent interview.
It is perhaps not surprising Barnet uses the adjective to describe his comedy, given he lists another Canadian comic with a bent for the more offbeat side of humour, Chris Locke, as one of his comedy heroes.
“He’s really out there, with his weird, charismatic, and strange comedy,” says Barnet. “He’s probably my number one influence, so when I got to open for him, it was definitely the biggest thing that had happened to me in comedy so far.”
But while opening for Locke has been a career highlight, Barnet’s trajectory to opening for the comedian has been years in the making.
“I started with theatre in high school as a pathway to loving performance,” says Barnet. “I grew up watching all the Just for Laughs specials on television and knew I wanted to become a comedian from high school onwards.”
Despite finding his love for the craft at a relatively early age, it was eight years ago, at age 23, that he got his first opportunity to perform as a comedian.
“My buddy was hosting a weird trivia show at the Oasis Pub on Spring Garden Road and asked me if I wanted to do a set between rounds,” he says.
Agreeing to do the show, Barnet was hooked. “I knew from that moment on that’s what I wanted to do with my life.”
Barnet has since seen his comedy evolve since that day eight years ago.
“I have definitely found my voice,” he says. “I remember watching a video of myself from six years ago, and I was really stiff and monotone. I could barely get the words out, and now I’m a very animated and weird person on stage.”
But while comedy doesn’t entirely pay enough just yet for Barnet, his dream of making a decent living doing what he loves remains intact.
“My goal is to do this full-time, where I can do it enough to pay my bills and have a steady income,” he says.
And while the idea of pursuing a comedy career may have previously necessitated a move to a larger city, Barnet says the last few years have changed things for local comedians.
“Since the pandemic, there’s been such a demand for live entertainment after lockdowns that I think there’s enough work in Halifax,” he says.
He also has his eyes on being part of a locally shot television institution.
“I’ve thought about applying to write for This Hour Has 22 Minutes,” he says. “And since it’s based here, it is a viable way to do comedy full-time in Halifax.”
Another stepping stone in his pursuit of a comedy career was the release of his first album, The Baby Bird E.P., in 2021.
As Barnet continues to work at his craft, he next steps on the stage as the headliner for Bazooka Barnesy: a Night of Jokes with Kyle Barnet and Friends at Dartmouth’s The Dart Gallery on September 16.
A quartet of other Halifax comedians joins Barnet for the show: Jon Pickett, Luba Magnus, Amanda Spriggs and Chris Halef.
“My number one goal for the show is to get people interested in things they wouldn’t normally be into in terms of comedy; to make weird things accessible to audiences,” says Barnet of the upcoming show.
Barnet also thinks watching a live comedy show is an entirely different experience than simply turning on a Netflix special.
“I want to choose my words carefully because there is definitely a market for that but what you’re getting is an over-produced product,” he says. “And besides, to me, there is something about live comedy that is simply magical.”
Not, of course, that Barnet would turn his nose at a television special of his own. “If someone from Netflix comes calling , forget I said any of that,” he says with a laugh.
Kyle Barnet headlines Bazooka Barnesy: a Night of Jokes with Kyle Barnet and Friends at The Dart Gallery (127 Portland St, Dartmouth) on September 16. Visit eventbrite.com for tickets and information.