A local comedy event that was started as a way to support the Black community with grief and loss will take the stage on September 10 at Casino Nova Scotia in Halifax.
Colter Simmonds is the organizer of Laugh Out Violence, which features stand-up comedy and musical entertainment. Simmonds said he was inspired to create the show after the murders of several young Black men in 2016.
Tyler Richards, Naricho Clayton, and Daverico Downey were killed over a seven-day period in April 2016. Two other men were also injured in one of the shootings.
Simmonds said he knew all three men who were killed and was close with Richards, who was a pro basketball player Simmonds coached.
“It kind of hit me hard,” Simmonds said in an interview with the Examiner. “Just trying to process everything basically on a daily basis. If I’m going through this and this is a friend of mine, I could imagine what parents are going through when it’s their child.”
That’s when he said he was inspired to create Laugh Out Violence.
“How do we get our community to understand there is a healing process that we have to go through,” Simmonds said. “We love music, we love comedy, we’re always laughing at each other, so I wanted to create an environment where we could really think about and reflect on the good times with the people we lost and bring the community together to have a good experience.”
The first Laugh Out Violence was a two-night event in 2017. In 2020, the show returned just before the first COVID lockdown at the site of this year’s venue, Casino Nova Scotia.
Proceeds from the event go to support Simmonds’ We Will Win Youth Association, which works with at-risk youth, with a focus on African Nova Scotian youth, to create opportunities for student-athletes to develop and succeed in school, sports, and life.
‘They’re gonna get me, full, live, and in effect’
Ronalda Provo of East Preston is the host of this year’s event, which features entertainment by dancers Tabby Rockstar & Nas from Ontario and R&B artist Lavita and hip hop artist Kxng Wooz.
Marc Trinidad from the Caribbean and local comedian Jermaine Colley are the show’s headliners.
This will be the first time Colley’s performed at Laugh Out Violence. He said Simmonds asked him to take part, adding it’s a good cause he’s happy to be involved with.
“And it’s a great way to showcase my abilities to a lot of the Black community that hasn’t had the luxury of attending one of my sets.”
Colley, who did his first stand-up set in March 2021, has performed more than a dozen shows since then at Comedy Cove and at the Darkside Comedy Club.
“It was something that I was gifted at at an early age, making people laugh, commanding a room, commanding attention, so why not take a step into it and see how it went,” Colley said. “I do it for fun. If I’m not having fun there’s no point in me doing it.”
Though he says he’s only done a small number of sets, Colley remains confident in his abilities. Still, he warns when planning to attend his performances, it’s best to leave your feelings at home.
“I’m not for sensitive people. I don’t care about cancel culture, because I’m already broke,” Colley said. “What I would tell people who don’t wanna come out and enjoy themselves is, ‘Stay yo’ ass home.’ I don’t care.”
“It’s gonna be a packed house, and they’re gonna get what they paid for. They’re gonna get me, full, live, and in effect, and makin’ ya laugh, that’s all I can say.”
‘Nobody really thinks about how it affects the teachers’
Simmonds said even though gun violence “hits so close to home in the African Nova Scotian community,” he empathizes with anyone who’s been affected by gun violence.
“It’s not about the shootings in Portapique, but I know how those people feel,” he said. “Ours is more street. Out there (Portapique), that guy just had no care for a life, but again it’s all senseless.”
Simmonds said he’s accepting general donations and is looking for sponsorships from companies that want to attend or donate tickets back to the community.
“We want to give all the teachers at Nelson Whynder tickets to the event because of Mar Mar’s (Lee-Marion Cain) death, and Quintez’s (Downey) death, and Keezondre’s (Kentrez Smith) death, and so many deaths from the community where all the kids have come through Nelson Whynder Elementary in North Preston for the most part,” Simmonds said.
“It’s the school that’s been affected by this stuff and nobody really thinks about how it affects the teachers. They’ve got to show up every day afterwards and teach our kids.”
Simmonds said he wants to also be able to donate tickets to the principals of local junior high and high schools, as well as to parents who’ve lost a child to homicide and gun violence.
“If you book a table and you’re not going to be attending, then the idea is that we would give those tickets to the community.”