Photo by April Plett

How a Non-Binary Comedian Found Their (Loud, Gregarious, Hilarious) Voice

Standup comic Chantel Marostica confesses they “might be slightly drunk” before sitting down. And who isn’t at Pegasus’s Church St. Comedy, a popular monthly queer standup showcase in Toronto?

Marostica, who has twice been named Patron’s Pick at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival and was a guest star last season on Workin’ Moms, co-founded the showcase with comic Adrienne Fish over two years ago. It is now the longest-running queer comedy showcase in Canada.

It hasn’t been easy. “We had [Kids In The Hall’s] Scott Thompson as a headliner in our first year, and we had, like, six people here,” Marostica says after the show, dance beats playing in the background.

“But there’s been a shift in our community support. The importance of being there for each other means so much more now.”

Offstage, the Winnipeg-native is also a daily cannabis consumer, smoking as a comedy-writing prompt as well as to treat anxiety and relieve stress. Marostica spoke about developing their fiercely original comedic voice, documenting their transition over the past year, and the role that cannabis plays not only in their comedy but in their own journey of mental health. (As someone who identifies as gender non-binary—neither male nor female—Marostica uses the pronouns “they” and “them.”)

I am somebody who is super anxious. People were like, “You are going to excel in weed rooms,” because I am such a physical comic, and I am loud. If you are going to a weed room [a speakeasy-like comedy bar that doesn’t serve alcohol, but where marijuana is consumed openly], you need somebody to get your attention to get those laughs out of you.

But a contact high [getting high off second-hand smoke] gets me so anxious when I perform. Contact highs are a very different experience if you have anxiety. I will drop CBD oil under my tongue before I go into a weed room if I want to dip in and out – drop in, do my set and leave. Or just go for breaks outside.

I know a lot of people who can’t smoke before they go onstage, and I’ve never been able to. But that’s how I write, that’s how I finish off my night.

When I started comedy around 21, 22, I moved right to Montreal, because there was no comedy in Winnipeg. There was an open mic every two months at the one comedy club that exists in Winnipeg and I was just like, nope! I need this every single day of my life. I can’t get better if I am doing it every two months.

So I just moved to Montreal. If I had Google searched “comedy” then maybe I would have moved to Toronto instead, because it’s a bigger hub for comedy.

I remember when I was coming up in Montreal, people were like, “I just love that you never talk about being a woman and you never talk about being gay.” I was just like, “Thank you!”

And then I was like, “What am I doing not talking about my own experience?” That is the most important piece that I say to young queer comics is talk about your experience, because it makes you one in a million.

I will do a headlining set at Rumor’s back home and there will be dads with their Winnipeg Jets hats on and their nachos in front of them, so mad that I am going on stage, and at the end of the show they are like [rests head adoringly on folded hands] in love with me! Because they got to know me. Whatever phobias were there were broken away by me sharing my experience, and that’s every single one of our experiences.

I was always scared of nail polish and makeup because that meant black and white, female/male. Now I don’t have to be all the effeminate things that were shoved down my throat and I don’t have to be all the male things that are so bad in our society right now. Gender is a societal construct. You can be whoever you want.

The response to my transition has been really good! I’ve had such positive feedback. I was so scared for so long to share my identity. My top surgery will be done in the next four to seven months, and people have been so accepting and loving about it. I’ve had such unwavering support.

I know that people will love me no matter how I identify, because I’m funny and I’m charming. Just like every other person, if you get to know them you will love them.

Chantel Marostica is recording their debut comedy album at Toronto’s Comedy Bar (945 Bloor St. W.) at 9 PM and 11 PM on Saturday, March 31. Their album will be released this summer. Church Street Comedy is held every third Sunday at Pegasus (489 Church St.).