Lectures and Talks

Art Connects | Art and Humour

Fri Apr 24, 2020 | 4:30 PM

Vancouver Art Gallery

Art and Humour: Ese Atawo and Courtenay Mayes

Friday, April 24 | 4:30 PM


Stay home. Stay safe. Stay connected with our new series of online gatherings, Art Connects!

During these unprecedented times of physical distance and uncertainty, it is important to remember to laugh! Artists have long used comedy as a tool for challenging societal norms and to shed light on more serious issues, bringing communities together to laugh and cry, while considering the nuances of what it means to be human.

In this edition of Art Connects, we will explore the relationship between art and humour with performance artists Ese Atawo and Courtenay Mayes. Together, they will discuss their practices, before Atawo moves into a hip-hop comedy performance as her alter-ego, Lil’ Clitty.

Please note that this program will contain some mature language that may not be suitable for all audiences.

Questions? Submit them when you register or during the Zoom presentation using the Q&A function. You can also engage with your fellow attendees and panelists during the event using the Chat function.

This discussion will be moderated by Stephanie Bokenfohr, Adult Programs Coordinator, and Melissa Lee, Director of Education and Public Programs.

New to Zoom? Learn how to register and attend a webinar here »


Ese Atawo is a Nigerian-Canadian actor and comedian. Raised in Toronto, ON, Atawo’s love of live performance began through participation in local theatre and festivals. She enjoyed the diversity of being part of Canada’s largest ten-minute play festival, InspiraTO Festival, for two consecutive years; she found strength through truthful vulnerability as a cast member of Toronto’s Vagina Monologues production of A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer, as well as Any One of Us; and she embraced the challenge of a performing a play written in German in Summerwork’s production of Kasper and the Sea of Houses. Simultaneously, Atawo began studying improvisation through The Second City Toronto comedy club, completing their improv Conservatory Program. She relocated to Vancouver to expand her training, taking classes through Instant Theatre and eventually becoming a cast member and frequent player in the company. Atawo’s involvement with improv has enabled her to be part of successful improv troupes, such as Your Moms and Nasty Women; a faculty member and a Diversity Coordinator for Blind Tiger Comedy School; as well as being involved in successful theatrical events and festivals throughout Vancouver and abroad.

Courtenay Mayes (she/her) is an artist living on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish communities. Exploring the healing arts and other realms of consciousness, her performative sensory experiments are informed by dreams, writing, literature and psychotropic experiences. Often employing humour and the concept of ‘cringe’, she asks, ‘where are the lines — for both myself and audiences — between vulnerability, and its ability to connect, and exposure, with its ability to repel?’ Mayes studied Fibres and Material Practices (BFA) at Concordia University in Montreal, and has gained teaching certification in a number of meditation modalities. She sits as Chair of the Board for Arts Assembly (Vancouver/Toronto) and is currently completing therapist training in Hakomi, a mindfulness-based somatic psychotherapy.