I’ve been lucky, public event-wise. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad audience. I’ve had quiet audiences, I’ve had minuscule audiences, I’m had intimate audiences, but not one I would consider bad.

The Thin Air program. Image by Leif Norman.

But there are audiences, and their are audiences, and let me tell you, my night at the Thin Air International Writers Festival? That was an AUDIENCE!

I don’t want to oversell it, but everything came together that night; the venue was sold out, I was stoked, the others on the event list were smokin’ talented, and alcohol was flowing. And what followed was as close to being on stage at the Montreal Comedy Festival as I’ll ever get.

Sadly, I’ll never come close to painting a vivid enough word picture to accurately capture that night of September 23, 2012. By night’s end, my sides were aching from laughter, my cheeks flamed red and bruised from smiling. All I can do here is offer up a few images, and hope you’ll understand what a magical, just all-out awesome night it was.

BTW, a few of the images come (with permission) from the website of Leif Norman, a talented photographer who captured some truly great moments (I’ve never looked better). Leif is immensely talented, and if you are in the Winnipeg area and in need of a photographer, I highly recommend him. Check out his website for examples and contact info.

Charlene Diehl and Bruce Symaka, Gods of Thin Air. Image by Leif Norman.

The evening began with an amazing show of slam poetry, a literary form of rhythm and performance. Steve Currie, Aaron Simm, J-La, Faiza, and Dylan Mowatt, the finalists for this year’s Winnipeg Poetry Slam Team, were astonishing in their verve, energy, passion, and talent. If I was even half as good a performer as these five, I’d probably be on Broadway. To be fair, I should have gone on before them (always start with the weakest act), but then again, they got the audience so roused that by the time I came on, the place was like Woodstock. Or at the very least, Bob’s Chuckle Hut.

Can you believe people showed up for this?

I read two pieces, Sheldon Funk’s death scene and Sheldon’s relearning to speak. Both went over extremely well, with many pauses for gales of laughter and/or bouts of nausea (some of it was pretty gory).

Look! Sold at least one book!

Then, after another break, the highlight of the night, The Haiku Death Match. Yours truly went head to head against three absolute masters of the form; Aaron Simm, Matthew Moskal (eventual winner), and Steve Locke. I’m not one to brag, so I won’t: I was completely shot down, unprepared for just how damnably good these guys are. It was a good forty minutes of the most profane, disturbing, hilarious short poetry you’ve ever heard. I don’t think it’s possible to put more references to masturbation in one event, all front of members of my family. So proud. Did anyone record it?

The Seventeen-Syllable Amigos: Steve Locke, Matthew Moskal, Aaron Simm, and some idiot who thought he could bluff his way through.

Simply put, this was one of the best, most entertaining nights of my life, easily topping the time I saw Philip Seymour Hoffman in a bar. My unbridled thanks to Thin Air, Charlene Diehl, Bruce Symaka, Perry Grosshans, and everyone else. You’ve raised the bar for other festivals, and if nothing else, you’ve given me incentive to write a third novel, ‘cuz I am definitely coming back.

Maxin’ and relaxing’ with Corey the Red