It’s time to meet the Joes and Pros for Laugh for the Cure 2024

Business leaders to perform stand-up comedy, raise funds in support of The Ottawa Cancer Foundation

From left, Zach Neilson, Ceilidh Joan Henderson, Sean Bawden, Diana Delaney and Mike Anderson have agreed to perform stand-up comedy at this year's Laugh for the Cure, to be emceed by Matt Jacques (far right), on Tuesday, March 26 at the Shaw Centre. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Editor's Note is supported by the generous patronage of Mark Motors and Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties® Inc. Read their stories here.

For some, the idea of doing stand-up comedy as part of Laugh for the Cure might seem as terrifying as facing a zombie apocalypse with only a double-barrelled marshmallow shooter.

That’s not the case, however, for the five Ottawa business professionals and entrepreneurs who are spending the next six weeks honing their comedic chops under the guidance of professional comedians.

Come Tuesday, March 26, the rookies will step up to the mic at the Shaw Centre before a 500-person crowd. They’re not trying to become the next Norm Macdonald, Russell Peters or Tina Fey. Rather, they’re abandoning their comfort zones to support The Ottawa Cancer Foundation and the work the organization does to provide community-based care, resources and programs to people living with cancer, along with their caregivers and families.

OBJ360 (Sponsored)

Besides, the volunteers will be performing to a largely adoring audience packed with friends, family, colleagues and event sponsors. No heckling or rotten tomato-throwing here. 

The five amateurs, affectionately dubbed the Joes, are: Mike Anderson, a partner at the Nobility Performance athletic performance and recovery clinic; employment lawyer and litigator Sean Bawden, a partner at Kelly Santini LLP; residential and commercial interior designer Diana Delaney, owner of Delaney Design Co.; Ceilidh Joan Henderson, a family law lawyer at Teshebaeva Henderson; and Zach Neilson, territory lead for RARE Real Estate Brokerage.


They’ve each been paired up with a seasoned comic to help them in their comedic journeys. Their mentors are Pierre Brault, Rick Currie, Jen Grant, Alastair McAlastair and Brendan McKeigan. They’re known as the Pros.

Both the Joes and Pros will perform short sets at next month’s charity comedy show, which is being headlined by Canadian comic Brent Butt of Corner Gas fame. 

The Joes are also fundraising via individual online donation pages that the cancer foundation will soon be launching, along with its social media campaign.

From left, seasoned stand-up comics Alastair McAlastair, Jen Grant, Rick Currie and Pierre Brault will be mentoring this year’s roster of amateur comics, as well as performing at Laugh for the Cure 2024 in support of The Ottawa Cancer Foundation. Absent is Brendan McKeigan. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The Ottawa Cancer Foundation brought the amateur and professional comics together for their first time Thursday to meet and establish a plan for collaboration. On hand were the cancer foundation’s president and CEO, Deborah Lehmann, and Tricia Ross, director of special events and community engagement for the non-profit organization.

The fundraiser, now in its second year, rallies the community together for a cause that deals with cancer, without it feeling emotionally heavy, explained Ross. “Everybody has permission to have a good time. Everybody needs to have a good laugh.”

Commercial realtor Matt Jacques from Royal LePage Performance Realty also dropped in. The dedicated volunteer with the cancer foundation is returning to emcee this year’s Laugh for the Cure.

From left, Tricia Ross and Deborah Lehmann from The Ottawa Cancer Foundation, joined by volunteer Matt Jacques, at a launch meet-up for Laugh for the Cure 2024, taking place at the Shaw Centre on Tuesday, March 26. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Jacques helped to recruit Bawden, knowing how funny the lawyer is. The challenge, however, is in coming up with five minutes of solid material. “At first, I thought five minutes was super short. I thought, ‘What can you do in five minutes?’ Now, I’m realizing how long it is when it’s just you and there’s no riffing,” said Bawden, who’s a little worried it “might get lonely” up on that stage; just him and the crickets.

Of course, Bawden won’t be the only lawyer making a compelling case for laughter. Henderson does open mic nights at Absolute Comedy. 

She sees Laugh for the Cure as marking an illustrious milestone in her amateur comedy career. “It’s a bigger audience, a more exciting stage,” said Henderson, who was asked to participate after another legal eagle, Ashley Bennett, had suggested her name.

Henderson’s inspiration for performing is Marilyn Erdely, who lives with stage four cancer. Now in her early 40s, Erdely was first diagnosed when she was 29. The lawyer told how she admires the way her friend finds so much joy and appreciation. She “finds a way to put one foot in front of the other in times when I don’t know anyone who could or would be able to”.

Erdely is also the sounding board for all of Henderson’s comedic material. Expect a joke from Henderson at Laugh for the Cure about her frequently garbled first name (pronounced KAY-lee).

Ottawa family law lawyer Ceilidh Joan Henderson, who will be doing stand-up comedy at Laugh for the Cure 2024, in conversation with her comedic mentor, Rick Currie, at a launch meet-up held at Yuk Yuk’s on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Anderson agreed to participate without hesitation after being approached by local businessman Paul Meek. Mind you, Anderson thought he was being asked to box in Fight for the Cure. It’s another popular fundraiser for The Ottawa Cancer Foundation. It also involves professionals and business leaders embracing the unknown.

“No, no, no,” Meek quickly clarified to Anderson at the time. “We’re actually looking for people for Laugh for the Cure.”

Meek, who owns Kichesippi Beer, participated in the comedy show last year.

Anderson ultimately agreed to be a Joe. “If I can do it, I’d love to. The worst thing I can do is make a fool of myself. It wouldn’t be the first time.”

The first-time comic has a deep connection to the cause. He lost his dad to cancer and most of his mother’s side to the deadly disease. He’s volunteer co-chair of the Ottawa Motorcycle Ride for Dad, which raises money for prostate cancer research.

Anderson has witnessed the financial, mental and physical hardships that cancer has on individuals. “Every aspect of life is a challenge,” said Anderson, who values the support provided by the cancer foundation to families in times of need.

Mike Anderson (right), who’s performing stand-up comedy for his first time at Laugh for the Cure 2024, in conversation with his mentor, Pierre Brault, at a launch meet-up held at Yuk Yuk’s on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Neilson is hoping to present himself in a more humorous light on stage, especially after feeling vilified by his portrayal on Season 11 of Big Brother Canada. Is he funny? That’s the big question.

“I’m the funniest person I know,” Neilson quipped. 

Speaking of confidence, Delaney has secretly wanted to do stand-up comedy but lacked the chutzpah. She often thought: “I could never do that. If I could, I would, but I’m just not good enough.”

What changed her mind was knowing she’d be mentored by a Pro. She’ll be working with McAlastair, who, as a new participant this year, is pleased to put his skills toward a charitable cause.

Delaney said she’ll keep a thick skin, whatever the audience reaction. “I can laugh at myself even if nobody else does.”

Currie, who’s a returning comic, told how much he enjoys seeing the progression in the amateurs’ comedic skills. Last year, he mentored Adam Nihmey, who was with Welch Capital Partners at the time.  

“He was quite nervous when we first started,” Currie recalled. “He went from that to a standing ovation, a triumph, and walking off the stage with a huge smile on his face.

“I got to see that whole journey, from day one.”

The foundation is still welcoming additional sponsors for Laugh for the Cure. Those interested can contact Tricia Ross at

From left to right, Diana Delaney, Zach Neilson, Alastair McAlastair, Jen Grant, Pierre Brault, Rick Currie, Ceilidh Joan Henderson and Mike Anderson (missing is Sean Bawden and Brendan McKeigan) at a launch meet-up held Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024 to introduce the “Joes” and “Pros” participating in Laugh for the Cure 2024, taking place at the Shaw Centre on Tuesday, March 26. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Ottawa stand-up comic Alastair McAlastair is a Pro helping to guide Diana Delaney, left, as she makes her debut as a stand-up comic at Laugh for the Cure 2024, taking place March 26, 2024, at the Shaw Centre. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Amateur comic Zach Neilson in conversation with his mentor, Jen Grant, at a launch meet-up held Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, to introduce the “Joes” and “Pros” participating in Laugh for the Cure 2024, taking place at the Shaw Centre on Tuesday, March 26. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Get our email newsletters

Get up-to-date news about the companies, people and issues that impact businesses in Ottawa and beyond.

By signing up you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe at any time.