Why you should care
Toronto’s vapor lounges are high-larious.
Laughter: the natural high. Weed: the sort-of natural high. Weed and laughter together: You’re talking about Toronto’s underground comedy scene. Move over, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle — this is stoner comedy like you’ve never seen before.
The city boasts more than a handful of lounges that host regular pot-infused comedy events, and the scene is growing. Audience members kick back on leather couches, smoke their weed (it’s B.Y.O.Bud) and listen to the yuk-yuk comedy of whoever’s booked. Entrance fees hover around $5 or $10 at the door; patrons can enjoy free vaporizer use or rent bongs. In other words, budding comedians are getting used to performing to budding audiences. “It’s a beneficial arrangement,” says Amanda Day at the Hotbox Cafe, which claims to be “Toronto’s first pot-positive joint.” Day hosts Stoned Up Comedy, which she calls “the longest-running 420-friendly comedy show in Toronto” and hand-picks the comedians herself. The audience ranges from 20-year-olds to stoners in their 60s. She thinks the weed use is a great way to set a comedy-friendly vibe; the audience members are “probably feeling pretty loose and into whatever’s going on,” she says, and when the performers are high they give a “similar wavelength to the crowd.”
There’s also a few rules to make sure things stay fun: No dealing, mooching or asking for other people’s weed.
Vapor Central has been around about a decade and hosts shows with high-larious names like Weedy Wednesdays and Stoner Sundays. “We’re dedicated to providing the ultimate cannabis experience,” says Chris Goodwin, the lounge’s manager. It’s no hole-in-the-wall venue: There’s seating for 200 with standing-room-only access. If you’re a die-hard comedy fan, you might even recognize the names of some of the comedians who have stood up at Vapor Central. Got the munchies? Of course there’s a snack area. There’s also a few rules to make sure things stay fun: No dealing, mooching or asking for other people’s weed, or you’ll be asked to go. Plus, Goodwin says women feel particularly comfortable at vapor lounges; the vibe is more relaxed than aggressive bar culture.
To be sure, not everyone is onboard with the concept. Noam Dworman, the owner of the Comedy Cellar in New York City (you’d recognize it from Louie’s opening sequence) says it sounds like a fun time but that getting high could detract from the comedy. Alcohol is already a struggle and can be “damaging to the show,” he says. Weed audiences could be sluggish or inattentive, he thinks. Plus, it could turn off audience members who aren’t into lighting up. Then, there’s the legality of it — or lack thereof. In Toronto, smoking pot recreationally isn’t legal. But Toronto Police Constable Craig Brister explains that vapor lounges are not an issue and that “customers who choose to attend these businesses are at no risk from police, unless they choose to consume nonprescription or illegal drugs.” Businesses must, however, adhere to zoning and bylaw legislations.
If the downsides don’t put you off from the high life, Goodwin’s provided information to take you even one step further. He and two others wrote a how-to guide on opening a vapor lounge of your own. If you’re OK with the illegality, they say, you could own the coolest “joint” joint.