Comedy a Path for Todd Genno and Ron Kanutski

Ron Kanutski
Ron Kanutski
Todd Genno
Todd Genno – Photo by Chris Hearn

THUNDER BAY – ENTERTAINMENT – “My first time doing comedy was April 2012 at a local competition in Thunder Bay,” Todd Genno said. “I came very close to backing out last minute and tried to convince myself to try it next year instead, even right to the last second when the MC called my name to come up.”

Genno had entered himself into the 2012 Thunder Bay Comic Idol competition. It was his first time ever doing stand-up.

“When the MC called my name, I felt something push me and I went up. I did my five minutes, and at the end of the night I was crowned the 2012 Thunder Bay Comic Idol,” said Genno.

Genno has always been a fan of stand-up comedy. When he was younger, he worked at the Grand Portage Casino as a security guard and caught Don Burnstick shows there.

“I used to do security at the shows. I would admire his ability to make a big crowd laugh to tears for a full hour,” Genno said. I used to think ‘I wish I could do that’ and think about how awesome it would be to share the stage with Don.”

A few months after winning Comic Idol, Genno would be opening for Don Burnstick at Grand Portage Casino.

“I saw Don Burnstick at the mall in Thunder Bay. I introduced myself and explained how I had just started doing stand up comedy. Don gave me some pointers and then went on to mention that maybe I could open up for him,” Genno said. To date, Genno has shared the stage with Burnstick three times. “It’s an awesome feeling knowing I got to work with one of the legends of native comedy.”

Since his win in 2012, Genno has performed stand up many times in the city and surrounding communities. He said that what he enjoys the most about doing stand up is knowing that he has made people laugh with his routine.

“The best feeling is when people come up after the show and tell me that they really enjoyed my comedy,” Genno said.

Genno’s comedy is motivated and supported by his wife and children. He often tells new jokes he has written to his wife to see if she finds them funny or not.

“She’s a good judge,” Genno said. “My children are always telling me jokes and tell me that I should do them at comedy.”

Genno also has the support of his friend Chris Holland, who he met when he did Comic Idol.

“Chris did not know who I was, but he came up to talk to me prior to the competition starting and gave me advice and helped me calm my nerves,” Genno said, adding that Holland continues to be supportive of him when it comes to comedy. “I always enjoy sharing the stage with him.”

Another support Genno has is in his friend and fellow Comic Idol winner Ron Kanutski.

Ron Kanutski
Ron Kanutski – Photo by Chris Hearn

“Ron is a good friend and a good comedy buddy. Ron has been supportive of me since the day I started comedy and has gotten me a lot of gigs since then,” Genno said. “He’s always a pleasure to work with.”

Kanutski is a Thunder Bay-based comedian and also a motivational speaker and MC.

He said that the start of his life in comedy began in Summer Beaver when he was asked to tell a few jokes on stage at a community event. Don Burnstick was scheduled but could not attend due to poor weather. In 2009, Kanutski entered Comic Idol in 2009 and was the runner up – in 2010 he entered again and this time he took the title. He has most recently been voted Thunder Bay’s Best Comic in 2013 and 2014 through a reader’s poll in Walleye Magazine.

Kanutski explained that he enjoys comedy, and the feeling he gets from it is something he describes as “strange.”

“Doing stand up is like a drug. There is the anticipation before the show followed by the rush of the performance mixed with the audience interaction and laughter,” Kanutski said.

Kanutski said that his brother Jeff Wawia was naturally funny and always made him laugh, and that professional comics Eddie Murphy and Sam Kinson were his heroes of the past. Lately he has been enjoying listening to Dave Attell and Jim Jeffries.

“One of the best in my opinion today is Pete Zedlacher,” Kanutski added.

Kanutski said that comedy and laughter could help people cope with difficult or stressful times. He explained that comedy and humour creates an opportunity to talk about difficult issues while “lightening the load” at the same time.

“Laughter is known to be one of the natural healers of many mental health issues,” Kanutski said. “Laughter is a release, somewhat like crying. It is a cleansing of the mind, body, heart, and spirit.”

Kanutski also feels that comedy is a good way to interact and connect with people from different races and backgrounds.

“I think through laughter you can break through barriers in relation to beliefs and stigmas about other races, and in many ways get a better understanding of others more easily,” Kanutski said. “We can understand that we are not that different from each other when it comes to the big picture.”

Genno also likes to interact with people of all races when doing comedy.

“I am not a native comedian, I am a comedian who is native,” Genno said. “I am proud to be native but I do not want to limit myself to just doing native comedy. I like doing shows that can relate to everyone. I even do native comedy to non-native crowds and it usually goes over well. When people see me laughing at myself, they will laugh with me.”

Genno plans on doing comedy whenever he can, with aspirations of performing at the Community Auditorium some day.

Kanutski will continue to deliver shows throughout Ontario and Minnesota, and has a big show set for Thunder Bay at the Victoria Inn on May 9 for the Wounded Warriors of Canada. He is also excited to look at possible shows out east and west.

“Who knows where the road leads, but it is all about the journey not the destination,” Kanutski said. “If someone wants to put on a show, I will do my best to be there. I am looking forward to the future.”

Stephanie Wesley

Ron Kanutski and Todd Genno can be contacted at and and found on Facebook.

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