Canadian Screen Awards 2024 Nominee Quentin Lee Broke the Stand-up Comedy Monopoly in Canada

Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television’s nomination of independent creator Quentin Lee’s Comedy Invasion series for Best Comedy Special broke the Canadian stand-up comedy monopoly long held by Canadian Broadcast Corporation, better known as CBC. For the freshly established category of Best Comedy Special, the three other nominees all belong to CBC. Rejected by Canadian broadcasters from development to distribution, creator Quentin Lee funded the 8-part series by themself and distributed the series through their own niché streaming platform, Asian American Movies aka As a supporter of independent cinema and media, CHOPSO took the opportunity to speak with creator Quentin Lee on their surprising nomination at the Canadian Screen Awards 2024.

How did you feel when you first heard about your nomination?

QL: Very surprised… as I woke up on the day of the nominations announcement and didn’t get an e-mail about it, I just assumed nothing happened. Then after I dropped my son to school around 9 am, Keith Nahanee, the star of the nominated episode, texted me and said he heard about the news on the radio in Vancouver. I checked the academy’s website and saw that indeed “Comedy Invasion: Rez Style” was one of the four nominees for Best Comedy Special. I felt joyful and justified, considering how I went out on a limb to create and finance this series. This is my first major award nomination of any kind. We did try to do an Emmy® run last year for Comedy Invasion but we didn’t get any nominations.

Tell us about your arduous journey of creating Comedy Invasion…

Well, in 2016, I created the first all Asian American stand-up comedy TV series Comedy InvAsian whose first season was sold to Hulu as an exclusive and, since then, started doing a lot in the stand-up comedy space in the US. As I am also Canadian, I decided to create a Canadian Content spin-off to spotlight diverse Canadian comics, not just API comics, and the result was Comedy Invasion. Of course I pitched the series in development to all the major Canadian networks and none took any interest. And I figured if I would just make it someone might be interested in acquiring the series. No such luck either. So I worked with Viva Pictures, my distribution partner on Comedy InvAsian and they put it out on Amazon freevee, The Roku Channel and Tubi and while we also stream it on our own niché streamimg platform Asian American Moves aka Last year, we were able to qualify the series for the Emmy® category of Outstanding Variety Series and also for the Canadian Screen Awards. While wee didn’t get an Emmy® nomination, we just got a Canadian Screen Award nomination!

Can you talk about the format of Comedy Invasion as a TV series?

QL: A recent funder offhandedly told my producing partners that the half-hour anthology stand-up comedy series format that I created was “cookie cutter.” Well if it was so “cookie cutter,” why had no one made this format series for stand-up comedy work until Comedy InvAsian 2.0? The format began with Comedy InvAsian Season 1 where I created an anthology series of six episodes of one-hour stand-up comedy special very much like the TV classics The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. When we were creating the second season of Comedy InvAsian, I’ve decided to tweak the format into eight episodes of half-hour comedy specials. At that point, Netflix was experimenting with 15 minutes episodes of comedy specials, which I thought was too short. North American television has traditionally been formatted as an hour long for drama and a half hour for comedy. I thought making a half-hour stand-up comedy special would fit the traditional comedic TV format better as an episode and also offer a lot of freedom for the comic to shape the episode while not having to give away their one-hour.

The reason I got into creating stand-up comedy TV series is because I’ve always had an interest to present organic and complete artworks. While so much of the episode depends on the comic and their performance, it’s as close to presenting a piece of unadulterated art and a cohesive artistic point-of-view as possible. Very much like a collage, it’s the diversity of these episodes as a series that makes Comedy InvAsian or Comedy Invasion compelling to me as a creator.

Did you say you were creating a new series with Keith Nahanee, the star of “Comedy Invasion: Rez Style?”

QL: LOL that’s another crazy story. Yes, Keith and I met on Comedy Invasion and I really love his comedy. After the shoot in 2022, he said he would show me around his reservation where he put up comedy shows in his own backyard. And he did… and when we were driving around North Vancouver we came up with the idea of Rez Comedy, which was based on the format of Comedy Invasion but we would have each episode feature a diverse Indigenous comic and have each season take place on a reservation. We drafted a proposal, pitched it around and APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network) was interested. Last June, APTN and Canada Media Fund greenlit Rez Comedy into development… but strangely the executive who brought the project into the network left and so we were not greenlit into production. Now we’re making it as an independent feature film with the same title and is crowdfunding on Indiegogo. What a life right?

So this Canadian Screen Award nomination is arriving at a good time?

QL: I think so… we’ll see. I’m definitely hedging all my bets on Rez Comedy next as no one has ever done it in Canada… or anywhere else I think… an all Indigenous stand-up comedy feature film. Rather than a series, it’s now based on the format I developed on Laugh Proud, an LGBTQ+ stand-up comedy feature film that I produced and directed last summer.

Tell us about Laugh Proud!

QL: Previously I created Brash Boys Club, the first all queer male stand-up comedy feature special now streaming all over, and I thought I wanted to create something more inclusive in the LGBTQ+ spectrum because I’m a non-binary queer API immigrant single parent creator. Yes, that’s a mouthful… I know! And I created Laugh Proud which I produced and directed last summer at the L.A. LGBT Center in Los Angeles. We’ve qualified Laugh Proud for Emmy® 2024 for Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-recorded) and the film will be released theatrically for a week at a Laemmle theater in Los Angeles and then go on streaming on May 30 on

Did you say you were a single parent too? Do you get any sleep?

QL: Yeah… cuz I wanted to have a child and decided to take the plunge in 2016. I just haven’t had a partner then and not since he was born. If you want to know more, you can watch the feature doc Gay Hollywood Dad that I made, also streaming on

So is Rez Comedy what we are looking forward to next?

Yes, by hook or by crook, we will make Rez Comedy. It’s the baby between Keith Nahanee, the star and writer of “Comedy Invasion: Rez Style” and my fellow CSA nominee producer Cindy AuYeung.

We hope you win your award and get to make Rez Comedy!

Thank you… as hope is all we have as a creator and filmmaker… or any optimistic human being.

Watch Comedy Invasion FREE now on Tubi! | Support Rez Comedy on Indiegogo!

#CdnScreenAwards | #comedyinvasion

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Author: Gillian Sand

Gillian Sand is a veteran entertainment and film writer. She is also currently a publicist at

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