First Time Canadian Screen Awards Winner Quentin Lee Dishes on Creating Comedy Invasion and Rez Comedy

On the evening of Wednesday May 29, 2024 in Toronto, filmmaker Quentin Lee and his producing partner Cindy Au Yeung won the 2024 Canadian Screen Award for Best Comedy Special for their series Comedy Invasion‘s episode “Rez Style,” beating out three other CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) productions. CHOPSO sat down to chat with Quentin on the evening of them leaving for Vancouver to prep and shoot their latest stand-up comedy feature, Rez Comedy, the first all Indigenous and all Canadian stand-up comedy feature film. Read about their creation of Comedy Invasion in the interview about his CSA nomination.

Quentin Lee (left), Keith Nahanee (middle), Berny Nahanee (right) received the 2024 Canadian Screen Award for Best Comedy Special. Photographed by George Pimentel.

Hello again… we chatted extensively about Comedy Invasion last time after your nomination so now let’s talk about you winning the 2024 Canadian Screen Award for Best Comedy Special… how did it all go down and how did you feel when you heard about it?

QL: I was actually kind of stressed the week before the awards, having to shell out travel and hotel money for going to Toronto and attending the event. And on top of that I had to loan funds from my son’s college fund to finance the stand-up comedy feature Rez Comedy that I am producing and co-directing with Keith Nahanee, the star of the winning episode “Rez Style” from Comedy Invasion.

I felt like we had nothing to lose and flew over to Toronto. While not expecting a win, going up against three CBC series / specials, it was indeed a pleasant surprise that we did, hearing “Comedy Invasion” being announced by the child actors presenting the award for Best Comedy Special on stage. I was extremely grateful to the academy voters for supporting us. It was a total David vs. Goliath win. CBC rejected Comedy Invasion twice, at production financing and at distribution. I felt avenged as a producer.

Cast of Rez Comedy clockwise from top left: Keith Nahanee, Brenda Prince, Wayne Alexis, Janelle Niles, Helena Paul, Kevin Shawanda, Denise B. McLeod, Chuck Cease, Drea Omer

What’s the story behind Rez Comedy and why you had to loan your personal funds to make it?

QL: Originally Rez Comedy was greenlit into development by APTN and CMF. During the development phase, our executive left APTN and APTN decided to not greenlight us into production, claiming that we didn’t have famous enough Indigenous comedians and the series was too expensive. What I was confused was that we had tried to communicate with the exec and APTN at every stage of our development as much as possible, keeping them updated of our casting choices and budget. They gave us absolutely zero feedback. After we submitted everything, they sent us a form letter with those two notes. We could have easily changed the cast or budget had they given us feedback during development…. but that didn’t happen at all.

We then applied to a Canada Council grant which deemed us ineligible. We applied to the ISO (Indigenous Screen Office) fund, the organization that our original APTN executive had moved to, who rejected Rez Comedy. We then applied to Creative BC for a production grant, and received a rejection. We then applied to the Telefilm Canada’s Talent to Watch Program but they deemed the production ineligible as a theatrical documentary feature. And then it was a month away from production…

I asked three of the producers to defer part of their salary. Keith, Cindy and I, the three key creatives who birthed Rez Comedy, must fully defer our fees in order for me to cash flow the production from my son’s college fund so we can actually make it.

It felt like your journey of making Comedy Invasion is similar to Rez Comedy… did things get a little better on Rez Comedy?

QL: Rez Comedy was a little easier in the sense we got the initial funding from APTN and CMF to develop the project which we then had to pivot and turn it into an independent feature film… with a little leftover money we folded into the production budget. So a little better… but if I hadn’t made Comedy Invasion, I wouldn’t get to make Rez Comedy because I wouldn’t have met Keith Nahanee, one of the stars of Comedy Invasion that enabled our Canadian Screen Awards win.

Quentin Lee at the 2024 Canadian Screen Awards photographed by George Pimentel

What does this Canadian Screen Awards win mean for you personally?

QL: Honestly I have never won any major award and the CSA win is the most major award I’ve won so far. Despite all the rejections on both Comedy Invasion and Rez Comedy, this win came at the perfect time validating myself that I was on the right track for Comedy Invasion, and simultaneously validating Keith’s and my collaboration on Rez Comedy being on the right track. I have confidence that I will recoup the chuck of college fund I’ve loaned to our company to make Rez Comedy.

While I don’t have children myself, I feel sorry you had to do that. How are you feeling about it?

QL: It wasn’t an easy decision… and thank God my son is only eight years old now. But I feel like it’s the necessary and right thing to do because no one else would support Rez Comedy. And I can still remember Keith’s mom was alive and applauding in Keith’s episode “Rez Style” of Comedy Invasion. Not long after filming in 2021, she passed. I feel like we have her blessing and encouragement to make Rez Comedy despite no one else would believe in us.

Wishing you all the best in the making of Rez Comedy. You’re filming on June 15 which is next Saturday in Vancouver, right?

QL: Yes, Rez Comedy goes down on Saturday June 15 at 8 pm at Vancouver’s Metro Theatre. Please get a ticket and support us via Thank you!

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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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