He's Yellowknife's "favourite son and hometown hero."
At least that's what Alex Sparling calls himself, with a distinctive hint of humour.
The 27-year-old was born and raised in Yellowknife, moving to Vancouver about six years ago to pursue his comedy career. Since then he's done his standup routine on countless stages, and most recently made it to the finals in an NBC showcase.
Sparling says he started out doing standup for Sir John Franklin High School's talent shows ("Falcon for life!" he exclaims during a phone interview).
Sparling says he started out doing standup at talent shows at Sir John Franklin High School in Yellowknife. (Donovan Patrick Mahoney)
While he was working at N.W.T.'s Snap Lake mine as a dish washer, he saw that a small bar in Calgary was hosting an open mic night. About two months in advance, he emailed the bar and asked if they'd find a spot for him.
"Of course they were like, 'Sure, if you want to fly all the way from Yellowknife to do this open mic, you can do the open mic...you psychopath,'" Sparling deadpans.
That's when he truly caught the comedy bug.
"I had some really bad jokes, some really bad jokes," he says.
"Plus I had two eyes at that point, and nobody's funny with two eyes!"
'A pretty big deal'
Sparling lost an eye in 2008 when, in a case of mistaken identity, several men attacked him with a hammer in a Vancouver home invasion.
Now, his one eye serves as a punchline.
"It's a pretty big deal," he laughs.
That uniqueness is also what qualified Sparling for NBC's StandUp for Diversity showcase. The network holds the massive search for new, diverse talent annually — some of the comics showcased have gone on to star in movies and television shows such as Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock.
"Standup comedy doesn't attract a lot of overly gorgeous people," Sparling says. "So it is basically for everybody that's not your typical tall, white leading man."