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Comedian chomps chili pepper at Edmonton public hearing while arguing climate change is 'not a huge issue'

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A local comedian stirred up laughter, confusion and condemnation Monday morning when he ate a spicy prop at a public hearing in Edmonton City Hall as he ranted about how climate change is "not the end of the world."

He identified himself as "Arun Tysily" (aren't I silly) before city councillors gave him the standard five minutes to speak his mind.

CTV News Edmonton has since identified him as Brendan Washbern, a standup comedian who also played the prank on councillors in November when he joined a virtual meeting to rant about a historic house.

"We have these goofballs on the internet gluing their hands to artwork trying to protest the oilfield," Washbern said Monday.

"And I don't think anybody is really standing up for the oilfield as they should because every time you hear an ambulance or siren that's the oilfield right there doing their job."

Washbern explained that he brought a chili pepper to make his point about climate change, while councillors watched on quietly.

Brendan Washbern, AKA Arun Tysily, speaks at a public hearing at Edmonton City Hall on February 6, 2023. (Source: City of Edmonton)

The meeting was primarily about zoning bylaws so Washbern admitted he "could not find the appropriate meeting to come down to."

"I kinda wanted to demonstrate that climate change is not a huge issue because I brought a chili pepper and I was gonna eat it and show that even if something does heat up a little bit, it's not the end of the world," he said.

Washbern could then be heard chomping loudly on the video feed, which is posted to YouTube in its entirety.

"The pepper is heating up a little bit but it's not a big issue," he said.

"I wanted to demonstrate that because a lot of people say that if Canada was to heat up, it'd be the end of the world. But South America is way warmer than Canada and people vacation there all the time."

'NOT EVERYONE IS AGAINST THE OILFIELD'

Washbern later called himself an "activist" in an interview with CTV News Edmonton, and with a straight face denied that he was joking, despite the fact his Facebook is full of comedy posters and pictures of him performing on stage.

YouTube has many public-hearing-prank videos, including by a duo called Chad and JT. In one case they lobbied a local council to rename public infrastructure "The Britney Spears Toxic Water Center." They also call themselves "activists" who are "raising stoke."

One of Washbern's prank videos was recently shown on Jimmy Kimmel Live, which he also posted on his Facebook.

"I figured, I got the day off so I could do some good and show everyone that not everyone is against the oilfield," Washbern said of Monday's effort.

The pepper was real and hot and "pretty spicy on the way out, but completely manageable," he explained. He's originally from Duncan, B.C., but lives in Edmonton now.

"We have a saying where I'm from that there's no such thing as a joke," he said.

"It's hard to say, I'm a very busy guy," he added when asked if he'll appear at city hall again.

'IT WASN'T THAT FUNNY'

Councillors had no questions for him so the meeting moved on without comment.

Coun. Michael Janz later outed Washbern as a prankster on Twitter and Coun. Sarah Hamilton tweeted about "aspiring comedians" who need help with their punchlines.

"It's nice to have a little bit of levity. But it was a bit tedious because it wasn't that funny. If you're gonna come, like, be funny. And also remember that there's lots of different avenues to do satire," Janz said with a shrug after the meeting.

"It's democratic. Everybody gets their five minutes, whatever their concern."

Janz said he started following Washbern on social media after he appeared at the November meeting so he recognized him and the silly alias.

He said he hopes the comedian gets a Netflix special so he can stop coming to public hearings.

"I think everyone kinda knew what was going on. We previously had this gentleman, under other names and disguises, who likes to participate in public hearings as a comedic act," Ward Karhiio Coun. Keren Tang said with a smile.

"Glad to give him the time, but certainly we also need to carry on to the business of the day."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Alison MacKinnon 

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