Plum Thunder, The Regulars, and Ladystache
Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival
November 3 @ Comedy Bar
By Meagan Snyder
Tonight I got to spend another evening in my happiest of states—silent and alone in a dark theatre with people talking at me. Comedy Bar’s first show of their second night of Sketchfest featured Plum Thunder, The Regulars, and Ladystache.
Tonight’s host was Gary Rideout Jr. of The Sketchersons. As the man behind Comedy Bar, Rideout is something of a hero of Toronto comedy, and he made a funny host. That said, the interludes went long and the show ran late, and, well, some of us have to teach kindergarten very early in the morning.
First up was Plum Thunder, a male/female duo who promises sexy, awkward, and absurd sketch comedy. One thing quickly became clear: Cara Stephenson and Bryan Paccagnella are really, really good comedic actors. A great deal of effort obviously went into creating and performing a diverse group of characters who were not only funny but also very real, which was extremely engaging to watch. Both Paccagnella and Stephenson could easily fit in at Second City, which prides itself on training comedic actors, and I could see either of them on SNL. The characters were all fun to watch, particularly in a scene involving a Dollarama wannabe cop, and a So You Think You Can Dance-style number that displayed how adept the two are at physical comedy. However, a few other sketches left me wanting to see these characters going further than they did—a drunken Halloween encounter with a cabbie and an interaction between a burger slinger and impatient customer meandered a little, lacking a thrust that could do justice to the great characters and acting skills at work in the sketches.
When introducing The Regulars, Rideout brought up the fact that their name lacks pomposity. Judging from the Cheers theme song the troupe used as their intro/outro music, ‘regulars’ refers to familiarity at the bar, but Rideout had a point nonetheless—because of their name, I kind of expected four unassuming guys with good-not-great sketches. But let the irony of the name be noted—the group put on a show that was fast-paced, diverse yet cohesive, interesting, funny, and a huge hit with the audience. The four performers obviously had a great time on stage with each one bringing something different to the sketches and the group dynamic overall. The sketches ranged from brief gags based on wordplay to a fourth-wall-breaking self-referential pseudo-improv scene, to a fleshed out, innovative musical version of 24. The characters were fun to watch, and elevated the simple premises with their reactions to the world around them.
After a not-brief-enough intermission (again: kindergarten), Rideout welcomed Ladystache to the stage. Ladystache is Allison Hogg and Stephanie Tolev, who perform monthly at Comedy Bar. I know reviews aren’t supposed to be gushy, but fuck it (probably not supposed to say that, either): Ladystache was completely brilliant and a joy to watch. I was anticipating their performance because I had never been to a show, and also because I found their blurb on the Sketchfest website and program really intriguing: “[Ladystache makes] audiences laugh with their silly, non-gender specific comedy. They don’t talk politics or periods. Just funny. Period.” But, but…this just makes me WANT to talk politics! Gender-specific-comedy politics! I understand that the Women In Comedy thing has been dissected to death, and I hear a desire to remove gender from the equation more and more frequently. I’m truly torn, however, as to whether that’s the most progressive approach. The fact is that female comics are a minority, and some may see a woman’s commitment to comedy as inherently, or at least inescapably, political. After seeing them perform, though, I get it. I was reminded that when the comedy is really, really good, when the writing and performances complement each other so nicely that it all appears it indeed can transcend any associated gender politics. Every sketch was enjoyable, but highlights included a story of a dog gone mad, the woes of a child whose mother has a secret, and an amazing dub performance from two puppets. This show was the full package, both in the sense of displaying a diverse range of talent—clever writing, original premises, hilarious characters, physical humour, sight gags, puppeteering (!)—and in a more literal sense: this was a cohesive, polished show. This is a show they can pick up and take to NYC or LA, so be sure to catch it before they do just that.
NOTE: Yesterday I mentioned a sketch by Good Game about a rapper I thought was Jay-Z. Actually, the rapper’s name was JC, as in Jesus Christ—I missed the joke due to mishearing. Thanks for clarifying that, Good Game!