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Review: Sketch Com-Ageddon: Final Round

Posted by art On June - 19 - 2011

By Meagan Snyder

June 18: Finals

Fratwurst
Jape
The Hooligans
The Local Drysdales

Sketch Com-Ageddon had its final rose ceremony tonight, featuring the four sketch troupes that made it through Friday’s semi-finals – Fratwurst, Jape, The Hooligans, and The Local Drysdales. Each troupe performed their best 15 minutes, whether that meant many small sketches, or fewer longer ones. This time around there was no security blanket in the possibility of a judges’ pick – the audience alone was responsible for awarding one troupe $450 and a guaranteed spot in November’s Toronto Sketchfest. All jokes ironically aside, it was a great night for sketch comedy. The troupes were all at the top of their games, and the house was packed (courtesy of The Hooligans, for the most part, based on audience reaction to the mere mention of their name. Spoiler alert.).  Let’s take a look at each troupe’s contributions: Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sketch Com-Ageddon, Day Three

Posted by art On June - 19 - 2011

By Meagan Snyder

June 16: Rounds E and F

Round E:

Ladystache
Grade Eight Dance
Parker and Seville
The Regulars
Good Game
Emergency Bingo
A Classy Affair
Pagan and Eggs

Round F:

Haircut
Creedence Bathwater Revival
The Raisin Gang
The Local Drysdales
The Troupe of Seven
Corporate Elevator
Smells Like The 80s

Tonight marked the final two preliminary rounds of Sketch Com-Ageddon at Comedy Bar. Decisions were made, and yet another 11 sketch troupes were sent into the sketch comedy abyss to live amongst lost footage of Comedy, Inc… or WERE THEY? Stay tuned (or skip to the end of this review) (no, don’t) for an unprecedented Sketch Com-Ageddon TWIST! I haven’t been this shocked since Ashley decided to give out that one extra rose on Monday’s The Bachelorette. Regardless, I’m sure the unlucky performers that were eliminated will all rise in the style of Phoenix, one of the most resilient sketch troupes out there,  but in the meantime, let’s celebrate their best moments, as well as those of their better, more talented, funnier, champion peers. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sketch Com-Ageddon, Day Two

Posted by art On June - 19 - 2011

By Meagan Snyder

June 15: Rounds C and D

Round C:

Not on a School Night
100 and 50
The Hooligans
Vest of Friends
Two Weird Ladies
Shoeless
Obvious Rabid Machine

Round D:

Touch My Stereotype
Lonely
The Ugly Stiks
The Specials
Dick Wolfs
Jape
The Hemingways

11 more sketch troupes packed up their knives and left tonight as the preliminary rounds of Sketch Com-Ageddon continued at Comedy Bar. Tension was in the air as host Paul Snepsts delivered interstitial updates on the score of game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The tension, however, came out of the fact that a room full of comedy nerds didn’t understand the implications of any of these reports. Or, at least, that’s what I assumed. The laughs were plentiful tonight – Round C in particular was jam-packed with high-quality sketches, and I imagine the judges’ pick was not easy. Here are some highlights of the night: Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sketch Com-Ageddon, Day One

Posted by art On June - 16 - 2011

By Meagan Snyder

June 14: Rounds A and B

Round A:
Rulers of the Universe
The Adjective Nouns
The Migratory Salvation Show
Plum Thunder
Tough Crowd
Seventh Round Picks
Reverse Oreo

Round B:
The Cool Grapes
Warm Summer Hotness
Fratwurst
Colonel Mustard
The Temps
Tony Ho

The preliminary rounds of Sketch Com-Ageddon began June 14 at Comedy Bar, and let me just say that if the intensity of the Stanley Cup finals has been too much for you, STAY AWAY from Comedy Bar between now and Saturday night. Ba-rutal vibe. Just kidding, everyone was super nice and supportive of each other. After all, they’re all fighting the good fight for sketch comedy in Toronto. That fight was very enjoyable to watch – everyone clearly had fun on stage, the audiences were supportive, the host’s (Paul Snepsts, co-artistic producer of TO Sketchfest) interstitials were short and sweet, and energy was high. In MY heart, Sketch Com-Ageddon-ers, you’re ALL winners. That said, here are the highlights of Rounds A and B: Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: TO Sketchfest: Sketch Com-Ageddon

Posted by art On June - 15 - 2011

By Meagan Snyder

November is a long way away. Thank goodness. None of us even want to THINK about November, right? The snow may have started falling. The Christmas (yeah, I said it) ads will definitely have started jingling. Those of us who may or may not be teachers will be gearing up for report card season and facing the long, long, incredibly long did I mention long tunnel of multiple thousands of days before summer vacation. Yeah, I’m pretty sure the ONE GOOD THING about November is TO Sketchfest. For five glorious nights, Torontonians will be able to forget about the potential snow and definite endless schooldays applicable to everyone as they take in the best sketch comedy the city has to offer. I bet now you’re cursing the very gods that sent this beautiful, beautiful summer that stretches out before us, forcing us to enjoy every moment of it before cruel November comes our way. Well, guess what? November’s come early this year, kids.

From June 14-18, TO Sketchfest presents its fourth annual sketch comedy competition, Sketch Com-Ageddon. Read the rest of this entry »

Interview: Doug Benson, Man of Many Pies

Posted by art On May - 1 - 2011

Comedy and bloodshed go together like soybean butter and jelly – just ask any fan of Kick-Ass, Pineapple Express, or the Three Stooges. Maybe this is why so many comedians love UFC. Whatever the reason, as throngs of people – many comics included – descend upon Toronto for the big fight this Saturday night, Toronto comedy nerds stand to benefit as Doug Benson sticks around the city for two shows May 1 at Comedy Bar.

Doug Benson is one of those people you can’t help but love. For one thing, there are just so many opportunities to love him. Into stand-up? Benson has three highly enjoyable albums, now releases a new one every year, and performs live constantly (http://eventful.com/performers/doug-benson-/P0-001-000004119-4). Into improv? It’s not exactly a Harold, but Benson injects improvisation and dialogue into stand-up on The Benson Interruption, a long-running live show-turned-Comedy Central series and podcast featuring comics such as Nick Swardson, Sarah Silverman, and Thomas Lennon. Into movies? So is Benson, and he discusses them weekly with his funny friends on his very popular and always entertaining podcast Doug Loves Movies. Into technologically-sponsored humour? @DougBenson is a tweeting machine. And, finally, into marijuana? Benson’s material, while appealing to anyone on the spectrum between straight-edge and junkie (I assume), is definitely stoner-friendly, and he has been a long-time advocate for legalization and the old-fashioned art of letting your freak flag fly.

Ultimately, it’s easy to love Doug Benson because, no matter the context, you very quickly feel like you know him. He’s open, relatable, and engaging, and I’m not being sentimental when I say that I look forward to seeing him at Comedy Bar this Sunday in the same way I look forward to seeing an old friend. Okay, maybe a little sentimental.

Doug was kind enough to answer a few questions from MONDO. Read on! Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Real Autobiographies and Third Wheel

Posted by art On January - 7 - 2011

Sean Tabares, a member of Impatient Theatre's Big in Japan (via impatient.ca).

The Big Lebowski and The Soft Chin Show
Part of Comedy Bar’s Festival of New Formats
Festival runs January 2-8

By Meagan Snyder

The fourth night of Comedy Bar’s Festival of New Formats was the second of two nights curated by Toronto’s Impatient Theatre Co. Founded in 2001 by artistic director Kevin Patrick Robbins, the Impatient Theatre is primarily focused on long-form improv, offering classes at beginners and masters levels, as well as regular shows at Comedy Bar performed by their house teams. They are unique in Toronto for their commitment to The Harold as their signature style, a form Del Close created and developed with Charna Halpern at Chicago’s iO Theater in the 60s. It remains the signature style of iO as well as the Upright Citizens Brigade theatres in New York and Los Angeles.

Those familiar with The Harold can attest to the fact that while long-form improv at its best seems like magic, with ideas and connections pulled from thin air, in actuality it is truly a structured, codified craft that takes years to master. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Big Lebowski and The Soft Chin Show

Posted by art On January - 4 - 2011

Members of The Sketchersons participated in Monday night's shows.

The Big Lebowski and The Soft Chin Show
Part of Comedy Bar’s Festival of New Formats
Festival runs January 2-8

By Meagan Snyder

Comedic performers spend a lot of time straddling between safety and risk. For example, the reward of stand-up is achieving a following of people who appreciate one’s brand of humour, but at the same time no one wants to be held back from developing their craft, and potentially taking their material in other directions. It takes sketch troupes a long time to establish a chemistry behind the scenes that translates onto the stage/screen, and it is a special thing to work together like clockwork, with an understanding of who within the group writes and performs best together, et cetera, but it’s immediately obvious to audiences when things get a little too comfortable. Perhaps this double-edged sword is most salient in the world of improv, which is seemingly all about risk – acting without taking time to weigh options, and trusting your instincts while understanding that your actions affect the rest of the group. But members of troupes who have worked together for long enough have a good understanding of their safety nets. They understand who will have their backs when they step out into a scene, who is likely to take a scene in certain directions, when a scene needs to be reset, et cetera.

All of this is a very roundabout way of giving kudos to Comedy Bar, a venue that, in the spirit of longer-existing theatres like the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatres in NYC and LA, frequently allows established troupes and theatre companies to take risks. Read the rest of this entry »

2010 Sketchfest: 100 and 50, Deadpan Powerpoint, and Maybe

Posted by art On November - 9 - 2010

Deadpan Powerpoint: lectures and suits. Image via torontosketchfest.com

100 and 50, Deadpan Powerpoint, and Maybe
Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival
November 7 @ Comedy Bar

By Meagan Snyder

At the end of any comedy festival, there’s evidence of the flowing booze and late hours—Sketchfest was no exception. In host Gary Rideout Jr.’s words, “If I sound rough, it’s because I am.” Rough, maybe, but Rideout was entertaining and the three troupes’ on-stage energy didn’t falter.

100 and 50 are Megan Fraser and Kristen McGregor, a self-described puppet and clown-focused troupe who make uncomfortable situations (a comedian’s currency) hilarious. Only two sketches actually involved puppets or clowns, but their adeptness with both media translated into a general panache for physical and visual humour—especially when kept brief, such as a quick request from McGregor to Fraser for a Houdini-style punch in the gut, and a commercial parody for TLC’s “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant,” Read the rest of this entry »

Ladystache is Allison Hogg and Steph Tolev, who don't actually have moustaches. Image via torontosketchfest.com

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Good Game: thoroughbred sketch comedy stallions. Image via torontosketchfest.com

The Adjective Nouns, Grade 8 Dance, and Good Game
Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival
November 2 @ Comedy Bar

By Meagan Snyder

It’s hard to write about sketch comedy in Toronto without addressing its legacy, so let’s get that done right off the top: remember Kids in the Hall and SCTV? Good, right? Okay, there’s that done.

When discussing comedy, people tend to refer to the past. My belief is that the comedy that we think of most affectionately is associated in our minds with newness. Comedy depends on the element of surprise, and it’s in the reaction to that surprise that comedy becomes so freeing: inherent in the ability to respond to the surprise is a presence of mind—you’re completely in the moment, truly on the same wavelength as the person communicating with you. Of course it makes sense that people glorify the most significant moments of surprise in their comedic histories. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Paul F. Tompkins Live

Posted by art On October - 30 - 2009
Photo ©Sharilyn Johnson, 2009. http://www.third-beat.com

Photo ©Sharilyn Johnson, 2009. http://www.third-beat.com

Paul F. Tompkins @ The Rivoli, October 25th, 2009

By Meagan Snyder

It wouldn’t be presumptuous to say that Paul F. Tompkins (Mr. Show, Best Week Ever, The Informant!) was wary of visiting Toronto prior to his two shows at The Rivoli on Sunday night. Back in September, Tompkins was irritated by customs officers and hecklers alike during a visit to Vancouver for the Global Comedy Fest. In Tompkins’ own words when guest-hosting Scott Aukerman’s Comedy Death Ray Radio at the beginning of October, “The audiences were a little different [from past years]. They were rude. [...] You’re led to believe that Canadian people by and large are polite. But you know who leads us to believe that? Canadian people. And what’s ruder than lying about being polite?” He admitted to Aukerman in a later episode that he wasn’t terribly enthused by the prospect of returning to the land of hockey, Tim Horton’s, and gay marriage (though I don’t think any of those specifically bothered him). Read the rest of this entry »

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