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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 »

Little Fockers Reviewed

Posted by film On January - 7 - 2011

Little Fockers
Directed by Paul Weitz
Universal Pictures/Paramount Pictures, 2010

By Sean Kelly

Meet the Parents became Ben Stiller’s first true hit, after breakout role in 1998’s There’s Something About Mary. I consider Meet the Parents and its 2004 sequel Meet the Fockers to be somewhat sentimental favourites of mine, which I have often played back-to-back to waste away an afternoon.

Now, here we are ten years later and onto the third film of the series. Before I move any further, I want to emphasise that I did find the film to be quite hilarious at times. However, I couldn’t help but feel that it was different from the other two. We no longer have the “Meet the _____” premise and now it seems we are just catching up with all the characters a few years after everything turned out happily ever after. 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 »

Advance Review: Skullkickers #1 & 2

Posted by Comics On September - 20 - 2010

Skullkickers #1 & 2
Jim Zubkavich (w), Edwin Huang & Chris Stevens (a), Misty Coats (c). Image.

I’m going to get this out of the way — Jim Zubkavich is a buddy of mine. And the last couple weeks have been amazing for him. His new series from Image is getting buzz. Big buzz. A second printing before release?! That’s big buzz and good orders. That’s awesome.

It’s also awesome for a very selfish reason—it put the pressure off me. If I didn’t like Skullkickers I wasn’t obligated to review it. It’s not like the book needs to coverage.

That said, I think this is a good book that you should buy it, so I’m adding my voice to the many others who have already praised Skullkickers.

Fantasy. Action. Comedy. That’s all you need to know. If you like two of those three things than this is the book for you (though, chances are if you’re on this site than all three are your bag). For me, it’s an easier sell. I love fantasy comedy and there’s not enough of it in the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Zombieland Reviewed

Posted by film On November - 13 - 2009

ZOMBIELANDZombieland
Directed by Ruben Fleischer
Columbia Pictures, 2009

By Sean Kelly

According to Zombieland, there are over 30 rules you have to follow in order to survive a zombie apocalypse. The film then goes on to spare no effort in comically reminding you of these rules with giant blocky text every time one of them is followed (or not).

This is probably the first straight-out zombie comedy since 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, which was apparently the film that inspired the filmmakers to do Zombieland. But unlike Edgar Wright’s film, which aimed to be a serious zombie horror film with comedic situations, this film is pure comedy all the way.

The film centres around Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), who is travelling across the US searching for a safe haven from the zombies, who have all but taken over the country. He has survived so far by strictly following the aforementioned rules. These include pieces of advice such as being wary while in washrooms (apparently zombies like eating you when you’re doing #2), making sure you stay in good shape (with all the running you have to do), and not to hesitate in making sure a zombie’s dead by doing a headshot. 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 »

Review: David Cross Does Toronto

Posted by art On October - 7 - 2009

crossBy Meagan Snyder

In I Drink for a Reason, David Cross’ new collection of essays/rants/beefs/lists/monologues/funnies/ideas-complete-and-otherwise, he notes that book tour appearances can be either “frightening and excruciating” chores, or “another in a rarely-ending series of ego-inflating exercises happily sponsored by Absolut Vodka,” depending on the author’s comfort with public speaking. Cross aligns himself with the latter, pointing out that he was “trained professionally at the Helmsdale Institute for Audience Ignoring,” making him uniquely qualified for such endeavours.

If Cross has any contempt for his audiences, he’s very, very good at hiding it. For someone who has become known for his ability to articulately and ruthlessly skewer all that is ridiculous in the world, Cross is incredibly appreciative of his fans, coming across as genuine in his gratitude as well as his enjoyment of his own job.

At an appearance at Indigo on Thursday night, Cross talked at length to every person who had waited for an hour in the bookstore’s tiny velvet-roped pen (he spoke for all of us when he pointed out how odd it was of Indigo to provide ten chairs, trap 40 more people in a cube behind them, then 50 more 20 feet away, and also mocked the store’s giant windows looking out onto the Eaton Centre — “look, Japanese people are taking pictures!”), and answered every Q in the Q & A portion of the event indulgently and enthusiastically. This included discussing the theoretically-upcoming Arrested Development movie, which Cross has said he is asked about every time he is approached, without fail. Read the rest of this entry »

The Informant! Reviewed

Posted by film On October - 5 - 2009

theinformantThe Informant!
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Warner Bros. Pictures, 2009

By Brian Last

Director Steven Soderbergh and Matt Damon team up for what seems like the umpteenth time for Soderbergh’s latest white-collar-crime drama/comedy. Mark Whitacre (Damon) is the vice president of ADM, a company that has developed a product called lysine. He takes it upon himself to tip off the Feds (Scott Bakula and Joel McHale) about a global price-fixing scandal that ADM has put themselves right in the middle of. What starts out as a simple tip-off turns into two-and-a-half years as their informant, living two lives and lying his face off.

We begin with what appears to be a man of strong convictions pursuing his earnest goal to do what is right. But this is in fact the story of a man who has let his greed take over. Whitacre builds up so many lies that they eventually collapse on him and he becomes public enemy #1. His ambitions to be president of the company blind him and lead to delusions about himself and where he is going in his life.

Read the rest of this entry »

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MONDO is a non-profit, weekly, Toronto-based, online magazine that focuses on arts, culture, and humour. We’re interested in art of all kinds (music, theatre, visual art, film, comics, and video games) and the pop culture that we inhabit.The copyright on all MONDO magazine content belongs to the author. If you would like to pay them for more content, please do. To contact MONDO please email us at editor@mondomagazine.net

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