Ten years. What was around ten years ago? On the radio there was a choir of appalling female pop singers: Gwen Stefani, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson topped the Billboard music charts. The seedy side of Tiger Woods wasn’t yet out of the bag. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince made us all wish it was Hermione and Harry instead of Ron. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal made gay cowboy sex a thing with Brokeback Mountain. The very first Sketchfest in Montreal was conceived.
Ten years and Sketchfest is poised to show you just how funny a weeknight can get. The stakes are higher as are the number of sexy attendees. The energy so sizzling you can feel it in Beaconsfield (not that I’m in Beaconsfield). Sketch comedy troupes are coming from all points from Rue St. Laurent to the City of Angels to provide audiences with laughter, some inappropriate and some… even more inappropriate. Toronto is probably the most represented city after Montreal, followed by New York (if you include Brooklyn, which is identified separately by the group called Math, Science, and the Humanities).
Each night features two sets of three or four groups performing in 1 1/2 hour slots, with a local funny person hosting. While I can tell you all the awesome locals that you should already be checking out on a regular basis (did someone say Genius Gold, Les Lundis, Grumpy Old Men, The Ladies and Gentlemen, and Uncalled For), I won’t. Instead, here are some of the out-of-towners you may never have met whose names and/or past accolades make them sound compelling.
Freddie and Jess host a monthly show The Scene at a little improv theatre company in the 416 called Bad Dog. Jess in fact kind of works at Bad Dog Theatre in a teacherly sort of way. Freddie is one half of Rapp Battelz ,a character-based, hip-hop-themed verbal combat show in which insults fly as fast as the fun. Fred and Jess appear with Swamp Mouth, Barbara, and Hot Raw Fire. May 21, 8 p.m. at Theatre St. Catherine.
Action Park is one of the house teams from the Magnet Theatre in New York.Magnet Theatre has been kicking it since 2005, teaching improv and sketch, shows, you know the dealio. This group of nine is going to keep the energy high as their characters come to life. Action Park appears with We Make This Stuff Up and the Dead Dads Club on May 22, 10:30 p.m. at the Montreal Improv Theatre, Al LaFrance hosts.
Panacea! This Toronto gang got praised to the skies by NOW and now (haha see that use of language!) has a lot to live up to. Notably new on the scene compared to some troupes in the fest, the group of four goes for the absurdity of realism. Panacea! appears with Stockton and Sanderjohnson on May 23 at 8:30 p.m. at Montreal Improv Theatre, Steve Patrick Adams hosting.
Does magic creep you out? Me too. I think it’s the serious beards and skinny bods. But seeing A Shoddy Magician might change that. A Shoddy Magician appears on May 27 with Tall Tall Lady, Swaghetti Yolonaise (dick joke artists!), and Hamhock Velvet at 8 p.m. at the Theatre St Catherine. Morgan O’Shea and Stefan Petersen host.
It’s a Sausage Fest at Theatre St. Catherine. Three troupes, all men. Parker and Seville are good, dopey man fun. Beloved past timers The Rocket Scientists are back with their nerdy, award-winning sketches. And, Palcoholics “piss each other off.” I misread that as “piss on each other.” Alas. This sausage fest of dudes takes place on May 28 at Theatre St. Catherine at 8 p.m. Mike Paterson hosts.
Headliners Peter n’Chris of Vancouver should top your list of what to see n’do on Friday night. They regularly make the Fringe a part of their lives with such awesomely absurd shows as Peter n’ Chris Explore Their Bodies where they journeyed inside Chris’ body with a plethora of pop culture references, kittens, AND Jesus. Whatever they are up to is bound to be unmissable. They’re joined by O Dat Drum and Junkyard Dudes. Watch the award winners at the Theatre St. Catherine at 7:30 p.m. Steph Tolev hosts.
In addition to shows, there are a number of special events. One is The Women in Comedy Panel where the ladies get together to talk about the relationship between female performers and sketch comedy. Alotta smart ladies will be there including Sarah Deshaies, Chantale Renée, Dawn Ford, Dave Sawyer, Kristen Barlett, and Sasha Manoli. Did you catch that at least one of those is not like the others? The Women in Comedy Panel takes place May 23 at Theatre St Catherine at 3 p.m. Free.
There’s also an awards fest at the end (May 30), but it’s really just an excuse for one last party. The most coveted award is either The Giant Piece of Bark award or The Bag of Beer Award. The Best Local Troupe is for… the best people south of the 40. Just for Laughs and Zoofest also have awards that translate into money and festival spots respectively. Winning an award is a good sign a group will be back. Awards Ceremony takes place on May 30 at Theatre St. Catherine at 9:30 p.m. Alain Mercieca hosts.
Get ready to rock it with Sketchfest on May 21 to May 30. Tickets are $12, $20 gets you into a double bill, and $50 is a bagoon for a pass. Click HERE for tickets.