The tenth annual Montreal Sketchfest, Montreal’s sketch comedy festival, kicked off on Thursday night at the lovely Theatre St Catherine. Featuring sketch comedy groups from all over North America, this is one festival that is sure to please. Opening night was an evening full of my favourite medicines: laughter and cake (but mostly laughter).
The evening was hosted by Ladies and Gentlemen, AKA Daniel Carin and Chris Sandiford (who I saw last December at the Wheel Club), and was a laugh riot from the start. Daniel and Chris have excellent comedic chemistry which eased us into the show well. They played a few games with the audience, including such classics as and Whose Half-Thought Is Better? For the latter, Daniel and Chris each told the audience a half-thought and we had to vote for which one was best. Chris made the audience roar (and won) when he said, “Are stamp collectors allergic to friendship?” [By the way, the answer is no. We are not allergic to friendship.] Ladies and Gentlemen will be at Theatre St Catherine on Friday, May 29 at 9:30.
First up was the Montreal-based group Swamp Mouth, comprised of Sarah Stupar, Sara Quinn and Steve Patrick Adams. The ladies played Vanessa and Janessa, best friends who are basically the same person and both have the hots for Jason, played by Adams. The girls end up pulling a Freaky Friday and switching bodies when Creepy the Troll comes around after some severe day drinking and messes up his magic plans for them. The girls learn to cope with their new bodies (even after learning that Vanessa has chlamydia) and end up marrying Jason together. This is after his ex, Nutsy the Squirrel, has passed away after a courageous battle with cancer. Sarah and Sara pulled off the ditzy teen girl act perfectly and Steve switched from Jason to Vanessa’s lusciously-haired divorcee dad to Creepy the Troll to the STI-result giving doctor with ease.
Freddie and Jess followed with several short, but hiiilarious sketches. The two work incredibly well together and jumped into new sketches every couple of minutes. They started their ten sketches off with a Michael Bay-inspired physical theatre seminar where they reenacted Hollywood classics such as Twister, Dante’s Peak and The Perfect Storm with a Michael Bay twist. Basically they blew up the titular twister, the volcano and the crashing waves. Another memorable sketch was the one in which they were passive aggressive newlyweds thanking:
a) the mother- and step-mother-of-the-bride, for also wearing their wedding dresses;
b) the venue, for trying to get rid of their one very smart rat by introducing a very smart snake (they obviously ended up working together);
c) the mysterious wet and aggressive dog, for being a wet and aggressive dog;
as well as a host of others. Their last sketch was perhaps the most memorable of the evening, with Freddie playing a 15-year-old boy who discovers, after being mouthy with his grandmother and mother, that his entire family (and everyone else he has ever met) is played by character actor Jess Bryson. It was like The Truman Show, but hilarious. Freddie Rivas and Jess Bryson are Toronto-based and started their sketch monthly, The Scene, in 2014.
After our short intermission, we were greeted with a treat for the ears AND the eyes with Barbara, a two-man band who happened to be dressed as paper cut-out men. At first, they terrified me, which surprised me because I didn’t realize I’m terrified of giant paper cut-out men, but soon we were laughing. They sung about creeping outside of Lasenza and slightly f-able dads. Barbara is made up of brothers Raynor and Tyler Semrick-Palmateer and hails from Toronto.
HOT RAW FIRE, Theatre St. Catherine’s house sketch troupe closed the evening for us. One of the bigger groups of the evening, HOT RAW FIRE consists of five members: Danny Belair, Katie Leggitt, Dierdre Trudeau, Paul Naiman and Jacob Greco (who I also saw last December at the Wheel Club). They did six intertwined sketches, including News Now, where they took us live to Theatre St Catherine, pronounced Theater Stacatherine, where Carol Chase (Katie Leggitt) was “chasing the story” and Timothy Fletcher (Paul Naiman) was “fletching you the story” of a gathering of some sort. They had a live camera feed first from outside the the theatre and then inside the theatre capturing the “loud, guttural noises” emanating from the crowd, who happened to be drinking an “elixir” of some sort from glass bottles. The evening ended up culminating in a car chase and police shootout when two buddies (Jacob Greco and Danny Belair), who have just returned from a song-heavy camping trip, decide to destroy the iCloud to get people off their phones and bring them back together. HOT RAW FIRE had it all; song, dance, wine, cheese, edge-of-your-seat action and hilarity.
Once the acts had ended, Sketchfest communications director Erin Hall brought out a lovely cake to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the awesome festival. It looked amazing and, being the serious journalist I am, I taste-tested it. My findings were positive; it was pretty darned tasty.
I believe that sketch comedy is the great comedy equalizer. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love it. Therefor, you (and probably everyone you know) should come out and catch a few Sketchfest shows. The talent is big and the laughter is even bigger.
Check out the Schedule for Sketchfest 2015 here. Seriously. Do it.