Did you know that Montreal has twenty different festivals happening this month? From Porchfest to the Turkish Film Festival to the Anarchist Book Fair, May has your quirky interests covered. With everything going on in the city, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You want to venture out, but what if it sucks? I get it. But sometimes you just have throw caution to the wind and go in blind. If you’re up for an adventure, may I suggest Sketchfest? Now in its 11th season, the sketch comedy festival starts tonight and runs until May 14th.
I recently sat down with Erin Hall, Sketchfest’s Festival Director and Alain Mercieca, Theatre St. Catherine’s artistic Director. These two lovely, passionate people educated me on the art of sketch comedy, answering all of my dumb questions such as is it theatre-ey? Are people going to be all “Good day, M’lady” and expect me to interact with some weird character? Do I have to call out a location? Will I get pulled on stage?
I won’t, as it turns out. Sketch comedy isn’t improv, as is gently explained to me by Hall, “There will be no asking of a location. People will be coming on stage with a tightly rehearsed set of skits. We’re not asking the audience to do any work.” Adds Mercieca, “It’s a joyful form of comedy. Less cynical than stand-up. Think of Saturday night live or Portlandia or Key and Peele. All you have to do is show up, drink a beer and just watch some quality acts.”
Sounds painless, right? If that wasn’t motivation enough, here are 5 more reasons to check out Sketchfest:
5) The venues: I have said it before and I will say it again. I love Theatre St. Catherine cafe bar. It’s small enough for you to feel like a part of the show, but big enough so that you can react without being self-conscious. This is the festival’s main headquarters and where you’ll likely end up at the end of the night, but there are also shows at Montreal Improv and – for the first time ever – Sketchfest has one special night at the Parish Hall of the ‘The Red Roof Church’ located near Place des Arts. So now you can laugh at church without feeling bad! Everybody wins!
4) The diversity: This year’s festival has 60 local and out of town troupes from places like Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, New York, Philadelphia, North Carolina and of course Montreal! Each night features two sets of three or four groups performing in 1 1/2 hour slots, with a local funny person hosting. Tickets for each set are $12. With so many troupes performing , it’s tough to pick who to see. Lucky for you, Montreal Rampage has already interviewed The Weaker Vessels from Toronto and Employees of the Year from Montreal with more interviews to come.
3) The extras: In addition to all the sketch comedy going on, the festival is also offering a ton of special events: There’s a festival version of the monthly collaborative comedy jam “Joketown”, sketch comedy workshops and a panel discussion on the state of sketch comedy in Canada. In addition, Montreal Sketchfest has joined forces with Women in Comedy Montreal to present a night dedicated to the hilarious women of sketch comedy. Awesome, right?
2) The vibe: You don’t need to be involved in the local comedy scene to feel included at Sketchfest. As Alain puts it, “the vibe at this festival is unparalleled. It’s the only festival I’ve performed in where thy other troupes actually watch your set and give you feedback. It feels like a family.” Mercieca adds that there’s also a bit of a party vibe to the festival. “I get calls year round from people telling me how excited they are to come to Montreal for Sketchfest. Since there is no budget for accommodation, troupes crash at various apartments and just hang out for 10 days. It’s a really friendly atmosphere.”
1) Bragging rights: You did it. You went out and you tried something new. You took a bite out of Montreal’s seemingly infinite festival scene. You drank a beer, met some fun new people, laughed and went home feeling like you accomplished something. Good for you!
Sketchfest runs from May 5 – 14th. For schedule and ticket information, click here.