Last year this time I was scrambling to listen and relisten to the 1976 Saturday Night Live album and make sure I had my talking points all straight in my head. This year is a different story, I was there to just enjoy The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival kicked off in earnest yesterday with their Gala opening and it was a perfect charcuterie plate of sketch comedy.
When I arrived at the Theatre Centre on Queen West by Ossington the Toronto comedy community was out in force in the lobby of the Franco Boni Theatre which had the day before played host to the Toronto Sketch Comey Film Festival where they announced the sketches that would be in consideration playing at the start of every show in the festival. People were walking the Blue Shag carpet and snapping photos, joking around pulling big laughs from their friends, and rubbing elbows whilst drinking beer and eating oysters.
The energy in the room was truly electric, the festival was entering it’s 15th year and despite challenges thanks to the change in government the producers (including Paul and Julianne Snepsts, Damien Nelson, Zohaib Khan and Erin Conway plus an army of volunteers and a handful of staff) pulled together an amazing lineup featuring a breadth of talent from around the globe. With 12 days of programing starting March 4th through the 15th and acts performing at Comedy Bar, the Theatre Centre, The Streetcar Crowsnest and John Candy Box Theatre.
Last night I was there to watch friends of the podcast Brandon Hackett and Jon Blair but also see Brandon perform as his duo Hacket & Langdon (with Jonathan Langdon) for the first time plus see the Diddilin’ Bibbles (Lesley Robertson and Matt Shaw) whom I’ve been trying to get to see for ages but continually had fate intervene plus the astounding Diane (Laura Ramoso) who performed at the same Sketch showcase as I had and I was totally enthralled with her amazing lightning performance.
As we settled we watched the hilarious filmed sketch Boss Prevention Program by the Toronto sketch troupe Sweet Pete (Áine Davis, Kyle Forsyth, Patrick Ronan and Lana Maclin). For anyone who’s ever worked in retail the pun is as much a delight as the sketch itself. I’m looking forward to watching all the videos over the course of the shows. We didn’t linger though, pretty soon after the video Paul Snepsts came out to welcome us to the show. Paul charming as ever warmed us up for the acts and reminded us of the big hurdles that the festival had faced over the past year being sure to thank all the sponsors for their contributions.
I’m not going to spoil any of the acts sketches but I’m going to try and capture the spirit to encourage you to go out and get a ticket to see them over the next two weeks.
Out of the gate we were greeted by Jon Blair (former Sketchersons member and writer plus veteran of Toronto Sketchfest, Just For Laughs, This Hour has 22 Minutes and Because News) and his delightful comedy. Jon did a trio of sketches that combined pop culture, topical humour and a slightly delightful absurdism that still felt grounded. The energy from Jon had the illusion of being frenetic in nature but was always controlled with John steering you to the laugh and knowing when to go high or low with the joke.
Next up was the Diddlin’ Bibbles, the duo of Lesley Robertson and Matt Shaw as their characters Jessop and Rose-Marie Bibbles (sex positive polyamorous life partners from the town of Widdlywack sexy folk singers). Lesley and Matt are accomplished actors with Second City Conservatory, George Brown Theatre School experience, a host of classical theatre roles and coaching for The Assembly. The full breadth of their talent is on display the moment they walk onto the stage, these characters are realised and seamless. There is a hilarity to their performance that is simply unbridled and the ability to balance the work of singing and telling jokes and little asides that keep the hilarity dialed to 11 is truly amazing. Next time they are performing I will make the time to get to see them as this was a joy to behold.
After a brief break we came back to diane, Laura Ramoso has travelled the world before settling in Toronto where she graduated from Second City’s Sketch Conservatory and is an alum of the Bad Dog Featured Players as well as being invited to perform at the Just for Laughs New Faces Solo Character Showcase. Laura wowed us with a mime piece that was totally relatable to everyone who’s ever found that perfect something to just have it go sideways as well as a segment from her show diane which included a whiplash switch of characters and an amazing turn. Laura’s talent and professionalism showed through as did her love of clown and commedia dell’arte and its meshing with western sketch styles created an amazing piece of comedy.
Lastly we closed the night out with Hackett & Langdon, Brandon you may remember from our show at last year’s sketchfest (a veteran of the Sketchersons, This hour has 22 Minutes, The Beaverton and Second City) was joined by Jonathan Langdon (No Tomorrow, Utopia Falls, NOS4A2) and had us laughing out of the gate. Their sketches combined physicality and subtlety with silly asides that kept the audience engaged and laughing never knowing where they were coming from next. My favourite sketch of theirs ended on such a twist there was literally no way I’d have seen it coming.
As we wrapped up Paul came out once again to thank the sponsors and thank us for being there and also remind us of the bucket at the door. Last year the festival took a big hit when arts funding in the province was slashed, this year more than ever they need your help. At the end of the show if you can help donate to keep the festival going and fund their grant programs that have helped sketch artists fund projects including stage and screen performances, you can help fund professional development projects for artists who attend the festival to develop their skills and you can help just keep the festival going. The amazing thing is, by dropping some money in the bucket Second City will match your donation dollar for dollar. It’s wonderful to see organizations like Second City, CBC and many more step in to fill the gap and have artists help other artists keep their voices strong.
Come out and check out this year’s Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival and hopefully I’ll see you around.
We (Jason, Helena and Matt) had the joy of sitting down with Martha O'Neill and Andrew Fleming to discuss Robin Williams' debut album Reality... What A Concept. If you don't do drugs you'll surely feel like you've done them after going down the rabbit hole of Willams' album Reality... What a Concept. His rapid fire delivery, his off the cuff improvisational jokes and his pure joy is infectious and even when some of the panel may not have got the jokes they felt better for having listened to it.
For the full experience also listen to our earlier episode A Night At The Met with Robin Williams featuring Peter Hill and Sharilyn Johnson which is truly an interesting juxtaposition. Over the course of a few short years Robin dramatically changes his style and structure and when compared it really illustrates the scope of his talent.
Thanks for listening and remember before enjoying the podcast listen to the album for the full experience.
It may be a bit late but the wait is worth it, welcome to the first episode of The Comedy Album Book Club recorded in our new studio. I was lucky enough to have the pleasure of sitting with SiriusXM Top Comic finalist Chanty Marostica, comedian Kat Letwin and playwright and performer Adam Bailey. We dug into the album Jesus Is Magic by Sarah Silverman. It was a lively and fun discussion where we touched on Star Trek: Voyager, Drake, the 90s and drill down on growing as a comic.
We at the Comedy Album Book Club love sharing our comedy nerdiness with people, so in that spirit, we’re going to take you along for the ride of my ten days in comedy paradise. Ten days a year the city of Toronto turns into a comedy fan’s playground. JFL42, an offshoot of Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival, that has evolved into its very own special entity. Growing over the years it has adopted its own traditions and returning shows like Andy Kindler’s midnight showcases at Second City. In addition stable of headliners and “The 42” have continued to diversify with “ComedyCon”. ComedyCon consists of daytime events that include one on one interviews where performers chat about their careers and process as well as podcast tapings where you can join the audience.
This is the 7th year of the festival and the fourth year I’ve attended, at first the festival is a bit of a tricky beast to wrangle. Unlike many festivals, you don’t simply buy a ticket. Instead, you buy a package that has a variety of options including “credits” to use for reserving shows. In prior years the ComedyCon events have been walled off available just to “VIP” package holders but over the last two years these events have opened to everyone. The bundles range from individual shows (for as little as $25 dollars for The 42 and ComedyCon events and $32.50 for headliners), 2 credit passes for $55 dollars all the way up to the VIP pass with preferred seating, a “special gift”, 4 headliner tickets and 12 credits and the assistance of a “concierge” to “help you plan your festival” pricing in at $299.
Unfortunately this month Jason couldn't join us so I (Matt Ardill @commonperson) had the pleasure of hosting the podcast. I was lucky enough to sit down with Peter Hill (@peterjameshill) and Sharilyn Johnson (@thirdbeat) to discuss the Robin Williams album A Night At The Met! It was a night to relive memories of our youth and laugh out loud from The Social Capital Theatre (@thesocap). We hope you enjoy the episode and we miss you Robin.
Hi everyone, this is Matt Ardill the co-producer of Comedy Album Book Club. I had the pleasure of sitting down with our guest Adam Bailey three weeks ago following his turn on the panel where we spoke about Eddie Izzard's Force Majeure. We got to talk about his process of writing and all the influences that go into it.
A lot has happened since this interview including the addition of Adam's show The ABCs of Love with Adult Baby Cupid to the Toronto Fringe Festival running from July 5th to July 15th and the Hamilton Fringe Festival running from July 19th to July 29th. If you are in Toronto or Hamilton for either of these dates, do yourself a favour and make time to see it.
Please enjoy this interview and let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Our regular host Jason Deline (@JasonDeline) was under the weather and the intrepid Helena Marie stepped in to fill his hosting shoes while we discussed the multi-talented Ben Elton's album Motormouth. Joined by Neil Jones (Radio Project X), myself Matt Ardill (@commonperson) and Kyle Scott (@gkylescott) while we dive into the man who made Edmund Blackadder so delightfully evil and The Young Ones' plot make sense as he delved into the world of staund-up.
As always our amazing engineer Andrea Miller kept our show ticking along and please check out our home on Facebook for more information about future shows, leaving us a question or suggesting an album.
Welcome to the inaugural episode of The Comedy Album Book Club's podcast. Jason was joined at The Social Capital Theatre by guest panelists comedians Olivia Stadler and Jules Osen as well as video game and pop culture blogger Matthew Ardill to mull over the classic An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May and discuss its impact on comedy history with thanks to engineer Andrea Miller for bringing the noise.