Montreal Sketchfest, Day 3: Touch My Stereotype, Flipside, El Jaguar
Sketchfest is in full swing for its short run at Theatre Ste. Catherine, and day 3 definitely featured some good laughs. Edge of the City’s self-proclaimed “short, scruffy Jew” Asaf Gerchak hosted the event for the night – clearly, he was the natural replacement for Eman, the 6 foot tall Palestinian woman who was supposed to host. Asaf kicked the night off well, hilariously blending appeals for ego inflation from the crowd with lightly self-depricating energy, especially about online problems in White Supremacy forums and earning totally pansy names in a Wu-Tang Name Generator. He definitely got the crowd primed for more comedy.
The first troupe to hit the stage was Toronto’s Touch My Stereotype. The set started out somewhat slowly as the group had to find their touch with the crowd. They found it partway through the first sketch and knew their material well enough that they were able to work the key moments through their set. Short sketches proved key – when the subject was brief, they didn’t distend it and lose the comedic effect, and kept us laughing. The group does like literary reference, and based some moderately funny sketches around some classics (and even some hilarious backroom antics with Edgar Allen Poe). Overall I found that the male actors had more consistent delivery, while the girls tended to warm into their roles and eventually deliver much more strongly by the end. It was a solid set with good moments, but the dead moments kind of detracted from the flow.
After the break, Asaf returned to the stage to warm us up again, after which we caught a preview of El Jaguar, who would be performing later in the night. I was unfortunately unable to stay for his set, but if the preview was anything like the show, then it was bound to be positively side-splitting. The man is fantastically funny, sporting a Mexican wrestling mask and uncomfortably tight red wrestling outfit. I am sure nobody will lose the mental imprint left by the painfully clear silhouette of his manhood. Regardless of costume, El Jaguar knows comedic timing like it’s his first language, playing masterfully with awkward silences/pauses and stereotype that doesn’t go over the line. Keep in mind that this is from about a 5 minute preview, but we were all losing it with laughter.
The final act was a collective of stand-up comedians called The Flipside. Last night’s cast featured regulars Massimo, Mike Paterson, and Paul Baluyot. Not present were Rodney Ramsey, Kirsten Rasmussen and Eman, though they all appeared in some of the videos aired. The group mixes live comedy with pre-taped segments – all of which can be seen on their website or on YouTube. Their style is perfectly incompatible. Each is so different, but somehow it all works together. Last night we saw Mike basically as a clown without the nose and with a Def Leppard shirt, Paul just quietly there as an anchor, and Massimo as hilariously awkward, quiet, and rant-prone (to give an idea, his shirt read “I can read.”) The collective has a lot of good ideas – a gritty reboot of punk’d (Clowned); a microchip that plays Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” ad nauseum implanted in a man’s brain; a community college commercial spoof for Sarcasm College. Perhaps my favourite segment they showed in the night was their recording of Traffic Jam comedy, wherein they stood on Montreal street corners and spewed comedy at morning commuters. There’s nothing like live reaction from unsuspecting bystanders to showcase your improvisational abilities. They ended their set on a bilingual rap about being an Anglophone in Quebec and just wanting to practice speaking French. Lots of good laughs from these guys, and they used the awkward moments well.
So that’s basically day 3 of Sketchfest. The comedy rule of 3 was met in acts over the night, and definitely culminated in the funniest bit last. Go see the rest!