Montreal Sketchfest  2017 a.k.a. MTLSketchfest, is in full swing until May 13, featuring an array of North America’s top sketch performers. Local talent is well represented at the nightly performances, taking place at Theatre Ste. Catherine, ComedyWorks, Montreal Improv and Mainline Theatre.

Among the prestigious lineup, MTLSketchfest features a number of comedians who excel at both stand-up and sketch comedy. Mobtreal was curious about how the two styles/perspectives influence one another. We asked four of this week’s performers, Jacob Greco, D.J. Mausner, Alon Azimov and Kevin Shustack, how the worlds of sketch and stand-up have impacted their comedy.

Greco of “HOT RAW FIRE” and “Okie-Dokie,” began as a stand-up comedian five years ago. “Stand-up was and still is my number one sweet love of my life, but after doing sketch for a year or so I realized that so many of comedic influences growing up were sketch/character types. I just enjoy goofing off hard-style, which is usually easier to get away with in sketch.”

Mausner of “Cousins” began both genres about four years ago. For her, the world of stand-up was somewhat easier to access. “Stand-up seemed like the fastest way to get involved in the comedy world because it’s a self-dependant craft. I could book my own shows, write and perform material on my own time… Stand-up has provided regular performance time and a chance to try out bits or ideas that I can elaborate into sketch. It’s the clearest way of seeing if an idea will work or not. If an audience laughs, it can be expanded and heightened into a sketch.

Azimov, a stand-up performer for six years, appears as “Mothreal” in ComedyWorks’ “An Evening of Characters: Sketchfest Edition.” Azimov explains the distinction between his solo sketch performances and stand-up. “The elements of a play are very apparent in sketch comedy. Stand-up to me feels more like a one man show. Solo sketch feels like one man play, where you dress up as different characters, and the audiences is up for more jokes based on props. It’s really fun to slowly reveal more and more of a character, in either.”

Shustack, who appears with Mausner in “Cousins,” has been performing stand-up for five years, and began sketch comedy last year. Writing sketches has broadened his comedy perspective. “In my stand-up, all of my jokes are so short and I tend to jump around a lot, so it’s been fun trying to create longer comedic pieces where the jokes build off one another. I’m not quite sure how the two forms influence each other since I approach them very differently, but it is nice to have multiple outlets for my comedy. Sometimes I’ll have an idea that just doesn’t work as a stand-up joke but can be turned into a great sketch, or vice versa.” Greco agrees, “In my experience, the writing for one always inspires the other. If I try out a stand-up bit and it isn’t working out the way I imagined, I’ll try rewriting it as a sketch… Writing sketch has taught me to not be so precious with what I’ve written, which has absolutely benefited my stand-up.”

Each performance style, while different, seems to enhance one other. Azimov explains, “I like the quick laughs in stand-up and I like getting to work through a story based on, for example, true life events in sketch. I feel sketch comedy is especially very accommodating to character comedy, which I love… I’m excited when I find connections between both comedy genres and I feel I can make them work together.” Says Mausner, “For me, sketch has been a great tool of finding my own comedic perspective. I get to see what my troupe comes up with, and where they see the ‘game’ in the sketch going, versus where I see it going. I’ve used that perspective in my stand-up to stay true to myself and what I find funny… I think both teach you to listen to your audience and play to their reactions… Stand-up inspires me to be a better joke writer, to be more specific and tight.”

Whether through stand-up or sketch, all four gratefully acknowledge the support they receive from Montreal’s close-knit comedy community. Says Azimov, “People I have met through stand-up and sketch comedy in Montreal have helped me feel like I belong, gave me more confidence in my storytelling and joke-telling ability… Stand-up has benefited me by allowing me to meet hilarious people, people who love comedy, taught me skills to punch up jokes and work on my delivery, and gives me a chance to work hard to get laughs.” Mausner agrees, “Sketch is an extension of my interests and allows me to work with people I like and whose comedic styles I admire. Sketch allows me to broaden my comedic abilities and explore things a bit weirder, but just as funny… it encourages me to really blow things up and not to be afraid to take massive risks.”

Greco neatly summarizes what is probably the bottom line for all dedicated comedians. “Stand-up has ruined my sleep schedule. It’s also brought into my life some of the most fantastic people I’ve ever met. Sketch has done the same… Because I’ve been doing both concurrently for this long, I’m not entirely sure which benefits the other first with this thing or that thing. I just work hard to be funny and to be nice to other people and that seems to be working out for me so far.” There can be no debate about that.

“Cousins”

May 12, 8 p.m.

Theatre Ste. Catherine

Tickets: $12

 

“HOT RAW FIRE”

May 12, 10 p.m.

Theatre Ste. Catherine

Tickets: $12

 

“Mothreal”

An Evening of Characters: Sketchfest Edition

May 10, 8 p.m.

ComedyWorks

Tickets: $12

 

“Okie-Dokie”

The Sketch Republic

May 10, 8 p.m.

Theatre Ste. Catherine

Tickets: $12

About The Author

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Stephanie Ein is a Montreal-born writer & stand-up comedian. Since 2011, she has been writing about Montreal Comedy. As Boss Ein, she shares news, reviews and profiles of the city’s dynamic comedy scene.

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