Montreal Sketch Comedy Festival 2013: Thursday Night (8:30PM show)
On the corner of Sanguinet and St-Catherine, you’ll find the “blink and you’ll miss it” venue known as Theatre St-Catherine. The venue itself is rather small and narrow, with nearly every view being a front-row seat. To get a much better vantage point, I slowly walk up the winding stairs to the balcony. The crowd tonight mainly consists of 20-something fashionable artsy types. I notice that nearly every audience member holds a Pabst tallcan beer in hand, eagerly awaiting for a night of many laughs.
The emcee for the 8:30pm show is Walter J. Lyng, a hilarious bearded fellow with slicked-backed hair. He appears confident onstage as he begins the festivities. Lyng warms up the crowd by inviting an audience member onstage and reciting the lyrics to Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” (“pretend you’re a girl, and we’re on a first date.”) Not surprisingly, when he whispers lines such as: “I can open your eyes/Take you wonder by wonder/Over sideways and under/On a magic carpet ride”, it forms a whole new meaning (we grew up on this stuff!) And not surprisingly, the crowd loves it.
The very first act of the night, Lady Business, is a female trio hailing from Toronto. These multi-talented ladies perform sketches ranging from imitating intellectual rednecks, singing a Motown style rendition of their dating lives, synchronized swimming in the form of dance, and the funniest of all, horoscopes readings (“Scorpio: Today you’re going to…die. This is your last day on earth. You should really settle your affairs in order.”) I spoke to one member of the troupe during a break. She told me it’s her first time visiting Montreal, and although she has yet to find time to see our beautiful Old Montreal, I point out the strip club standing in front of us (“Pussy Corps strip club. Err, welcome to Montreal?)
The second act, Get off the Stage, consists of three young men, one of whom definitely resembles a young Phil Hartman. And while one of the performers was physically bound by his crutches (a recent accident it seems), their chemistry and comedic timing is superb. Their final sketch, in which they substitute beer for “urine, elk vomit, and water from Chernobyl”, was a hit with the crowd, as each member repeatedly spit out water at each others faces (it’s simple, yet effective comedy).
Other sketches include: Singer Michael McDonald working in a fast food restaurant (McDonald’s), a sexy dance set to the music of Van Halen (or is it Sammy Hagar?), Jesus (on crutches) unceremoniously visiting a young man whose faith has wavered (“Dad damnit!”), Cigarettes & Cereal, a CSPAN show for kids hosted by a pretentious Christopher Hitchens (“Where do babies come from?” “Poor choices”).
The third act of the early show, Short Form Richard, is perhaps the least experienced of the night, but one can’t underestimate the amount of balls it takes to go up on stage and perform sketches in front of a live audience. Although a few of their bits are hit and miss, the concepts are imaginative. For example, one sketch includes a man who’s been kidnapped and held for ransom. On April Fool’ nonetheless. Sure enough, nobody seems to take his pleas for help all too seriously.
Other sketches include: Parent-teacher meeting in which the student happens to be a prehistoric caveman, the one man terrorist group, two guys heckling at a church (“church is getting so commercial”), Staff Appreciation Night at a cash-only bar (“you DON’T accept checks?”), the Justice League auditions (“Hank Hogan: the number one Hulk Hogan impersonator.”)
The last comedy troupe of the night, Vest of Friends (yes, they all wear vests), appear to be the most experienced of the four sketches groups so far tonight. The all-male quattro ensemble have tremendous chemistry and are simply buzzing with energy. While I’m sure all of their sketches are extensively written and tirelessly rehearsed, it all sounds so natural and ad-libbed. In short, they almost make it look easy. Their very first bit, the Emergency Cornville Townhall Meeting, instantly brings the crowd on their side. “The weather is getting too sexy!” bellows one member, while the other nonchalantly, speaking in a slow Southern drawl, says, “Why just yesterday, the wind blew me.”
Other sketches include: Clark Kent trying to convince Lois Lane to go out with him, a car salesman trying to sell a horse (“Montreal to Toronto in 20 hours.”), and a speaker at a middle school warning students of the dangers of high school (mock stabbings, and lots of em!)