Lifetime Balance: Two Comedy Shows. Two Venues. One Subway Ride Full of Laughs.

A little known fact about me is that sometimes, Thursday nights around 7pm, you can catch me sweeping the stairs at the Comedy Bar on 945 Bloor Street. After all, we all do what we can to support and help the people whose work we believe in. The Comedy Bar is the newest, hippest venue that features comedy, sketch and Improv shows of all sorts every day of the week! It is the brainchild of Sketchersons co-founder Gary Rideout Jr. who, remarkably, has produced more than 400 live comedy shows. The shows are great, the staff are sweet, the drinks are well-priced, the food is good, you can play Pac Man (!), there’s an ATM, and the bathrooms are always clean. Seriously, it’s home away from home.
Last Thursday around 7pm I was sweeping the stairs of Comedy Bar when I heard abundant howls of laughter emanating from the back of the bar. It was the sort of laughter that is so joyful and so hearty that I couldn’t help but smile as I swept. As it turns out, the cast of the Canadian Comedy Award winning Sketchersons and the cast of Ghost Jail Theatre were rehearsing sketches for their one-night only “Event of a Lifetime” united forces show The Subway Series which I caught last night, Sunday April 26th 2009.
The Subway Series started at Clinton’s Tavern, another great little venue for music and comedy on Bloor Street (at Clinton) where Ghost Jail Theatre reins Improv comedy supreme every Sunday at 7:30pm. Here we were greeted with free T-shirts, a Subway token, caramel popcorn and TWO Ghost Jail sets featuring special guest improvisers, members of the cast of the Sketchersons! I love when two different, art forms work in conjunction with one another to celebrate the greatness and the fun that can come from collaboration! It was so neat to watch the Sketchersons reacting on their feet, and then later to watch the Improvisers and to know they had a script in mind and rehearsal time. I was talking to Ghost Jail member Fraz Wiest a few nights ago about the labels of “comedian” and “actor” and “improviser” and I agree that they are all so fluid; there is such overlap of talents and skills it does seem like an injustice to peg any performer as being one specific type of anything.
Highlights from Clinton’s include: Alana Johnston, just really in general you haven’t seen Canadian comedy until you have seen her improvise, Naomi Snieckus lisping her way through knife training, Kayla Lorette doing yoga as though she were made from Jell-O, and Fraz Weist pushing one of the Sketchersons guys off the stage after he read the line, “One time, my dad fell down a flight of stairs carrying a tray of ribs” because that was all the imagery required to conjure the next improvised scene.
We then all crammed into a single Subway car, bombarding the other innocent passengers with a sing-along and exuberant amounts of energy, and rode from Christie Station to Ossington Station and arrived joyfully at Comedy Bar.
The ambiance was immediately different. The Sketchersons have really loud music which is provided by a live band (!) and because there is a “backstage” and a curtain, there seems to be more of a proscenium atmosphere to their show. The sketches were funny, and some of them are especially clever and imaginative. Gary Rideout Jr. did this amazing hybrid between boxercise, dance and stripping which was in equal parts hilarious and impressive. Kayla Lorette was unbelievably funny as the male owner of a strip mall, and Alana Johnston was equally incredible as his feisty, fabulously trashy, wife.
It was an entire room filled with talented; to mention a few funny moments is to leave out an entire heap. At the end of the evening Ghost Jail co-Artistic Director Ian Rowe mentioned that since Ghost Jail begins at 7:30pm and the Sketchersons show Sunday Night Live begins at 9:30pm, it is possible for people to attend both shows back-to-back every Sunday even though the subway ride in between will be short one sing-along jamboree.
It warms my heart to see these two companies joining forces and supporting one another. The extraordinary achievements of the young and the ambitious in this city continue to astound, impress and inspire me. I am so proud of the achievements of these artistic entrepreneurs who work and triumph in a world that is not always conducive to making art, creating work, or having dreams come true.

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