bill wood, brian macquarrie & andy bush
While in Toronto one of the ideas that I was interested in with TWISI was helping with a movement that several performers had started which attempted to bring the comedy community and the theatre community together to allow cross pollination of audiences, performers and encourage the development of work that was a hybrid of these often disparate worlds. That is why I am so thrilled that there is so much from the comedy community in the Atlantic Fringe Festival this year in Halifax because in having Bill Wood host an event like the Atlantic Fringe Comedy Night, which brought six wonderfully strong stand up artists to what is predominately a theatre festival is simultaneously showcasing these fantastic comedians to a new audience of Fringe goers, while also introducing a comedy audience to the Fringe. Win/Win for all, thank you Bill Wood.
Bill Wood is a delightful host and he does this type of show every Sunday at Gus’ Pub in Halifax, so if you had fun at Rowe Heritage Hall on Sunday, or if you missed it and are kicking yourselves, you can catch a very similar edition at Gus’ in the very near future. Bill has this lovely aura of ease and politeness when he stands in front of an audience, which makes people feel immediately safe and welcome, which I think is really important. He begins each stand up session with an interview segment, which allows the audience to get to know the comedians a little better and forces the comedians to stray off script a little. Wood is a consummately gracious host and the audience gets the sense that “we are all friends here” and even if this is a blatant lie, it helps the evening run smoothly and essentially endears all the guests to the audience.
Brian MacQuarrie kicked off the evening with a bang and a really strong stand up set. I have seen MacQuarrie multiple times in sketch comedy, Improv and on a few occasions acting in theatre, but this was my first time seeing him do stand up and it certainly will not be my last. I think Stand Up is often at its best when it is very specifically and deftly constructed storytelling. MacQuarrie has mastered the art of sharing strange or interesting things that he has experienced with maximum hilarity. If you love Brian in Picnicface or have never seen him before, his stand up act is one not to miss!
Andy Bullman is one of the most adorably sheepish, endearingly awkward comedians I have ever seen. She hails from Prince Edward Island (the heart of the World) and she is terrifically funny in a very nonchalant sort of way. Bill Wood responded to her set saying, “What a doll!” and I had the same reaction. Go see her if you can!
Andy Bush, who is all exuberance and “THIS IS AWESOME”ness in his stand up act told this amazing, harrowing and hilarious story about this time that him and a buddy decided to do shots of 151 alcohol and also light them on fire. The strength of Bush’s stand up is that it is not just what he is saying that is funny but also the way that he says it. His stories become dramatic re-tellings of events where he is able to combine his talents as comedian, writer and actor into one excellent performance.
Bryant Thompson rounded out the evening and brought a huge crowd with him, which was fantastic. He has a swaggering stage presence, a little cockier than the others, but not enough to find off putting. His set is strong enough to warrant the attitude and also helps his jokes about defending the Tall Ships to smug Americans and only fucking mildly with a huge dude named Binkey land even more hilarious and solidly. I would definatley seek out Thompson’s act to see a wider breadth of his material.
In all, my favourite aspect of Sunday Night Comedy: Fringe Edition, was getting introduced to some of the local comedians who are working in Halifax at the moment. With floating venues (and floating performers who oscillate between here and Toronto) it is often hard to know where to go in the city to see our city’s best stand up shows, so it is fantastic of Bill Wood to have rounded so many of them up and brought them to the Atlantic Fringe Festival. I will certainly be popping by Gus’ Pub for more in the near future and I hope you will too.