Sketch Comedy Lounge: A "Full-On Gang Bang of Comedy"

I have come to realize that anyone who dismisses Canadian theatre (classical, contemporary, cabaret, musical theatre, sketch, improv or otherwise) as being either nonexistent or inferior to that of our American counterparts is just looking for it in all the wrong places. As it turns out, if great sketch comedy is what you are looking for, the Rivoli’s Sketch Comedy Lounge (sponsored by the Comedy Network) every Tuesday at 9pm provides a myriad of hilariously impressive sketch comedy troupes showcasing all their laughter-inducing skills in rapid succession. This is a fantastic way for prospective audience members to familiarize themselves with a wide array of talented sketch artists in one evening while enjoying three hours of some of the best comedy Toronto has to offer.
The evening was MCed by the uproariously charming Ryan Belleville, Jack Daniels’ lil’ whiskey elf himself, who kept the night’s momentum going with some really great interspersed standup bits. Belleville has recently returned to Toronto from several years working in Los Angeles and I look very forward to seeing him perform a longer set in the future.
The sketch comedy kicked off with Manicorn and their distinctively artistic sketches. They have a beautiful sketch which is performed in the style of the Silent Film comedians to a soundtrack of Louis Armstrong’s rendition of “La Vie En Rose” and then Alan Kliffer and Kristine Hutchens performed the raunchy “Whole New World” sequence that Disney omitted from their 1992 film Aladdin. What is particularly striking about Manicorn is that, while many comedians are able to parody specific genres of theatre and film, most often the specifics of these genres are only suggested broadly in favour of the jokes. Manicorn’s sketches, however, were remarkably detailed and executed with beautiful precision, whether it was the clownish antics of early cinema, or an incredibly well-choreographed magic carpet ride.
The Lusty Mannequins (Ashley Comeau and Connor Thompson) infuse their comedy with a strong dose of intellectual humor with their snapshots from dates with several iconic historical figures including Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Sigmund Freud. Witty wordplay abound, Comeau and Thompson also showed off their musical talents with a song in which Comeau (reminiscent of Bernadette Peters circa 1968) laments about being unable to finish while having sex with her boyfriend, only to have Thompson rush ahead in the song, leaving her quite unsatisfied. Clever!
Allison Price and Patrick Smith pack an incredible punch in Haircut, teeming with exorbitant amounts of energy and intense hilarity. They burst onto the stage with an elderly lady and Smith proceeded to rap (incredibly well) about this grandma’s unexpected sexploits, while Price sang the chorus with pitch-perfect R&B flair. Smith showed off his gift for physical comedy as he portrayed a warmhearted, simple minded, enthusiastic dog while Price was absolutely brilliant as the epitome of the paranoid, passive aggressive, insatiably hyper, slightly psycho girlfriend.
Inessa Frantowski of Bull Hooey took the audience into her grade seven fantasy, winning the “Best Legs Mississauga” contest and having John Stamos, as Uncle Jesse, parachute into her bedroom on his way to a Beach Boys concert. The Boom (Shefi Asher, Tim Dorsch, Dan Galea, Garrett Jamieson, Jay Wells L’Ecuyer, Desiree Lavoy-Dorsch, Eytan Millstone, Deborah Robinson, Keith Pedro, and Nikki Payne) performed a particularly funny Bollywood sketch. Norm Sousa and Cole Osborne were both fantastic in Punch Drysdale’s set and had the house in stitches with their use of the full length Law&Order Theme Song. The all-female sketch troupe She Said What (Megan Deeks, Carly Heffernan, Emma Hunter, Megan MacKeigan and Marni Van Dyk) was equally as fierce, with brilliantly quirky sketches, including one particularly delightful one about Elizabeth and Taylor, twins conjoined at the back and the sternum with attitudes as distinct as their gigantic lisps. Frenzy (Steven Boleanty, Kevin Dowse, Miguel Rivas, Freddie Rivas and Marco Moltisanti) had a magically poignant sketch in which mannequins were constructed with the use of balloons. Approximately 3 Peters (Peter Gal, Pete Hill and Ian MacIntyre) performed a fantastic sketch between Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr which captured the sense of Abbey Road perfectly.
Sketchersons, Pat Thornton, Sarah Hillier and Andy Hull teamed up as Superman Family and presented a number of very short snapshot sketches. Their writing technique is admirable in its pith and their ability to dive right into the very essence of the comedy. They brought the house down with a passionate lip synch to “Let It Be” which was one of the most captivating moments of the evening and Pat Thornton played Bobo, a lawyer who speaks and considers the world around him with every perfect nuance and intonation of a precocious five year old. Thornton’s Bobo is so hilariously strange, and his interactions with his wife, played brilliantly by Sarah Hillier, are so absurdly interesting, that I think BoBo has all the potential for longevity as Stuart Larkin from MADtv (played by Michael MacDonald). If only there was a Canadian television show that could give support and exposure to the sketch artists working in the back rooms of bars around the city, I think performers like Pat Thornton would thrive on a televised Canadian equivalent to MADtv or Saturday Night Live. That talent here deserves, and what’s more, DEMANDS– to be developed and supported!
So, if you have a hankering for liquor and laughs and you can’t wait for Friday, I strongly suggest that you head down to Rivoli (332-34 Queen Street W.) on Tuesday nights at 9pm to catch their Sketch Comedy Lounge which features a variety of resident performers each week. The show is Pay What You Can with a suggested minimum of $5.00. It just might be the biggest bang for can get for your buck.

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