Comedy Critics' Picks
If, like the old song, spring can really hang you up the most, you might consider getting out of the house for a chuckle or two. Fortunately, laughs are a year-round business in Vancouver. Be it a big-ticket out-of-town act or a less expensive locally produced show, there's no dearth of comedy on the West Coast. Following are some suggestions, but keep in mind that there are always new shows being announced that you might want to take in, too. Check local listings.
Urban Well Ninth Anniversary Show (March 7 at the Urban Well, Kitsilano) The best standup comics in the city make this Kits bar their home every Tuesday for Kits Comedy Night. Started in 1997 by Brent Butt and Jamie Hutchinson, it continues to be the hippest showcase in the city. The Draw: Brent Butt, Kits Comedy Night's first and longest- running host, returns. The star of CTV's Corner Gas is always worth the price of admission. Target Audience: The restaurant/bar pulls in the stereotypical rich and beautiful Kits crowd, but if you're neither, don't worry: the comedians aren't either, and love to poke fun at the trendoids in the audience.
Here Be Monsters: Carnival of the Arts (March 8 to 18 at Performance Works) Experimental theatre doesn't exactly sound knee-slappingly hilarious, but Here Be Monsters is an exception. The 11-day festival features Lazy Susan, which was a critics' pick at last year's Vancouver Fringe Festival; Theatre Under the Gun, a 48-hour race to put together a 15-minute play; and Micetro Impro, headed by Keith Johnstone, not only the creator of many TheatreSports formats and games, but a freaking playwriting teacher at the Royal Court Theatre in London, for crying out loud. The Draw: A buffet of laughs from a smorgasbord of theatre, comedy, and music. Oh, and the after-party on opening night will feature free food, too. Target Audience: Independent minds who appreciate the bizarre and the beautiful.
Double Exposure's The Snides of March(March 9 to 26 at the Waterfront Theatre) Bob Robertson and Linda Cullen, who you know from their 10-plus years on radio and TV portraying, well, every politician and celebrity in Canada, are back with a typically topical show featuring their patented impressions of today's newsmakers. For the first time ever they'll be joined by a supporting cast of some of Vancouver's top sketch performers: Morgan Brayton, Peter New, Trevor Devall, and Penelope Corrin. Does that make it Sextuple Exposure? The Draw: With all these mimics on-stage, it will be like an evening with a cast of hundreds. Everyone from David Emerson to Stephen Harper to Mike McCardell will get theirs. Target Audience: Fans of cult show The ABC Comedy Hour (aka The Kopycats) from 1972, which featured America's best impressionists, should get a kick out of this slightly tamer version of Saturday Night Live. It also helps if you've read a newspaper within the last month.
That Dam Tabloid Gossip: From Headlines to Punchlines (March 10 to June 18 at the Giggle Dam Dinner Theatre in Port Coquitlam) Good old-fashioned hokey fun is on the menu in PoCo, not to mention a four-course meal. From preshow drinking games with the cast to naughty sketches to clever and spot-on musical parodies, the evening is a throwback to another era. The Draw: Not the drive out to the burbs, that's for sure. But the hardest-working performers you'll ever see are sure to win you over with their infectious humour. Target Audience: If you're celebrating something-anything-this is the place to go. The actors' uncanny ability to memorize the names of everyone in the joint means you're sure to be referenced at some point.
Kate Clinton(March 26 at the Arts Club Theatre) If Ellen DeGeneres is America's leading lesbian comic and Jon Stewart is its top political humourist, Kate Clinton is a close second in both categories. She describes her style as a "newspaper", covering all the hot-button topics, from media to politics to sports to family to religion. She visits us on her 25th-anniversary 50-city tour. The Draw: You don't have to be a lesbian or a liberal to enjoy Clinton, but it helps. As she has written, "Let's get one thing straight: I'm not." But this columnist for the Progressive and the Advocate, and former high-school English teacher, plays to all audiences. Target Audience: The 63.75 percent of the population that didn't vote for Stephen Harper.
Lorne Elliott: Chasing the Big Silly (March 30 at the Maple Ridge Arts Centre & Theatre, and April 3 at the Stanley Theatre) Now that the CBC has cut him loose, monologist Lorne Elliott has to make his own fun. Chasing the Big Silly is the humorous storyteller's one-man show; there will be no regional standup to introduce as he did for 11 years over the airwaves and across the country. The Draw: His radio gig, Madly Off in All Directions, forced Elliott to constantly write and perform new material, ready or not. Now he's able to put some spit and polish on his jokes and do only the best. He's also a talented and funny singer-songwriter. Target Audience: Considering his broadcast job will be over on March 26, those who already miss him might want to say hello and goodbye.
Stand Up for Mental Health With Mike MacDonald (April 9 at the Arts Club Theatre) Vancouver's David Granirer may be a therapist and may also be described as psycho, but that doesn't make him a psychotherapist. The counsellor and standup comic teaches comedy to people with mental illness, and this benefit show is the 2006 class's debut performance. Headliner Mike MacDonald, who you know from dozens of TV appearances both in Canada and the States, has bipolar disorder, so was pleased to fly up from Los Angeles to help out. The Draw: MacDonald is simply one of the best standups to come out of this country. And considering it's all for a good cause makes this a no-brainer. Target Audience: Those who want to laugh at people with mental illness but do so with a good conscience.
Bob Newhart (April 28 at the River Rock Casino Resort) Bob Newhart has been entertaining audiences for close to 50 years, scoring accolades for his Grammy-winning comedy albums and two long-running hit sitcoms, The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart. Despite the lack of imagination that went into those titles, his standup act remains an inspiration for many of today's younger comics. The Draw: The 76-year-old Newhart is still going strong, appearing regularly on Desperate Housewives and hitting the road with his solo show. But legends don't last forever. Target Audience: This is the perfect date show-if your date happens to be your parents or grandparents.
Ron James: Gone With Ron (April 28 to 29 at the Gateway Theatre in Richmond; April 30 and May 6 at Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver) The Maritime motormouth is back with a new one-man show taking on all the world's troubles, from the personal to the political. The Draw: It's like you're blindfolded as he takes you on a ride from topic to topic. There's a reason he was picked to do a set when Conan O'Brien did a week's worth of shows from Toronto. Target Audience: Those who love the East Coast but hate Celtic-style music can soak in James's down-home charm (and funny accent) without having to put up with annoying fiddles and mandolins.