At Studio 1398 on Thursday, January 23
With sketch-comedy performers all over our TVs, it’s surprising we don’t see more sketch at a local level. It seems to be the ticket to the comedy gravy train. It’s standup and improv that have dedicated venues and legions of fans whereas you have to really be in the know to catch live sketch in this city.
That’s why the rebooted Vancouver Sketch Comedy Festival is such a welcome addition to the scene. It’s one-stop shopping for those looking for something a little different from their usual comedy diet. And with 20 troupes hailing from our humble burg, you’re able to get a sampling and then seek them out at other times of the year, while also taking in companies from Winnipeg, Toronto, and Seattle.
The opening night at Cabaret Stage (aka Studio 1398 on Granville Island) saw six acts over two shows offering a variety of sketch styles. The highlights for me were the one-person sketch of Morgan Brayton and Titmouse!, made up of some of the city’s best improvisers.
Brayton, with an impressive sketch résumé going back to 30 Helens, the Crawford Twins, and her critically acclaimed one-person shows Raccoonery! and Girls Like Me, has another winner with Flibbertigibbet. Hilarious portrayals of unique characters are aided by her strong acting chops and some really funny (and good!) original songs between sketches written in collaboration with Laura Lee Schultz. Brayton hit the stage running, playing an overly competitive mom at an egg-tossing competition, moved on to an operator of the Well-Meaning White Person Hotline, a slightly delusional bus-riding security professional (who provided unsolicited protection for Myles Goodwyn of April Wine), and finally former child star and vaudevillian Mabel, who regaled with tales of her lesbian relationship with Gracie Allen (“Little-known fact: Gracie had the tongue of an iguana”).
Titmouse!, made up of Ian Boothby, Taz VanRassel, Caitlin Howden, Nathan Clark, and Toby Berner, entertained with quick- (and hard-) hitting scenes and solid joke-writing: an awkward dinner with VanRassel as an unashamed Saskatchewanian who proudly trusts clocks over daylight-saving time was absurdly brilliant. You didn’t have to be a Shakespeare scholar to laugh at their deconstruction of Hamlet’s logical flaws. And even when a premise seemed trite, like a rude cellphone user at a funeral, the unexpected payoff was great.
But there were other highlights, too. Riun Garner as a pantsless accountant in Vancouver’s SNAP showed real comic flair, as did whoever was under the white sheet as a ghost in their restaurant scene. And the troupe’s fellas playing gals in a book club was reminiscent of Kids in the Hall both in style and hilarity.
Welcome back, Vancouver Sketch Fest. It’s been too long. Let’s keep this party going next year.