With the Vancouver Fringe Festival finish line in view, here are five shows that get the joke

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      With one week down, we’re already rocketing toward the finish line. Which means you’ve got time before the 2023 edition of the Vancouver Fringe Festival wraps on September 17, but not a lot of it. Soooo, that means planning your show schedule for the days ahead is imperative. We’re here to help.

      If there’s one thing we find funny at the Straight it’s the endless weirdness of life. The following five Fringe shows are worth catching for no other reason than they subscribe to the idea that we’re not on the planet for long, so we might as well make the most of our time by finding the humour in, really, everything.

      Let’s Talk About Your Death

      Okay, admittedly, it’s not really that funny—the fact that, as Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips once sang, you and everyone you know will someday die. As much a bummer as that might be, there’s no point sitting around and obsessing about the inevitable. In Let’s Talk About Your Death, Dr. Elliot Morris (David Johnston) hosts a TV show where a Death Machine has the ability to let you know the date and time you’ll be shuffling off this mortal coil (hopefully in your sleep instead of following a rural Texas chainsaw duel with Leatherface—dare to dream). Everyone in the theatre gets a card letting them know how they’re going out, the question then becoming, “What might you do differently?” during your time here. On that note, as Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers once sagely noted, “The funny thing about regret is that it’s better to regret something you have done than something you haven’t done.” (September 13, 16, and 17 at Arts Umbrella.)

      Puffy Hair

      While Puffy Hair proudly bills itself as a “raw feminist rant,” the target audience doesn’t necessarily stop at women who prefer to describe themselves as wymyn. Landing at the Vancouver Fringe via New York, the one-woman show has Zoë Geltman doing her best to process what it’s like to have one’s appearance judged by every man on the planet. Woven into the play are threads dealing with everything from negative body image to the kind of gastrointestinal traumas that make you glad you no longer have to work in an office. Add wigs, impromptu handstands, plenty of always-relatable self-loathing, and a fascination with everyone from Joan Rivers to Bob Fosse and you’ve got something that sounds almost as awesome as lunch with Sarah Silverman. Or Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls. (September 13, 16, and 17 at Ballet BC.)

      Fake n’ Bake

      Unless you’re watching a particularly good episode of Intervention (remember the one where the guy was drinking PBR in the shower at 7am and then fell into a shelf of paint cans in the garage?), addiction is rarely funny. Props then to Ellie Heath, who in Fake n’ Bake takes on the multiple voices in her head, fleshing them out with considerable input from a peanut gallery that includes an ER nurse, film director, and—most damaging of all—both of her parents. The giant soda pop, burger, and fries onstage serve as a taster for what’s to come, with Heath chronicling struggles with an eating disorder which then led to battles with booze, cigarettes, and pills. Her skill? That would be finding the laughs in something that was probably anything but funny at the time. As opposed to that episode of Intervention where that woman got totally shitfaced at lunch and then passed out spreadeagled on the lawn next to her high-end SUV, her open purse 10 feet away. (September 14, 16, and 17 at Studio 16.)

      Shawshank: The Musical

      Solitary confinement, suicides, murder, and the occasional old-fashioned sexual assault in the prison laundry room: not exactly the stuff that feel-good comedies are made of. In Shawshank: The Musical, Stephen King’s story of unbridled ugliness and ultimate redemption gets recast by the team that’s given us Hunger Games: The Musical and Die Hard: The Musical-ish in the past. While Ellis “Red” Redding and Andy Dufresne are present and accounted for, the mood is lightened by songs that parody the rich catalogue of Johnny Cash. Think of the possibilities that await: tweaking “Folsom Prison Blues” with “I shot a man in Beaver City just to watch him die,” and replacing the cities in “I’ve Been Everywhere” with real-life American towns like Intercourse, Spunky Puddle, Ballsplay, Fingerville, Clam Falls, Hooker, Love Valley, Climax, and Cumming. Not to mention Sac City and Bigbone. (September 13, 14, and 17 at Performance Works.)

      The Disney Delusion

      It’s not only the Happiest Place on Earth, it’s also one of the weirdest. Disneyland is where some of the dogs wear pants (hello, Goofy) and others don’t (where’s Pluto’s junk?), riotously foul-tempered ducks are somehow deemed loveable, and families stand in an endless lineup to get “It’s a Small World” stuck in their head on an endless loop for two weeks straight. Into this chaos Leif Oleson-Cormack willingly plunges himself. The Disney Delusion begins with the actor dreaming of the perfect first kiss timed to the park’s nightly fireworks display. Then, with his reluctant dream-date Arthur, he ends up in fabulously sleazy Hollywood hanging with a sugar-daddy doctor and a flamboyant Frank Sinatra impersonator. The Edmonton Journal had this to say about Oleson-Cormack: “It’s his rawness and willingness to reveal things very few people would ever admit out loud, never mind in front of an audience, that makes this the best thing I’ve seen so far at the [2021] Fringe.” Unrelated, altogether: “It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears/It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears...” (September 14, 15, and 16 at the Nest.)