It’s no secret that Montreal is probably the comedy capital of Canada (if not the world). The city alone is full to the brim with funny people, and maybe that’s why hilarious folk from all around the world just keep coming back here.
Right now, we are in the middle of the Montreal Sketchfest, the annual celebration of sketch comedy bringing together more than 60 troupes for your laughing pleasure. This year’s edition kicked off with a fantastic show on Thursday at Theatre Sainte-Catherine, featuring some of the funniest people I’ve ever seen.
The opening night show was hosted by Match Made in Hell. Alain Merceica and Lise Vigneault play a Haligonian couple, plaid shirts, beer, hair, accent (for the most part) and all. To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t really the hoser bit that made their interludes work for me; but rather the synergy they had between themselves. I mean – I’m not Canadian, so cultural references tend to fall flat on me. Very unfortunate, but I am working on it.
After the comedy conch was blown, Employees of the Year, Ross Wegschedier and Emeila Hellman, took the stage. With them, it started rather slow. They started listing things they can’t really joke about. I can’t be sure if they were being bitter in the vein of political-correctness-ruins-comedy, or if they were just “socially aware.” Either way, that definitely wasn’t the highlight of their bit.
Good sketch comedy is all about a good script, even though improvised stuff gets sprinkled all throughout. It’s all about transitions. And the Employees of the Year were pretty darn good with their transitions.
After the bit about jokes they could not do, they concluded that the only thing they could joke about as white folks was dating. Eventually, Ross convinced the audience to help him out in surprising Emelia by kidnapping her. Because, you know, it worked for Justin Bieber in that music video. Then, there was this amazing bit of interpretative dancing.
Then came The Don’t We Boys, a funny trio of United Statesians, who told the audience that they could totally do their show in French, but did not because there are a lot of anglos in Montreal, and they wouldn’t want to ostracize any of them. Very hilarious indeed.
These three white guys mostly rely on dramatic twists and unexpected turnarounds for their comedic punch. For instance, their opening skit was about a clown who orders a clown to come entertain him, because he is depressed. It turns out however, the depressed clown was actually paid by a guy to be entertained by another clown, who gets off from “clown on clown” action. In another one, a car hijacking scene turns out to be a PSA about seatbelts.
On the other hand, however, I would like to call them out on one of the “jokes” they made. Jokes about rape and sexual assault never were funny, still aren’t funny, and will never be funny. Just sayin.
After the intermission came MARV. Alex Brown and Mark Rostrup are two hipster-looking Montrealers, whose skits revolve around the quirky things you would expect them to do. And no, this is not hipster shaming – I’m pretty sure they are very self-aware of the act they’re putting out.
My favourite MARV skit was about a radio show from Saskatchewan called “The Northern Whispers,” which airs solely for the listening pleasure of people who’re into ASMR. For those who do not know, ASMR is that weird tingly, euphoric feeling some people get upon hearing whispering, clicking, smacking, hushing, or any kinda weird sounds. As such, throughout that skit, the two hosts of the show tried to do a variety of different noises, but failed miserably – hence the humour and laughter.
Last, but definitely not least (because I think they were the headliners), was Ladies & Gentlemen. Their show had everything: puns, a more or less linear narrative, puns, courtroom drama, puns, a twist, and did I say puns?
I was mostly impressed by the fact that Chris Sandiford and Daniel Carin were able to tie in all their jokes into one narrative. It wasn’t just disjointed skits one watches one after the other. There was a clear storyline, and for some reason I enjoyed that.
My favourite bit came somewhere in the middle, where Chris and Daniel (who were playing a lawyer and a witness) went on this surreal cross-examination process. If I remember correctly, Daniel cross-examined a gang member, a psychologist, a hot dog, a weapons expert, and some other differently hilarious people.
At any rate, Ladies & Gentlemen were definitely very funny and I think I might go see them once again on Friday, May 13, when they will be performing at the Comedy Church!.
Bottom line is, if you haven’t already been to a Sketchfest show, what the hell are you waiting for? Great sketches, great troupes, great laughter. Don’t miss out.
There is something happening every night for Montreal Sketchfest until May 14. Go to montrealsketchfest.com for more information on how to get those tickets and see all these funny people.
Featured image features Match Made in Heaven.
All photography by Cem Ertekin.