Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Storytime... times three
Saturday was all about the spinning of yarns -- some funny, some serious, and some a little bit of both while also waxing nostalgic about a departed friend.
My chuckle-seeking tour of the 2010 fest continued with the Storytellers session at the GST (I was forced, by other commitments, to miss Saturday's edition of The Debaters), a new entry in the fest sked that arrived with great promise and drew a beyond-capacity crowd to the Village venue.
The event, focused on "outsiders and iconoclasts," turned out to be more literary than laugh-packed, but that seemed to be perfectly OK with a very appreciative crowd.
Host Bll Richardson shared some warm memories of his Winnipeg upbringing, and then comedian/author Barry Kennedy -- also a local product -- read a very funny tale about trying to sneak into Blue Bombers home games back in the wild-and-innocent '60s. Journo/columnist Tabatha Southey shared some quirky tales about forbidden reading material, unintentional culling of the pigeon population and shopping for properly fitted unmentionables; then Michael Muhammad Knight read an oddly poignant passage about exploring a mosque while under the influence of mind-altering substances.
Charles Demers spun a funny tale about the ill-considered decision to let a youngster he was babysitting watch A Clockwork Orange; Brit-born author hannah_g told a "true" tale of romance and fertility rites in rural Transylvania; and American activist/icon Paul Krassner read a collection of well-received passages from his autobiography. Acting legend Gordon Pinsent closed the session on a hilariously upbeat note with a sort-of-mythical tale of late-in-life sexual awakening called The First Leg Over.
All in all, Storytellers' organizers would surely have to consider their fledgling effort a pretty big success, based on audience size and reaction. I'm sure it'll be back next year, and stands a pretty good chance of becoming the sort of ongoing success that the birthed-here feature The Debaters has become.
Given the length of the Storytellers show -- 2 1/2 hours! -- a quick sprint was required in order to get to the early gala, True Stories and Other Lies, on time. Totally worth the effort, though, as this turned out to be the best fest show so far. At last, a full-ish house at the Playhouse, and the show itself was pretty darned amazing.
Steve Patterson, one of the best on-the-fly comics around, was a great host, opening with a funny set, covering all the technical gaffes ably and even mining some laughs from an into-the-crowd foray.
First-up performer John Sheehan offered a cautionary tale about trying to watch late-night porn on the bedroom TV while the missus is asleep right beside you -- a strategy that involves keeping the "last channel" button on the remote poised for a quick switch to the sports highlights ("She stirs, I flip; of course, one night she woke up and found me with a full erection, and hockey players on the TV screen..."). Brit import Chris Gibbs pondered the authenticity of accents and the grim realities of C-section deliveries and confessed to having been a bit too involved in his youngster's early education ("I have been thrown out of the daycare for asking, during sing time, 'What happens if you're happy, and you know it, but you really don't want to show it?'"); and Torontonian Sandra Shamas overcame some major audio malfunctions to deliver a hilariously insightful routine about life on the other side (by some distance) of 40 ("I didn't understand it, but I was moving in a new emotional direction called 'I Don't Care...'").
Patterson's mid-show monologue included some priceless stuff about his father's unique brand of profanity ("His favourite word was 'arsehole.' it's like he thought by adding the 'R,' people wouldn't know what he means. It's like calling someone 'a piece of shirt.'"); another Brit visitor, John Moloney, contributed some A-grade material about pet ownership in London and working as a teacher in English schools ("I was a teacher, a German teacher. I taught German; I wasn't German when I was a teacher; I wasn't taking over other classrooms for no apparent reason."); Mike MacDonald took a more-dark-than-funny trip through memories of a stint on psych-ward suicide watch. Show-closer Derek Edwards was, as always, brilliant in his true-life embellishment of dealing with an irrational fear of dogs.
PET PEEVE: I know the Frantic Films folks are still pretty new a this shooting-comedy-for-TV thing, and I know the folks in the production trailer are trying to work on a tight schedule, but would it be too much to ask for the in-the-wings stage manager to afford the warm-up comics the tiny luxury of being able to finish a joke without having an officious TV-crew type wander onstage to interrupt with instructions and/or commands? It has happened at every single taped-for-TV gala so far, and it just seems like a clumsily disrespectful way to treat comics who are doing a necessary and decidedly unglamourous pre-show job. It'll only take a few more seconds, really. Let 'em finish the bit, and THEN walk out to tell the audience it's time to tape the fake-applause footage.....
Stuck around for the beginning of the late gala, Jest Obsessed, long enough to see host Peter Keleghan's pleasant-but-not-hilarious opening and solid sets by Aaron Berg and Trevor Boris; after that, a quick trip to the GST to catch the All-Star Tribute to Ross Rumberg -- clearly the less-popular of Saturday's non-Playhouse after-hours shows (the other being the always-sold-out Dark and Stormy Show), but one that held personal significance for me as the departed Rumor's Comedy Club owner was a kind and supportive friend during all my various forays into the standup realm.
Attendance was underwhelming -- maybe 40 people inside the GST's auditorium -- but those who stopped in to pay their respects saw a pretty great lineup of comics whose association with Ross and the club made this the right place to be. Dan Licoppe hosted, Jon Ljungberg followed (both put in countless hours doing host/MC duties at Rumor's during their early comedy days), and then guest performers Gilson Lubin, Dave Hemstad, Derek Edwards, Glen Foster and Barry Kennedy contributed sets that often included personal memories of Rumor's and Rumberg. It was hard slogging, at times, given the sparse crowd, but there was a definite sense of purpose to the performers' worthy efforts. As one comic queried, however ... "Why would a tribute to Ross not take place at his club?" Fair question..... apparently, according to post-show conversations, there may, in fact, be another Rumberg tribute at some point at the club, but Saturday did represent the only time when all these Rumor's alumni would be in town at the same time to bid farewell to the boss.
That's what I saw. Insights on the Debaters, the dirty show and Kevin McDonald's one-man Hammy show are welcome. And as for Sunday (more Debaters and Best of the Fest), well, I think I might take a rest from the fest and spend some time outdoors with a rake and shovel.
Thanks for the giggles. See you next year.
About Brad Oswald
Way back when Brad Oswald was TV-inclined little kid, his exasperated mother used to say things like, "Would you PLEASE turn that thing off and go OUTSIDE and play? If you insist on watching that IDIOT box day after day after day, you will NEVER amount to ANYTHING in this world!"
Well, go figure.
Brad joined the Free Press in 1987 and has spent most of the last two decades getting paid to watch the television as the paper’s resident TV critic. In addition to previewing and reviewing all the latest prime-time shows and covering the local TV industry, he also usually spends a few weeks per year in L.A., interviewing TV stars and attending Big Phony Hollywood Parties.
Brad also writes about comedy and other assorted entertainment topics, and has been known to wander onto local stages try out his own standup material as part of an ongoing quest to satisfy his deep-rooted need for affirmation. He was the winner of Rumor’s Comedy Club’s first Funniest Person With a Day Job contest.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Brad grew up in St. Vital, attended Dakota Collegiate and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Manitoba before enrolling in Red River College’s Creative Communications program. He played rugby for more than 20 years, which, quite frankly, amounts to a whole lot of blows to the unprotected noggin.
Despite that, during his two-decades-plus at the Free Press, he has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about television and other pop-culture topics, and would certainly not be the worst person to pick for your trivia-contest team.
For some reason, he firmly believes his Mom really would be proud of all this.
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