Review: The Reception, Shock T’s, Charles (2014 Toronto Sketchfest)

Photo of The Reception sketch troupe from Toronto

The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival continues to sell out and leave audiences laughing for more

The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival (affectionately known as Sketchfest) has been filled with sold-out shows. That means, it wasn’t particularly a surprise when my show partner arrived Saturday night to check out The Reception, Shock T’s, and Charles we were greeted with a s0ld-out sign. Luckily we had advanced tickets, and thank goodness for that, because otherwise we would have missed out on a really great night.

The first thing I was struck with was the jovial atmosphere. We were going to a comedy show, so this is probably seems obvious, but it was more than usual, there was just an enhanced electric energy. I think that’s what happens in a festival because you can feel it during Fringe, too. So, we grabbed our beers and piled into the space and found our seats and waited with anticipation for the show to begin.

The Reception started out the night with some high-energy absurd sketches and non-threatening audience participation. I say non-threatening audience participation because that’s really important to me. I can’t tell you how much I hate it when you can see audience members cowering and praying not to be chosen to be dragged on stage. This audience participation included things like handing out beer to audience members, getting people to check under their chairs for cards indicating they’d won prizes, handing out hot towels, things like that. Stuff that was fun, build up a nice sense of camaraderie and energy in the room.

While The Reception may not appeal to everyone, for instance, the scene involving licking sap from a cardboard tree had me squirming and averting my eyes, there are a lot of laughs to be had, like the meeting between a dinosaur and a young girl which had me guffawing loudly.

Next up Shock T’s took the stage. They were fantastic. My show partner, John, and I both agreed that while we enjoyed all three troupes we saw, they were our favourite. Three people on stage, one of them with a guitar. Their songs told stories. Funny stories, yes, but they weren’t ‘jokey’ songs per se. It’s hard to explain exactly.

One thing John pointed out was that in some ways it was a bit more like the connection you form with a stand-up comic than you do with a sketch troupe, since they weren’t playing ‘characters’, they were being themselves. They were generally singing about their lives – or, at least, it seemed as though they were singing about their lives.

Basically though, they’re three really talented people singing smart funny songs and challenging the audience’s expectations. Although sometimes in comedy it works better to feed into expectations, in this case, the challenging of them is what made it so great for me.

After a short intermission to refill drinks Charles took the stage. Drink in hand, grin on face, I was ready for more and they delivered. Starting off by skewering Santa’s white-privilege and ended by treating us to a courtroom scene in a lego-world these two weren’t afraid to challenge their audience.

They also weren’t afraid to just be goofy and throw in a repressed sexuality joke here and a ‘make the guy do awkward things’ joke there. For me, the mix of thoughtful funny bits and silly funny bits was really great.

Overall it was a fantastic night. The Toronto Sketchfest is a really great curated festival and generally a safe bet for a great night out, tonight’s the last night so, if you can, I suggest checking it out. But, given it’s propensity for selling out, I also suggest booking your tickets in advance.

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Photo of The Reception by Shauna Jean Doherty