Review: Berni and Amy Rises Up: The Importance of Being Foolish (Berni Stapleton and Amy House)

Photo of Berni and Amy Rises Up+

Comedians Berni Stapleton and Amy House take the Tarragon Theatre Stage in Toronto

How many Newfoundland comedians does it take to entertain a Toronto audience? Well, apparently the answer is two. Taking a hilarious look back at their careers and their 35-year long friendship, comedy veterans Berni Stapleton and Amy House performed their sketch revue show, Berni and Amy Rises Up: The Importance of Being Foolish, to a packed house of eager spectators Wednesday night.

This dynamic duo dished out an eclectic brand of off-the-cuff comedy complete with the dirtiest of limericks and Shakespearean soliloquies thrown in for good measure.

The show follows two has-been actresses who once again want to enter the spotlight. All they have to do is write a smash-hit of a play. As they relive some of their past glories, the audience is treated to re-enactments from some of House’s and Stapleton’s past repertoire, including an excerpt from House’s tongue-in-cheek work, Scratch and Pull, a one-woman show about a welfare mom’s strategy to get rich quick with scratch lottery tickets.

The writing for the entire production was quite clever, and the story elements flowed seamlessly together. And while there were quite a few geographic and cultural references that perhaps only a true Newfoundlander would understand, the bulk of the material is easily appreciated by a general audience.

Sure, there were some moments that just seemed too over the top, and admittedly a little ludicrous – like when both Stapleton and House pull out pocket mirrors to not only simulate examining their lady bits, but also provide commentary regarding their aesthetic appeal – but the way both Stapleton and House fully committed to each and every bit made this show a genuinely enjoyable experience.

If I had to choose a single word to describe this pairing, it would be “fearless”. Stapleton and House gave a no-holds-barred performance and were definitely not afraid to take risks, including several on-point physical comedy skits that earned boisterous bouts of laughter and applause from the audience. My personal favourite being a bit where Stapleton, clad in a cleaning lady outfit does a magnificently awkward burlesque strip tease while comedically stumbling to remove each article of clothing. I mean, I didn’t think it could be done, but kudos to her for making dishwashing gloves “sexy”.

The team of Stapleton and House are a comedic match made in heaven. The way they effortlessly riff off each other really helped bring the material to life. Indeed, you could tell this duo is a pair of seasoned performers, as the timing was spot-on, even pausing to allow for laughter. There’s just something so rewarding about watching masters in their element.

There’s a distinct East Coast flavour to Berni and Amy Rises Up: The Importance of Being Foolish. And if you’re a fan of comedy that effortlessly mixes crude humour with sharp prose, you’ll eat this show up.


Photo by Vatcher Photographics