Review: The Cream of Comedy (Tim Sims Encouragement Fund)

by Jenna Rocca

The Cream of Comedy showcases the top five comic acts to move on after the Fresh Meat presentation about a month ago. At the end of night the winner of the Tim Sims Encouragement Award was announced.

My partner, who came with me the last time around, at intermission said half-jokingly: “they should put them all in the show.”

The Tim Sims Encouragement Fund has been active for 15 years in honour of comic Tim Sims. I was very happy to see a short reel of some of his work before the winner was announced, which included a hilarious bit wherein he mimed the act of taking a shower to the sound of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Memory.” He was passionate about supporting up and coming artists and so after his tragic death at the age of 33 the fund was set up in his memory.

Past winners of Tim Sims Encouragement Award include Gavin Crawford, Fraser Young, and Nathan Fielder, among others.

Host Harry Doupe had the challenge of emceeing the evening for a bunch of friends and family members of all the finalists. He’s an older guy with a real Canadian accent; “this might be the end for me, really,” he joked when he wasn’t looking for things to “tell” us about. In other words, observationally poke fun at, Seinfeld-style.

After the jury left the room to decide on the winner, the crowd, obviously anxious about the fate of their friends, pretty well tuned him out, but his response was ingenious: “these jokes are mostly meant to be quietly reflected upon,” and “the important thing is for us all to remain silent.” That got me going, at least.

I was really pleased to see that most of my favourites made it into the finals. Since they now got about 15-20 minutes for their sets, rather than 5, they did repeat a lot of their material. No matter, it was all mostly gold.

Darryl Orr brought out the deadpan self-deprecating humour again in full-force, noting his face is 50% forehead. I preferred his bucket-list bit. One item: “get this lump on my neck checked out.”

Georgea Brooks, an adorable Canadian version of Lisa Kudrow, talked about taking her coffee with her to the shower at the gym. She seemed a bit nervous this time, over-acting a bit more. But I do like her aloof screaminess. At punch lines she kinds of bends over, mouth gaping, eyebrows raised.

I enjoyed her observations about coming to the big city from small-town Ontario. She said half of the town is probably disappointed that she hasn’t had a baby yet (she’s only 22). And though some of her relatives are worried about her, she said she’s pretty sure the rape success rate is higher in the country.

The cuddly-sarcastic Marco Bernardi was again “just jokes,” or “jj.” And he does note: “guys, I have a beard,” which he does shampoo with Herbal Essences or the like. And while once a person told him that he’d look “more attractive” if he didn’t have a beard, he just responds with a smirk: “well you’d be more attractive if you didn’t have job as a cashier at No Frills.”

The trio “Big Tease” (Alicia Douglas, Steve Patrick Adams, and Mary McDonald)delivers some excellent sketch comedy. While they did do their famous “Ghost Nation Sketch,” completed with an aborted baby ghost, they did a couple I hadn’t seen before. I like how their sketches are tied together with a sort of mock optimism and a framing plot about how each member is almost led astray and wants to leave the group but is invariably lured back into the fold.

Which brings me to the ultimate winner Mike Rita. I feel like this guy is such a loveable badass, hailing from Bloor and Landsdowne; the quintessential Torontonian. He’s got a bit of a street-talkin’ New Yorker accent, and really looks like young Ray Liotta combined with Gilbert Blythe. Hard and soft at the same time. He had the crowd from his first two words, mentioning familiarities like “that TTC B.O. – you know it.”

He did talk about some really crummy things, like how you try to use the washroom in a Coffee Time (the surest sign that you live in a bad area), but of course there’s a guy doing crack in it, and the lady who works there just says “leave him alone he’s a customer!” But he also talked about his Portuguese mom’s adorable acclimatization to his pot-use, offering to serve him food when she knows he’s smokin’.

All these stories were complete with awesome impersonations. He’s really adorable and the audience just lapped it up, as did I. I really think he deserved to win and he will go far as a stand-up comic.

But really, all these acts were upper-crust, or, I should say: the real “Cream” of the Crop. I knew it when I first saw them at Fresh Meat, and obviously the jury agreed. These are some fine Canadian acts that if you don’t check out at open mikes around the city I’m sure you will see on Comedy Central very soon.

Part of Mike Rita’s prize package was 10 minutes of airtime on Comedy Central to use as he pleases. So keep an eye out for that, if it doesn’t make him a viral star before a stand-up star.

The Cream of Comedy was presented on the evening of Sunday, the 21st of November at the Second City Mainspace.

Photo by Dan Abramovici of Mike Rita accepting the top honour.

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