Pat Burtscher is honest. He tells you right away that he has no show. Then he looks at the clock and says it’s going to be a long hour. He isn’t lying. Many audience members glanced at the clock on the wall throughout the hour, but no one looked at it more than Patrick himself.
I saw the very first performance of Pat Burtscher’s Waffle House, which is the whimsical name he gave his stand up comedy Fringe show. Unfortunately, he didn’t do much stand-up comedy.
He spent a lot of time talking to the audience, like complimenting our shoes and asking us how long we’ve been married. Occasionally he did try to comedically riff on our answers. These are the sorts of tactics I expect from a host at a club like Yuk Yuk’s and Patrick might fare well in that sort of role, in that sort of venue. I can imagine him doing well at keeping a half-tanked audience roused in between sets. His onstage persona has an amiable shambling and slurring that would well suit a licensed venue, and audience members tend to be more enthused about interaction in that milieu.
A Fringe audience, however, expects a show, a piece that has been scripted, directed and rehearsed. This includes comedy. There is all sorts of comedy at the Fringe – stand-up, sketch, improv – and even when it doesn’t work it usually has had some effort put into it.
Patrick did tell us that he hadn’t expected to be putting on a show because he had been on the wait list. That provided some context. But I couldn’t help wondering – how much notice did he have? Can Fringe call someone up and say “Ok, you’re on in two weeks”?
Then I thought further – there was a lot of space to think while Patrick was yet again checking the time on the clock against his watch – well, it can take a long time to arrange to get here from England. He’s Canadian and told us he lives in the UK because he can make a living there as a comedian. I’m certainly aware how hard it is to make a buck as an artist here, but the fact that he’s a professional comedian in the UK begs the question – why couldn’t he use his material from there for this?
Even if all his jokes are about the Queen and bangers and mash, we’d still probably laugh.
Occasionally he tried for a joke but the result was often very offensive. Now, I like South Park, and I loved Wondershowzen – offensive humour is my favourite when it’s making fun of the right things. But I can’t laugh at a “joke” that rape has ruined men’s ability to hit on women. Or that “handicapped kids” are awesome because all they need to have fun is a colouring book and some crayons.
Patrick ended by saying the show will be much better in eight days because he will have worked on it with all his audiences. Hey, maybe that’s true.
– Pat Burtscher’s Waffle House plays at Venue 5, The Solo Room at the Randolph Academy, 736 Bathurst Street, M5S 2R4
– 60 min.
Wed, July 6 6:30 PM 501
Thu, July 7 7:45 PM 505
Fri, July 8 3:00 PM 507
Sat, July 9 5:00 PM 512
Sun, July 10 8:00 PM 519
Thu, July 14 8:00 PM 534
Fri, July 15 8:45 PM 538
Sat, July 16 4:30 PM 541
– All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $10+$1 convenience fee)
– Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows