Kicking off the Headliner Series of this year’s Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival is the Pajama Men at the Theatre Centre. Bringing their pioneering style of scripted comedy blended seamlessly with improvised links and an anarchic energy, there’s been a lot of buzz for this Albuquerque based duo, especially from Festival Producer and Executive Director Paul Snepsts who made the effort to introduce the show to a packed theatre.
There’s always something exciting and terrifying about a bare stage when it comes to sketch comedy. In the Pajama Men’s case their stage consisted of nothing but two chairs which, in all honesty, was all they needed. Kicking off the show with some basic improvisation work in character development (interrupted multiple times by latecomers which the two performers seamlessly blended into their performance) Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez effortlessly warmed the audience up with nothing but some silly voices, body language and mime before shifting into more clearly scripted comedy.
One of the things I really appreciated about the Pajama Men‘s style was that they were able to transition from improv to scripted comedy so deftly that it started getting hard to tell what was planned and what was spur of the moment. Sometimes it was more apparent than others (usually when they had to fight the urge to laugh at a joke or dialogue choice) but the blurring effect gave the whole show an anarchic atmosphere that kept me alert and connected the whole time, wondering what was coming next.
Something that warmed my cold little progressive heart was the self aware commentary that was peppered throughout the show; the pair were happy to call themselves out for walking some very fine lines when portraying ethnic characters, in ways that not only drew attention to issues like cultural appropriation but also kept the sketches flowing in a fun and entertaining way. It really showcased their skills as comedians that they were able to not only walk those fine lines but make doing so fun.
Having finally seen their show it’s no surprise that the Pajama Men are considered such a groundbreaking duo and are cited as inspiration for groups like fellow Sketchfest performers Uncalled For. They work a style of comedy that is incredibly difficult to pull off and over the hour I watched them they made it seem easy. Only one sketch really seemed to fall flat for me; one where they took turns talking into the others mouth and making them cough, and even then watching the two of them fighting to maintain character and just keep trying to escalate the others misery was entertaining in its own right, if a bit drawn out.
With only three more shows left to see them the pressures on, but I heartily recommend The Pajama Men: Pterodactyl Nights. Whether you’re an improv or sketch comedy fan it’s well worth your time and money.
March 6th 8:00 PM
March 7th 8:00 PM & 10 PM
Tickets range from 30 – 53 Dollars and can be purchased online at www.torontosketchfest.com, by phone at (647)505-1050 or from the Festival Box Office at 1115 Queen St. W.
Photo Courtesy of Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival Website