The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival continues until Sunday and tonight I was able to catch a double bill of The Hottest Girl in School and Fusion Comedy. It showed the variety of offerings that can be found in the festival. Although the material in both shows were vastly different in content, it was still a thoroughly enjoyable double bill overall.
Up first was the youthful Hottest Girl in School whose members got together while studying at the Humber College Comedy program. We were told in the introduction that this would be the last time the troupe will perform on stage together. This was unfortunate to hear because, while some of the performers were stronger than others, the troupe mostly played off each other very well.
Alas, their material did not plow any new ground and my companion described it as “kinda beige.” Most of the sketches revolved around the usual subversion of white Canadian stereotypes complete with ‘Canada, eh’ accents: the smiling suburban wife who cares a little too much about charades, the driving instructor who might moonlight as a hitman, and the junior league hockey coach who is too preoccupied with a recent game loss. There was even a skit about leaving work early that seemed to come right out of an episode of popular bro-sitcom Workaholics.
However, what they lack in content they certainly made up for in skill and polish. The sketches were well-structured, the buttons were sharp, the ad libs always added rather than detracted from the jokes, and I enjoyed most of the physical comedy. Although they may have seemed slightly nervous at the beginning, all the performers from The Hottest Girl in School showed great potential and I look forward to seeing what they do in their solo careers.
Fusion Comedy features an all-performers of colour troupe “spotlighting material from a culturally-diverse, LGBTQ perspective.” The fact that a host can introduce one group as “the most diverse” should inspire Toronto Sketch Fest to work harder at diversifying their line-up in the future. Speaking to one of the performers after the show, we lamented about how “diversity” can still be seen as a brand because our stages are still not inclusive enough.
In any case Fusion Comedy proves that when you seek to include multicultural perspectives and experiences on stage, you get more interesting material to work with. Although not every member of the audience tonight seemed comfortable enough to laugh at the fantastic biting commentary in their sketches, these two women of colour had the time of our lives.
Granted, not every skit worked. I thought the half-wolf metaphor had been done too many times before but my companion loved it because it resonated with her as a person of mixed ethnicity, and we both agreed that the ending Beyonce number – while fabulous – should have been shortened. Most of my critiques actually had to do with length. There were so many sketches that started off strong but lagged in the middle or faded off when a snappier ending was called for.
Despite these issues, when Fusion Comedy was on, it was electrifying. We both loved the really strong series of sketches on Black history that satirized the Heritage Minutes videos. I also greatly enjoyed this streak of absurdity that seemed to run through many of the skits. A lot of the time I couldn’t decide whether I was actually laughing at the jokes or just at the sheer absurdity of what was happening on stage.
I really hope that the material produced by Fusion Comedy is an indication of the future direction of Canadian comedy as our stages strive to become more inclusive and I hope they (and more troupes like them) continue to be a part of the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival line-up.
- Fusion Comedy will perform again 10:00 PM tomorrow with The Utilidors at Comedy Bar (945 Bloor St. West). The Hottest Girl in School has now finished their run.
- The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival is on until March 12th and is hosting a variety of events at venues across the city. The complete schedule of events is here.
- Ticket prices are $15 and are available online, Telephone sales are available at 647.505.1050. In person sales are available at the Advance Box Office, located at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West), from 12 to 5pm.
Photo of Fusion Comedy provided by the festival.