The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival presents over 75 sketch comedy artists
The world has completely gone to shit: fascism is on the rise again, we’re barrelling toward environmental catastrophe and this goddamn winter just won’t end. If there was ever a time we needed a good laugh, now would be it. Luckily, The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival (or TOSketchfest) is presenting over 75 sketch comedy artists over 12 days in three venues in both the West and East ends of the city.
I had the opportunity to check out two of the festival’s headliners on opening weekend: Sasheer Zamata (of Saturday Night Live fame) and Adam Conover (from the popular TruTV series Adam Ruins Everything).
Sasheer Zamata is probably best known from her three-and-a-half seasons in the cast of Saturday Night Live, although any mention of her time on SNL is conspicuously absent from her show. Zamata has a background in improv and sketch comedy but she’s bringing a stand-up set to the festival.
Zamata takes the stage with her her affable, low-key presence and slowly warms the audience up. While her set meanders through some well-treaded “female comedian” tropes—her vagina and her period get quite a bit of airtime as does, the subject of female masturbation—there’s an underlying depth to the material due to the strong intersectional feminist undercurrent that’s present throughout her set.
Zamata is adept at treating serious topics with a deceptively light touch, perhaps best illustrated in the equally hilarious and harrowing account of her trip to the hospital after she was hit by a car. She uses the anecdote to highlight the tendency of medical professionals to disbelieve Black women. Zamata’s brand of comedy is socially conscious but with the edges carefully smoothed.
Adam Ruins Everything
Adam Conover is best known from his TruTV series Adam Ruins Everything in which he irreverently debunks or “ruins” a wide variety of institutions or commonly held beliefs from tipping, to suburbs, to Christmas, to Christopher Columbus.
His live stage show feels like a long-form version of his TruTV show; Conover explores a series of related topics but has the time and space to do a deeper dive; coming at concepts from different angles and drawing some fascinating links between the topics he explores. Those topics range from parasitic organisms to advertising to addiction. With the help of a slide show for visuals, Conover’s engaging, informative performance feels a bit like an amped-up TED Talk.
He burst onto the stage at the top of the show and cranked the energy up to 11 where it stayed for the entire show. Conover clearly relished in the energy from the warm, supportive full-house audience and easily recovered from the few fumbles in his set when a joke didn’t land because of an American cultural reference that the Toronto audience wasn’t familiar with.
The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival runs through March 17 and there is a lot of talent—both homegrown, and visiting from places across the continent—on the schedule including Scott Thompson (The Kids in the Hall) in The Buddy Cole Monologues, K Trevor Wilson (Letterkenny), a live performance by APTN’s satirical news/talk show The Laughing Drum, comedy duo Soul Decision featuring Christian Smith (The Second City) and Kevin Vidal (Come From Away), as well as a new show by perennial Toronto Fringe favourite Sex T-Rex, just to name a few.
Check out the full schedule on their website and book your tickets or pick up one of the festival’s money-saving passes.
- The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival is on from March 7 – 17, 2019 at Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West), Streetcar Crowsnest (345 Carlaw Avenue), and The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West)
- Tickets and Passes are on sale now at torontosketchfest.com
Photos of Sasheer Zamata and Adam Conover provided by the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival