Review: The BFF Variety Hour (Waycik Productions)

Promotional image for the BFF Variety Hour by Waycik Productions The BFF Variety Hour is “bright, bubbly and fun,” now playing at the Comedy Bar!

The BFF Variety Hour, Susan Waycik’s new rotating-guest show at Comedy Bar, is a mix of stand-up, solo sketch comedy, singing, dance and magic, all wrapped in a cozy cocoon of ‘90s friendship-necklace nostalgia and scored by a soundtrack including Britney Spears, the Spice Girls, and, of course, Vitamin C’s seminal “Graduation (Friends Forever).”

Waycik, accompanied by the pinup-worthy BFF Dancers, belted out a tune and then welcomed us all as instant best friends. She slipped into the role of host easily, demanding each performer explain why she is their best friend, asking for juicy crush info, and then telling their fortunes via “cootie catcher.” One expected a game of MASH to break out at any moment. Some of the most entertaining moments came from the back-and-forth heckling between Waycik and her mother, and Waycik got off some good lines when talking about her “best frenemy.” Mostly, though, she stepped back and let her varied lineup of guests do their thing.

Dustin George gave us an entertaining spin on the typical comedian’s peculiar mix of self-deprecation and self-aggrandizement, with a side of depression; it felt familiar, but in a relatable, rather than tired way. His vaguely menacing requests for audience participation mostly paid off, but fell a little flat when he tried to solicit an audience member, who was having none of it, to come up with a semi-racist stereotype about George’s boyfriend, who was sitting in the audience. More successful were his comments about the origin of his stage name, and about his risqué, ripped jeans with salacious knee-revealing holes, showing “the breasts of the legs.”

Tom Hearn displayed excellent character work and comic timing in three solo sketches – a commercial hawking a new alcoholic beverage to the gay community via an increasingly-desperate actor, an office gay frustrated with his straight friends’ attempted set-ups, and, my favourite, a police officer’s attempt to improve his department’s PR to get back into the Pride Parade, due to his love of being able to walk down the middle of the street with no consequences. Hearn’s set was a show highlight; his officer’s clumsy, forgetful attempts to include the one woman in the department made me chortle, and his musical number showed some serious singing chops.

Next, Tamara Shevon upped the acidity with a wonderfully pointed riff on her hometown of Scarborough’s lack of city motto. Though her routine about hitting rock bottom over the summer by sleeping with a homeless person was funny, and clearly intended as more of an ex-boyfriend joke than a laugh at the expense of the homeless, it felt like it teetered a bit close to “punching down” comedy. On the other hand, her closer about the peculiarities of white person cottaging behaviour was sharp and delightful.

Aidan O’Loughlin had an excellent, disaffectedly-deadpan delivery that went well with his self-absorbed persona and tales about the single gay life and phone calls to his mother. Though only tangentially part of his routine, I enjoyed his misadventures in attempting to drink beer through a straw.

Jonah Babins’ magic act was a great way to mix things up after three stand-ups, and was quite charming, featuring skillful sleight-of-hand with cups and cards, and balloon sword-swallowing. I was glad I sat relatively up close, which made the unexpected appearances and disappearances even more impressive.

The one unsolved mystery was the small, actual sword left on my table, the use of which I eagerly anticipated during the entire show — surely, at least during the “sword”-swallowing, it would make an appearance! — only to remain confused at its undisturbed presence.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have expected it to be used. After all, this show was about being BFFs, not crossing blades.

This is a bright, bubbly and fun format for a comedy show. Let’s be real — we all still want to pick a cootie catcher number and find out our fortune.

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