Review: Holodeck Follies (The Dandies)

Star Trek-themed comedy show plays at the Comedy Bar in Toronto

Given these complex times we are living in, I think everyone can use a good laugh. As a fan of the Star Trek franchise, especially the Next Generation crew, I was curious and excited to see how The Dandies‘ show Holodeck Follies, playing at Comedy Bar the second Saturday of the month, spoofed the well-known and beloved characters and tropes of this cult classic, which has always used futuristic space exploration as a backdrop to explore contemporary social issues. According to The Dandies, you do not need to be a Star Trek fan, or indeed to have seen the show, to understand and appreciate the act.

Holodeck Follies is a long-running, improvisatory skit where instead of taking suggestions from the audience, the troupe riffs off each other’s ideas. While this avoids some of the problems that can arise when performers are forced to work with lack-luster or offensive prompts from the audience, the challenge then becomes generating fresh ideas and creating opportunities for audience engagement.

There is also clearly the potential for significant variance in the wittiness and performative energy of each show. In the performance I saw, though, something was missing and it fell flat for me. My mind began to wander, my eyes began to droop and it took me a while to put my finger on exactly why.

There are reasons why Star Trek has been captivating diverse audiences for over 50 years. Amidst the outlandish plot lines, fantastical futuristic sets, fight scene effects and alien prosthetics, the films and television shows have always been used to wrestle with issues we can all relate to. The franchise endures because it is smart, insightful, and relevant.

I went into Holodeck Follies expecting something that would draw from this aesthetic and make if funny. Apart from the fact that they appeared to be on some sort of mission in space, I felt like the events that unfolded bore no resemblance to the source material, did not make much sense, and frankly were not funny, at least in my view.

Lack of focus is an inevitable risk of improv, but in performances that have been funny for me, it is clear that they have some shared understanding of the general trajectory of the piece. Often current events and pop culture references are drawn in to make the material relatable. I didn’t pick up on these elements in Saturday night’s performance, and combined with a lack of audience participation, my own focus waned.

In addition to the fact that you would find my companion’s picture if you looked up “tough crowd” in a dictionary, he also has very minimal exposure to Star Trek. While his lack of knowledge of the franchise didn’t hamper his comprehension, he described it as “random” and wasn’t engaged.

While Holodeck Follies wasn’t for me, I did enjoy the opening acts. There was witty, prepared stand-up from host Dave Getachew and Surer Qaly Deria, both of whom drew from personal experience as “transplants” to Toronto to use Getachew’s turn of phrase. They both demonstrated that it is possible to be funny without making fun of people more marginalized than themselves. I also enjoyed singing along with “Enterprise A”, Ilana Lucas’ tribute to Star Fleet clerical officers, to the tune of “YMCA”.

Holodeck Follies has been running for quite some time and it is entirely possible that it is usually on point. If Saturday night’s performance is any indication, the show seems hit or miss. That being said, it is short, constantly changing and Comedy Bar is always a fun, low-key night out.


Photo of The Dandies provided by company