3 min


Rockets' red glare

QUEER NATIONAL. The career of Canada's newest comedic export to the US, Gavin Crawford (seen here as Marissa) has reached blast off. Credit: Xtra files

There are too many examples of incredibly talented people whose careers fail to live up to what they deserve. Toronto is a vibrant but tough town for entertainers; it’s littered with artists who almost made it, who struggle too long for a big break (and an appropriate income).

What a treat it is, then, to witness a success story.

Comedic actor Gavin Crawford arrived in Toronto from Vancouver five years ago, mounting his first one-man show at Rhubarb in 1998. Since then, his career has been on a steady incline: Second City mainstage performer in the ’98-’99 season, his own comedy special in ’99 and numerous festival appearances were all strong indicators of the strength of his talent and his appeal to audiences.

Now with his own prime time series set to air in Canada and a regular gig on a big US series, Crawford’s career is going through the roof.

The Comedy Network premieres The Gavin Crawford Show, four half-hours – and the promise of more to come – beginning 9pm on Mon, Jun 19. And this fall, look for Crawford on the Hype, a new comedy series on the US network WB (available on some cable packages up here; the series has also been picked up by the Comedy Network).

Success, it seems, snuck up on Gavin Crawford and hit him over the head.

“I have no idea how we did it,” says Crawford, discussing the action-packed month of January, this year, when he was taping his series – playing a whopping 18 characters, himself – over three weeks, while flying down to LA on the weekends to do workshops for the Hype.

“Half the time, I didn’t know where I was.”

The result? The Gavin Crawford Show is among the funniest Canadian comedy in years.

Crawford provides a tour de force Greek chorus of characters, each wholly different from the next: southern US adult film star Hughey McNutts reveals the secrets to good porn acting, fey fashion designer Uwe Meyer berates a superhero over his gay-looking outfit, separatist puppeteer René Cancon, collagen-challenged Marissa tries to eat… the list is astonishing.

As if 18 solid characterizations aren’t enough, what really sets the series apart is the sophistication of the writing. Not only are the sketches loosely woven together into a whole, the series tackles and dissects big ideas; it’s intellectually subversive in the way the best of Monty Python was (think fart jokes for a cause).

Director Ron Murphy (Street Sense) has done a great job translating the energy and verve of Crawford’s live performances for TV. The series is brazen, fast paced and gay as hell.

Crawford credits his boyfriend of four years and series co-creator and co-writer Kyle Tingley with helping him push the envelope. “I have no internal censor. I come up with all theses awful things and think I can’t do them. Kyle then convinces me to do them.

“He is an amazing writer,” says Crawford, “and has a much better perspective on the big picture than I do. We work really well together.

“He also makes fun of me better than I do,” which is important, since one of Crawford’s characters is himself. “How vain is that? Not only do a play myself, I fall in love with myself,” referring to a number split screen scenes, this one between Crawford and the porn star.

Crawford describes himself as “crass, cynical, yet optimistic,” so it’s no wonder that he is attracted to paradox. “Hypocritical people I find frustrating,” he says, tracing that frustration back to his Mormon upbringing in Southern Alberta.

“The drunken, rowdy kids would pretend to be so good on weekends when they went to church; they were held up to me as examples. Yet I was good – but slightly femmy. I couldn’t win for trying.”

Until now.

The Gavin Crawford Show.

9pm. Mondays.

Beginning Mon, Jun 19.

The Comedy Network.

To celebrate the premiere of his series, Gavin Crawford performs live with cast members and friends Mary Pat Farrell, Doug Morency, Kristeen von Hagen and others. Doors are at 8:30pm, screening and show at 9pm, on Mon, Jun 19 at the Rivoli (334 Queen St W). Cover is pay-what-you-can; call (416) 596-1908.