Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Queer performers add edge to Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival

Festival runs Nov 2 to 7

From the seasoned pros like Scott Thompson to the fabulous old queen down the street, gay men have a well-earned reputation for pithy quotes and hilariously bitchy one-liners.

Before finding fame with CBC’s hit show The Kids in the Hall, Thompson got his start with The Second City comedy troupe. The company has a solid reputation for inclusiveness, and this philosophy is apparent in the programming of its sixth annual Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival.

This year’s lineup features more than 40 comedy troupes from across North America, with a healthy sprinkling of queer performers. New York, of course, is a hotbed of talent when it comes to standup comedy, and the festival has netted one of the city’s most popular troupes for this year’s program.

Stone Cold Fox is the house sketch team for the Upright Citizens Brigade, a comedy theatre company formed by Saturday Night Live’s Amy Poehler, Arrested Development’s Ian Roberts and The Daily Show’s Matt Walsh. Comedian Chris Kelly, who has been with the troupe for three years, says that his queer status is completely irrelevant in a city like New York.

“Living and working in New York and LA, I completely forget that there are other places where it’s not a non-issue. But when I go to visit family in the Midwest, I’m like, ‘Oh, right…,’” says Kelly.

Kelly also works as a staff writer for the news satire organization The Onion. The company’s biting wit suits Kelly to a tee and has helped him hone his personal comedic persona.

“My style there is dark and mean,” he says. “It’s got more of an edge than my sketch writing. I guess I personally prefer comedy that comes from a sad or dark place.”

On the flip side of homo humour is Second City member Brian Gallivan, best known for his Sassy Gay Friend videos on YouTube. In each episode, Gallivan enacts a lovingly bitchy intervention with a famous literary character, including Shakespearean waifs Juliet, Desdemona and Ophelia (“What are you doing? This is Hamlet! There is something rotten in Denmark, and it’s his piss-poor attitude!”).

The former middle-school teacher draws on his love of classic literature when creating his hilarious — and erudite — videos. And while his “She’s a stupid bitch!” mantra may irk some folks, most viewers understand Gallivan’s wickedly satiric take on the classic leading lady’s gay sidekick.

“There has been some debate about it,” Gallivan allows, “but we learn at Second City that everyone in the audience is laughing at something for a different reason.”

Toronto’s own Warm Summer Hotness is also among the festival’s featured groups, and troupe member Troy McFadyen can’t wait to tickle the audience’s funny bone(rs) with his brand of naughty humour.

“I love it when the audience is laughing and they feel like maybe they shouldn’t be,” says McFadyen. “We all have different styles in the group, but usually if it’s filthy, then I wrote it.”

The group met in Second City’s renowned improvisational comedy class. They formed Warm Summer Hotness to further explore their chemistry as both writers and performers.

McFadyen is far from home; he was born and raised in Yukon.

“I was lucky to have really liberal parents, but there was no gay person to look up to. I wasn’t out, but I was obviously the gay kid, and some people didn’t like me because of that. So I made people laugh and feel more comfortable. That’s probably why I gravitate towards dark humour.”