The Fringe Festival continues in Toronto, and if you haven't yet gotten out to see Fucking Stephen Harper, you really ought to get out and catch the show Toronto Life calls "brilliant and hilarious." (Glen Morris Theatre, today at 3:30pm and until Jul 11).
Another great show you should catch is the brilliant Montreal-based sketch comedy troupe Uncalled For's Today Is All Your Birthdays. Uncalled For has been around for nearly ten years and originally formed as an improv troupe while they were all students at John Abbott College in Montreal. They've been writing sketches together since 2006, and now go back and forth between doing improv shows and scripted sketch comedy. This year they've already performed at the Montreal and Ottawa Fringes, where they earned rave reviews to match the four-star nods from Now and Eye in Toronto. Outside of Fringe season they do a monthly show at MainLine Theatre in Montreal. Uncalled For is a perennial highlight of the Fringe for me, and I caught this show in Montreal. It is not to be missed!
I chatted with Uncalled For member Anders Yates about being the gay guy in an all-male comedy troupe.
Rob Salerno: How does being gay influence your comedic sensibilities?
Anders Yates: It's pretty hard to pinpoint how anything has influenced my comedic sensibilities, but I feel like a lot of the best comedy tends to come from an outsider's perspective. Then again, I guess my perspective is more literally influenced by being tall. There's more tall humour in my show than gay humour, really.
RS: What gay things are you going to be doing while you’re in Toronto?
AY: Mostly making cutsey noises while on the phone with my boyfriend back in Montreal and going to Buddies with him when he visits. That and being a Responsible Gay and seeing The Laramie Project [note: playing at Tarragon Theatre Mainspace through July 11].
RS: What’s the gayest thing about performing on the Fringe circuit?
AY: Probably the drag races at the Montreal Fringe. Each year a collection of Fringe performers try to out drag (and out drink) a bevvy of professional drag queens in the middle of the afternoon at the beer tent. I participated for a couple years in a row, but it got too hard to find size 13 heels.
RS: What’s your show about?
AY: If art and science had a funny looking baby, that would be our show. Today Is All Your Birthdays is about birth, death, science, celebrations and monkeys. Our show is technically sketch comedy, but it's quite unlike what most people expect from the genre. We travel through time and space and bleed scenes together so that otherwise disconnected ideas flow in a stream of consciousness style from one to another.
RS: Today is all Your Birthdays features astronauts, weightlifting mimes, honeymooners, nuclear reactors, and more trips through the time-space continuum than the Terminator franchise (and yet it somehow makes more narrative sense). How does your troupe approach sketch writing while still keeping everything tied together?
AY: Maintaining a strong flow is really important to us, since so much sketch comedy gets dragged down by blackouts between scenes. When each new scene starts up you have to start from scratch, re-building the energy that you lost in the gap between one scene and the next. When we choose which scenes we want to do in a show, we spend a lot of time figuring out how to join them together in ways that are original and entertaining and don't take away from the comedy of what we set out to do in the first place. In many cases our trasitions turn into entire scenes in and of themselves. Even though we do a lot of our writing individually, we end up spending so much time together in the development process that we start working off of common themes that we find in eachother's work, which is a large part of why this show hangs together so well.
RS: Why should Toronto’s gays see your show? If possible, answer in ten words or less without using the letter “h”.
AY: Our cast: four cute boys in formless grey jumpsuits. Yum!
There's plenty more info about Uncalled For at their website, and Anders tells me that everyone should feel free to make friends with them on Facebook.
Tickets for all shows are available at the door or in advance by phone (416-966-1062) or online.