The Canuck Cabaret is at the Toronto Fringe Festival this week, at the Annex Theatre, 736 Bathurst Ave. Wed, July 13, noon; Thurs, July 14, 2:15pm; Fri, July 15, 11pm; Sat, July 16, 4pm. $10 at the door or $11 advance at fringetoronto.com
. This story originally appeared in the Ottawa section of xtra.ca during the Ottawa Fringe Festival.
JUNE 20: “Canadian audiences go along with you on the raunch, sometimes even quicker than New York audiences,” says Paul Hutcheson, host of the Canuck Cabaret, a variety act that’s touring the festival circuit this summer and playing the Ottawa Fringe this week.
The Cabaret is something of a “greatest hits” routine for the veteran Fringe comedian and his co-host, seasoned burlesque performer Sharon “Prairie Fire” Nowlan. Each night, they perform some of their favourite routines and welcome other performers to share five-minute sketches, stories and dances.
Hutcheson, who’s been touring the festival circuit since 2002, says he created the Canuck Cabaret when he was performing at the New York City Frigid Festival two years ago.
“The festival was great, but the only thing I thought was missing was a late-night show for the artists to get together and hang out and have a good time. So I went to the festival organizers and formulated this plan for a late show, and they loved it,” he says. “I brought comedians from Toronto down and gave spots to Canadian artists who lived in New York. We’ve gone down about four times to do the show since then.”
In his previous solo shows, First Things First, On Second Thought and Third Time Lucky, Hutcheson developed a reputation for frank and hilarious stories about queer sexuality.
“I generally always try to get a little raunchy,” he says. “I feel like if you don’t get the audience uncomfortable at least once, you haven’t done your job.”
While Hutcheson will be changing up the routines and stories he performs every night, he’s focusing most of his performance around Canadiana and queer identity.
“A lot of people don’t understand that once you leave Toronto things are very different for queer people,” he says. “Sometimes it’s nice to play for an audience that doesn’t quite understand you. A lot of times they have a new understanding of queer people.”
Some of the best bits from the show come from his experiences touring across North America and the UK over the last 10 years.
“The Canadiana stories are just wonderful for that understanding of how great our country can be or is. We go over to the States or the UK, and we don’t realize how beautiful this country is, how big it is. The first time I drove across Ontario, I couldn’t believe that I was this old and I didn’t understand how big my province is. The fringe festivals forced me to do that,” he says.
The Fringe tour is also where Hutcheson and Nowlan met.
“The first time I heard of her was 2007. I just kept seeing this redhead around and thinking how attractive she was and how confident she seems. And we met in Victoria and I was like, ‘I really like her.’ She moved to Toronto, and I started inviting her to perform at my porn-room shows in Parkdale, and we’ve been working together ever since.”