I always find March the grimmest month of the winter. The city is coated in a film of grey grit, the weather is dodgy, and real spring seems a long way off.
In an effort to shake off the winter doldrums, I ventured off to the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival for the first time ever last Saturday night.
I had this idea that I was going to do a survey of a few of the female comedians at the festival: Flo and Joan, Dame Judy Dench (there are guys and gals in that one) Full Time Idiot...
Somehow I managed to grab a Sunday ticket off my desk when I headed to the Theatre Centre on Saturday night. I'm crediting pre-flu brain for that winner move. "No problem," said the nice woman at the box office. "Do you want to see the 8:00 PM show here tonight instead?"
Why not? So I ended up seeing OSFUG from NYC and HIP BANG! from Vancouver instead of TEMPLETON PHILHARMONIC and DAME JUDI DENCH.
This is one of the things I love about festivals: going random - by choice or by chance, often takes me to something really enjoyable I would have otherwise overlooked.
OSFUG it turned out is a troupe of smart young sketch comedians from New York City doing a high-speed, high-energy series of mini-sketches with minimal, but effective props and costumes: some well used bananas, a donut box, a few hats and an excellent set of devil's horns. I particularly enjoyed their hell-hole town hall bit. The poignancy of the young barista looking for a coffee client with the same name as her absentee father had me both laughing and tearing up.
After a brief interval ( The Theatre Centre has a lovely cafe lobby) HIP BANG! from Vancouver took the stage. The duo has played the Toronto Fringe before, but had somehow escaped my notice.
Devin Mackenzie and Tom Hill have great stage chemistry and I really enjoyed their delightfully daffy material. I don't think water bottles have ever made me laugh before, but these two deployed them in a way that had me in stitches.
The only bad thing was this: I couldn't go back on Sunday to see that other show. An evil virus completely took over my being Sunday morning and I've been home, febrile and hacking ever since.
The festival begins the second half of its two-week run tonight. There are some favourites: Pete 'N Chris, Spoon and Hammer with sections of their hit "Behold The Barfly" on this week, as well as some big names in Canadian comedy, including a panel interview with Baroness Von Sketch the all-women comedy troupe with a hit series on CBC.
Go have fun for those of us who can't - and, if you're seeing two or more shows - go random on at least one of them. I'm sure glad I did!
The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival runs until March 12, 2017 at various venues in downtown Toronto. For schedules dates, times and tickets go to: http://www.torontosketchfest.com or call to order tickets at (647) 505 1050.