By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Fringe theatre enthusiasts need not fret! Just days after the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival ended, not everyone is going to rest. The fun continues on the mainland, in Vancouver, BC! This event has started and far be it from me to not plug both! I saw these three shows in the Victoria show, and these talents are certainly worth following! I offer my top three picks to look at in the stand-up comedy world. The titles will take you to venue and ticket purchases.
Victoria-based comedian Shawn O’Hara was very busy performer during the 2018 Victoria Fringe Festival. He was in two shows than one! In Fake Ghost Tours 2, he is one half of a two-man act where he and best buddy, Abdul Azif take folks on a walking tour of Victoria’s haunted past. As the name implies, the fun is in laughing along to the absurdity of why some locations are spooked. With Field Zoology 101, he’s the adorably dim-witted Professor Gooseberry. His “lecture” warns us students about dangerous raccoons, tigers and the like, and we should be wary of fauna when studied in their natural environment.
This talent is on the rise. The best part of the show is when he takes questions (submitted in advance) from the audience and responds to them.
Call it fate or whatever, but when I was fresh from watching Evan Almighty starring Steve Carell before embarking on a night of nothing but stand-up comedy, I noticed some Carell influence to this character. This actor played Ron Burgundy from the movie Anchorman. Also, few zoologists are also Pokemon Trainers in disguise, and I applauded this. He plays Yu-gi-oh too, and I wondered how many members of the audience knew this anime. The references did not stop there. The dangers of inserting too many niche humour can get lost to some, but I snickered far too many times. O’Hara and I must share the same passion for ghosts, nerdery and pokemon.
Should there be a sequel, I can imagine future lessons include video clips of Gooseberry chasing fauna (actors in animal suits) around Elmer Fudd style. To do so would mean raising the production values of this show. Right now, it is so wonderfully old school (using transparency projections of grade-school level sketches). To bring it to the next level, I imagine can bring the house down. There’s a reason why the pioneering silent film comedies of Mack Sennett are still gold to this day.
4 Stars out of 5
Is it possible to even provide a Five-Step Guide to Being German? If you talk to Paco Erhard, he can tell you how! His stand up comedic discourse in what makes being an individual growing up in this country oh so wonderful. His charisma is golden, and his easy-going approach made the performance special. I find his brand of humour comparable to Billy Connolly‘s.
Part of this show deals with cultural identity and Nationalism. Anyone who lived in Germany will identify with this comedian’s discourse. The stereotypes explored is jocular, and all I could do was chuckle and wonder why my bud, Steve Saunders, was not here. He grew up in this country too and the stories he told were more like anecdotes. I feel both are charming and charismatic individuals.
My interest in how to be German comes from how far ahead this country has come technology wise. This country and Japan makes America (USA and Canada) stuck in the stone age. Plus, the folklore from this area always fascinated me more than the legends from England. Yes, those nagging World Wars were addressed and Erhard handles it with well-handled dignity.
This show has toured since 2012 and has no doubt seen updates. This act continues to bring troves of folks in. Even the Germans in the room (there was a handful present) took the jabs in stride.
4 Stars out of 5
How I Learned to Hug
Jon Bennett’s style of comedy is very fast, very furious, and if you’re not following along carefully, it’s possible to miss the message that’s inserted into his work… or the punch line. With How I Learned to Hug, his story is wrapped around a narrative of him having to tell his story to a Montreal airport security check officer whom he thinks looks like Jay-Z.
Bennett once refused to hug because some years ago, heartbreak caused him to close himself off to the world. He never liked displaying affection for another in public. Most of his acts came from actual experiences, and my lingering question is with how much of the story got heavily embellished. It does not matter because the zaniness of those moments is laugh-out-loud bonkers!
I first saw him years ago in Pretending Things Are a Cock. This world tour of putting famous or not too famous objects below the hipline is captured by using forced perspective. The photographers deserve just as much praise because nailing those images is not always easy.
As Bennett recalls what happened with former girlfriends as reasons behind why he never hugged, I had the line “Life is like a box of chocolates (from Forrest Gump)” running through my head. One clip from this film was regularly used, and it helped reinforce a point. When he had problems expressing himself, all he wanted to do was run. He ran so far away, he kept going and just where he went… it never allowed him to escape from anything or his insecurities.
He eventually finds answers, and his standup offers hope. I appreciate how he was able to break past the trauma and learn how to be happy. Anyone can. I tend to think people who refuse to hug are broken. Hugs can be platonic. Minimally, it’s done to show the persons together respect and care for each other.
By the time Bennett talked about how he overcame, I cheered. I smiled and applauded. Everyone should hug. We should do it every day because the endorphins it releases helps everyone stay happy. At end of the night, nothing could bring me down.
5 Stars out of 5