Fringe Comedy Reviews: Lame Laughs

cali written and performed by Ginette Mohr, directed by Lisa Merchant. Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse. July 12 at 10:30 pm,.

cali written and performed by Ginette Mohr, directed by Lisa Merchant. Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse. July 12 at 10:30 pm, July 13-14 at 7 pm. Rating: NN

radcliffe & minotauk falls written and directed by Daniel and Steven Shehori. Clinton’s Tavern (693 Bloor West). July 11-13 at 9:30 pm, July 14 at 5:30 pm. Rating: NN

richard keat’s apartment of doom written and directed by Ron Sparks. Robert Gill. July 11 at 3:30 pm, July 12 at 11:30 pm, July 13 at 5:30 pm, July 14 at 9 pm. Rating: N

Rating: NNNNN

Some stand-ups and sketch comics are lazy bastards. Many have told me that themselves. They do their seven minutes, get their laughs (or not), stay up late, scribble on napkins, drink, eat, gossip and sleep in, or go to their day jobs where they think they’re above it all.

That’s fine. That’s their business. My business is watching them try to put on a Fringe show.

There are exceptions. Former Second City types like Karen Hines, Jonathan Wilson and Teresa Pavlinek, or the villains from this year’s Tale Of The Scorpion (see review, page 58) and stand-up Martina Gail know how to put on a solid Fringe show.

But three of this year’s Fringe shows come from comics who obviously do not see plays.

Take Ginette Mohr’s Cali. Mohr, a passable clown, plays an eight-year-old who’s writing a note to her dad complaining about her mom’s impending marriage to a guy she calls “the loser.” (Think I, Claudia with none of the laughs or truths.)

The most entertaining parts of the show are the pre-taped video sequences that show us bits of Cali’s life — her cat, her wannabe-porn-actor uncle and the loser himself. Mohr has fun with these bits because she can mug shamelessly for the cam. The video’s poorly integrated into the show, however, which ends so abruptly you don’t know whether to clap or not.

Daniel and Steven Shehori’s Radcliffe & Minotauk Falls uses video well. A fake Charlie Rose-style interview (with Sean Fisher hilariously oozing fake sincerity as the host) is the funniest thing about the show. Second-funniest is a cameo by masked metalheads Gwar.

The actual theatre portions of the show are clumsily directed and confusing parodies of — what else? — TV. The idea for Radcliffe of a reality-based TV show set in prison is brilliant, as is an improv show set there. But neither premise pays off theatrically despite some good work by a couple of the performers.

Minotauk Falls makes fun of the conventions of sitcoms — flashbacks, dumb characters and plots — and it’s more successful, but the laughs feel laboured.

At least the Shehoris are trying to do something different. Ron Sparks’s Richard Keat’s Apartment Of Doom tries for sex farce and comes up limp. Not just limp… castrated.

Amateur performances, characters with no history at all, clumsy staging — all compete for our boredom.

Note to the cast, many of them notable comics: as they say at funerals, “… under better circumstances.”

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