Rivas brothers about to wrap up 100 Rapp Battlez shows

RAPP BATTLEZ 100 hosted by Miguel and Freddie Rivas, part of the TORONTO SKETCH COMEDY FESTIVAL. At Longboat Hall at.


RAPP BATTLEZ 100 hosted by Miguel and Freddie Rivas, part of the TORONTO SKETCH COMEDY FESTIVAL. At Longboat Hall at the Great Hall (1087 Queen West), March 9 at 9:30 pm. $25. torontosketchfest.com.

Comedy can be a competitive industry, and nowhere is that more evident than at Rapp Battlez, the monthly night of brash bravado, braininess and beats thats celebrating its 100th show next week at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival.

The late night show is part 8 Mile parody, part WWE match, with some of the best comics in the country donning costumes and dropping hilarious rhymes to insult each other.

Ill never forget the time Evany Rosen dressed up as the original Woodstock to battle Alex Tindals Woodstock 99. Other fights have pitted buns (Pat Thornton playing a baker) against Phil Moorhead as Bunz (trading zone). And then there was the time Iron Chef Manchester (James Hartnett) took on a Robot Specifically Designed to Defeat Iron Chef Manchester (David Dineen-Porter).

The sillier the premise, often, the funnier the result.

Its a combination of rap battling and wrestling, says Miguel Rivas, who, along with younger brother Freddie, has hosted and produced the show for the past eight years at Comedy Bar.

I like to say it takes everything from wrestling except wrestling. People insult each other, and youve even got the owners trying to shut the show down.

Freddie says Gary Rideout Jr., co-owner of Comedy Bar, will often pull a Vince McMahon, flip on the house lights and start insulting the audience.

And then once, adds Miguel, Bret the Hitman Hart made an appearance after Gary tried to shut the show down and ended up putting Gary in a sharpshooter.

Other highlights from the past 99 shows include Tom Green storming the stage after battler Roger Bainbridge (whos also a member of Miguels sketch troupe Tony Ho) mentioned him at a show in Ottawa. Green proceeded to deliver a number from Organized Rhyme his rap act before he turned to comedy.

The brothers laugh when recalling the time Alan Thicke showed up to see the show, accompanied by none other than Maple Leaf Tie Domi.

They watched the show for a few minutes, says Miguel, and then Domis driver came in and said, Tie wants to party, and so they left.

And then there was the time stand-up Dylan Gott was battling Bob Kerr.

Dylan had hired an elderly woman off of Craigslist to come to the show, and before the show he introduced her to Bob as his aunt who had never seen him do comedy. During the battle, Dylan feigned a cough, and called in his pinch rapper, and it turned out he had paid this woman to memorize some horribly insulting raps about Bobs character. She destroyed the room.

Besides producing the show, which consists of at least six battles a show, the brothers also host it, playing exaggerated versions of themselves.

Freddies clown training and physicality are used to great effect as he will often translate a battlers insult into movement.

I wanted to give the audience the feeling of something always going on, says Freddie. Its my way of responding to this being known as a word-based show. I wanted to make sure people had something to look at.

Freddie, a puppeteer and co-host of the basketball podcast Confederacy Of Dunks, and Miguel, one third of Tony Ho and co-host of the successful Comedy Network show The Beaverton, grew up in Ajax and started out in a sketch troupe called Frenzy while they were in their late teens.

But, like many sketch troupes, especially ones just starting out, they were used to playing to audiences of 20 to 25 a night. So when they dreamt up Rapp Battlez for Comedy Bars Festival Of New Formats, tweaked the show so battlers werent playing themselves but characters, and found the crowd increasing so exponentially that there were sellouts by the end of the first year, they knew theyd hit upon something special.

Theyve been in and out of talks about developing the show for other platforms.

There are a lot of different formats out there, says Freddie, whether its Nick Cannons old show or what James Corden is doing.

But, says Miguel, ours has a special magic. So when we do something [on TV] we want to get it exactly right. We dont want to lose the live aspect. And we have some of the best talent in the country to draw from.

glenns@nowtoronto.com | @glennsumi

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