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THE TORONTO SKETCH COMEDY FESTIVAL to March 17 at the Theatre Centre (1115 Queen West), Comedy Bar (945 Bloor West).
THE TORONTO SKETCH COMEDY FESTIVAL to March 17 at the Theatre Centre (1115 Queen West), Comedy Bar (945 Bloor West) and Streetcar Crowsnest (345 Carlaw). $10-$42.50, passes available. torontosketchfest.com.
If youre attending a Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival show over the next 12 days, chances are youll be seeing a lot of Leigh Cameron and Kirsten Rasmussen.
Besides performing as the sketch duo The Bloody Marys, theyre directing shows Cameron remounting the Fringe hit Generally Hospital, Rasmussen helming the queer-forward Extravaganza Eleganza. And Rasmussen is performing her own solo sketch show, The Kiki.
When I talk to them in the Theatre Centre cafe a week before their shows go up, its clear the two who met working for Second Citys touring company before joining the mainstage together have a silly shorthand that only the closest friends share, with Cameron using words and phrases like Fingies crossed! and prolly to punctuate their exchanges.
In our sketches were comfortable expressing love or hate or being rude to each other, laughs Rasmussen. Thats from being in Second City, where we often had to fight to get a scene in a show. Theres not a lot of things that we havent experienced in our friendship. And were never worried that the other will take something personally.
The Bloody Marys show is a send-up of bingeable TV, something the two can relate to. Cameron frequently binges on cosy British mysteries, the kind where pastors solve murders. She keeps it on in the background, which she finds comforting. Rasmussen, meanwhile, has been streaming terrible shows like Once Upon A Time and (the not so terrible) Greys Anatomy.
Their show will include a parody of romantic comedies that explores the idea of the meet-cute. And there may be bits about Killing Eve and Riverdale, although Rasmussen says the latter has become so crazy and ridiculous lately that it defies parody.
Its no surprise that both comics are directing shows featuring underrepresented voices. Generally Hospital’s breakthrough star, Ophira Calof, uses a wheelchair. And Extravaganza Eleganza, which had a brief run last fall at Buddies (and made NOW’s best comedy shows of the year), is one of the most refreshing queer revues Ive seen.
Were trying to make all the Generally Hospital shows relaxed this time out, says Cameron. Its a challenge, because in comedy loud is funny, blackouts are funny and sudden surprises can be funny. You have to take those away for relaxed performances. But youve got to get creative, which is a lot of fun.
Rasmussen, whos finishing up a six-month run in the groundbreaking She The People revue, says directing Eleganza has been a dream.
Everyone in the show has a different style, and its been fun figuring things out. For instance, Nicky Nasrallah performs in drag as Selena Vyle, but we had to figure out how Selena was going to be in scenes where she wasnt the focus of a sketch. I was tough with people. Tricia Black has this amazing song in the show thats very personal, but I had to bully her with love to write it. I kept prodding her. All of these comics are involved in other projects, and I wanted them to show things they havent shown elsewhere.
Recently Rasmussen performed at Anasimone Georges show SHADE and couldnt believe the diversity of the audience.
It was hip, alternative. Theyre hungry for comedy. I feel like things in Toronto are changing. Thats why people want to see Extravaganza or Generally Hospital. Finally theres comedy that speaks specifically to them.