Fringe review: Cringe

Sam Roulston's solo sketch comedy show is savagely funny, but could use an outside director

CRINGE: A SOLO SKETCH COMEDY SHOW written and performed by Sam Roulston (Champagne Boyfriend/Digital Fringe Festival). Now streaming at Fringe On-Demand until August 15. Rating: NNNN

Most of the sketches in Cringe are very funny. And the fact that they’re inspired by cringeworthy behaviour writer/performer Sam Roulston’s either witnessed or heard about adds bite to the show’s laughs.

Roulston, a frequent improviser at Bad Dog Theatre and a faculty member at Second City, takes aim at everyone from covidiots who blithely ignore bubble safety rules to a barista with a passive-aggressive attitude toward his cafe’s community board.

The strongest sketches include a music video (with a song composed by Nicola Dempsey) about hipsters shamelessly exploiting the poor to look fashionable, and a sketch about an annoying straight woman at a gay bar who keeps telling everyone she’s an ally.

The writing is generally sharp. Only two sketches – one about about cancel culture, the other about covid video birthday greetings – could use tweaking. An outside director could have shaped both sketches and elsewhere got Roulston to slow down to allow viewers to savour every funny line.

The show’s final sketch nicely demonstrates Roulston’s range. Wearing a stetson, riding a horse and lip-synching out of the corner of his mouth, Roulston satirizes a deeply closeted gay Republican country music singer (the perfect parody of a song is composed by Ryan Sheedy), with suggestive rhymes and other signifiers letting us see things this queer cowboy can’t admit. It’s brilliant.


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