Ed Sahely performing as part of the We're funny that way comedy festival at Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander), Saturday (May 14), 9:30 pm. Pwyc. 416-975-8555, www.werefunnythatway.com Rating: NNNNN
Ed Sahely has played his share of gay characters. He's been a singing drag queen (in the musical Outrageous), a Bay Street type obsessed with David Cubitt (in TV's Traders) and - in a role that should ensure his place in camp history - Mariah Carey's dresser in Glitter.
"Um, that last one was pretty over the top," he laughs a week before his appearance at the We're Funny That Way Comedy Festival, which runs through the weekend.
Now, though, whenever he gets asked to audition for queer characters on TV or film, Sahely looks at the role extra-carefully.
"I want to make sure I can portray a character truthfully, without feeling bad," he says. "I know if I turn down something it'll go to someone else. But sometimes I fear that directors and producers hire gay actors to justify stereotypes. They use the 'Well, the actor's gay!' as an excuse."
Sahely's characters - gay or straight - are usually pretty wound up.
"I'm often the anal-retentive boss, the tightly wound money guy," he explains. "And, yeah, there's a bit of that in my personality. I think the more you can tap into who you are, the more work you can get. There are few chameleons in film and TV."
In his improv comedy work, however, he can be - and is - anyone.
"I like improvising on a stage a million times more than doing film and TV," he says. "There's the immediate gratification, of course. But there's also the playing with other improvisers. There's an indescribable joy when you trust the other people onstage completely."
Sahely was one-third of the improv troupe Not To Be Repeated, along with Second City mates Jonathan Wilson and Kathryn Greenwood. They even scored a TV series that ran 13 episodes.
"In our shows we tried to create a new Canadian play from scratch," he says. "Our mandate was to do long-form improv, to stay away from the fast and funny joke after joke."
Audience members would fill out pieces of paper, and the troupe would read from them randomly and integrate the lines into their act.
It's a structure that Sahely will use this weekend with Teresa Pavlinek, another Second City alum.
And speaking of that famous comedy institution, how does Sahely feel about the upcoming change in venue?
"I never thought Blue Jays Way was right for them," says Sahely, who performed at the Old Fire Hall. "It wasn't intimate. For sketch you need fast entrances and exits. I won't miss the place.
"For me, it was like Dad got married to someone else, they moved into a big house and it just didn't feel like home when I was there."