THE PETE AND PAT SHOW as part of the TORONTO INTERNATIONAL IMPROV FESTIVAL at Second City Mainstage (52 Mercer), tonight (Thursday, August 24) at 10:30 pm. $20. 416-343-0011, www.goodmorningworld.com. Rating: NNNNN
If your morning office routine consists of turning on the computer, pouring yourself a coffee and checking those e-mails, let me suggest something else: logging onto www.goodmorningworld.com.
The mock morning talk show is the brainchild of improv veterans Pat Kelly and Peter Oldring, who play, respectively, Allister Coulter and Andy Peppers, beige-suited, ultra-tanned hosts who chat, deliver ridiculous fictional reports and kick-start the day with a jolt of laughter.
The biggest joke, however, is that their two-to-four-minute parodies aren't far off from the real thing.
"Take a look at actual morning shows and they really are about nothing," says Kelly, whose control-freaky Coulter contrasts nicely with Oldring's flaky Peppers. "On one of those shows, there might be hoola-hooping followed by learning karate and then a Chinese food demonstration."
Kelly and Oldring don't have the budget yet for a cooking demo. They dumped most of their tiny budget into building a believable set, complete with a spinning globe, a carefully positioned vase of flowers and window panes looking out onto nothing.
"There are too many things on the Internet that are shot in a basement," says Kelly. "We knew it had to look like a real TV set. And we needed our own space to do it." The pair shoot several shows per day, all improvised, at a studio in the east end.
"We bought some flats from This Is Wonderland, so CBC's loss is our gain," adds Oldring. "Maybe we can get Cara Pifko to come on and do a little cameo."
That last statement is loaded with irony. Facing limited opportunities in the city, the pair have found new energy in starting their own project.
"One of the things that drives me nuts about being an actor is being at the mercy of other people, and there are some days when nothing's coming down the pipe for a week," says Kelly. "It's been motivating and gives you a sense of purpose."
"And it exercises the same muscles as showing up for a show at Clinton's," adds Oldring. "Only the audience isn't live. They write e-mails later."
Tonight at the Toronto International Improv Festival, there's a chance to catch the pair live. Their long-form improv act is one of the best I've seen. Their comedy comes from years of working together, both here and at Calgary's legendary Loose Moose Theatre Company.
"One of the great things about having history with a comedy partner is not having to sit down and say, 'Well, this is what structure is,'" says Oldring. "You both know. It's all about believable characters and telling a story."
"We've known that since the start," adds Kelly. "We have the same rhythms, the same... I'm missing a word here."
"Hair?" chimes in Pete, not missing a beat. "Taste in light beer?"
What stands out in the pair's work are the details. Anyone can construct a plot, but you need to flesh out a scene to make it memorable.
"I think the more specific things get, the more magical it becomes for the audience," says Kelly. "For us, there are more toys to play with. If two brothers are fighting in a garage, they're not just standing in the middle of the room yelling at each other. They're doing things in that garage, and those things inform maybe what the argument's about."
They've done a lot of film work - I still remember Oldring's innocent mug as one of the submarine guys in K-19: The Widowmaker - but a supposed big break for the pair came a couple of years ago in the Dave Thomas comedy Intern Academy. Thomas hand-picked his cast, but the film didn't do well.
"I think Pat could have done better," says Oldring.
"Peter's performance was slow and arduous," counters Kelly.
"Actually, no, I think it was in the edit. They could have cleaned that up in post."
Jokes aside, the two call the experience one of the best in their lives.
"Dave was like a father figure to us all," says Oldring. "SCTV was the reason I got into performing in the first place. To work with him and hear him talk about John Candy, Eugene Levy and the others was a once-in-a-lifetime thing."
"Everyone says English-Canadian movies are a tough sell," says Kelly, "but I think there's a chance with comedy. I just don't think the people in charge of doling out cash believe or understand that.
"There are so many ridiculously funny people working in Toronto, and I hardly see any of them in films.
"I'm tired of seeing them just in Tim Hortons commercials."