JE M'APPELLE... HOLLY, INESSA, REBECCA written and performed by Holly Prazoff, Inessa Frantowski and Rebecca Addelman, w/ the Gurg, Laura Barrett, Maylee Todd and Dana Snell, at the Drake Underground (1150 Queen West), Tuesday (April 3) at 9 pm. $5. 416-531-5042. Rating: NNNNN
The three smart women in HIR(aka Holly, Inessa and Rebecca) know that most successful comedy troupes have a psychological dimension. So much depends upon the yin and yang of onstage relationship dynamics. It's that elusive thing called chemistry.
"It's almost like my real family. I'm an only child," points out Holly Prazoff. "Rebecca (Addelman) is the father figure, who's sort of the stern, strong pillar, and Inessa (Frantowski) is the more sensitive nurturer. Then there's me."
"Or," pipes in Frantowski, sensitively, "Rebecca is the abusive father, I'm the battered wife and Holly is the frightened child."
"Of course," adds Addelman, a tad sternly, "that power triangle is true to life, but we heighten it, exaggerate it and flip it."
It's about two weeks before the debut of their new show at the Drake Underground, where they're finishing up a month-long residency. But sitting in the comfy living room in Prazoff and Addelman's Kensington Market apartment, I can already feel the jokey rhythms. This show is going to rock.
Frantowski amiably searches for the right word or phrase to describe something, Prazoff delivers some snappy irreverent zinger, and then Addelman calmly synthesizes it all.
If you're a fan of indie comedy or even local music, you've probably seen one or two of them before. Prazoff and Frantowski are part of the Sunday Night Live crew, the Sketchersons, they've all performed at the Loner Show, and Addelman co-hosts the Backasswards show of music and comedy at Grossman's and was a nominee in last year's Cream Of Comedy competition for the best up-and-comers.
"That," says Prazoff, "was one of those make-or-break moments for us, because Inessa and I were on the short list. No one deserved it more than Rebecca. It could have been the point where we decided we hated each other." Pause. "I don't hate them yet."
The trio are being coy about their Drake show, saying only that they're launching a new Web series.
"We're riding the digital revolution," says Addelman in mock-ironic fashion.
"Everybody lost their crap over Bridezilla, and that interests us," says Prazoff. "We want to ride that fine line of using the Internet to our advantage by promoting ourselves but also point out how weird this all is. I mean, those Bridezilla girls were on Jimmy Kimmel!"
Life as a so-called alternative comic can be challenging. The usual milestones that a typical Canadian stand-up or sketch comic aims for - headlining at Yuk's or the Laugh Resort, making Second City mainstage, getting that Comedy Now special - don't always apply.
"We want to do things our own way," says Prazoff, while Frantowski points out that video and the Internet provide a terrific alternative (and relatively cheap) venue. Hence the Web series.
Google any of them and you'll come up with a half-dozen comedy shorts, including one in which Prazoff apologizes for winning the MTV Canada "Yo Mama!" contest, one in which Frantowski and Addelman shower together and another in which Addelman earnestly contributes to awareness about Darfur by exposing her breasts (cleverly hidden by a banner).
What makes their comedy "alternative"?
"You can only see some angry white dude talk about how shitty his wife is so many times," says Prazoff. "We blur the lines between sketch and stand-up. We use microphones, but we try to give you something you haven't seen before."
Their role models include stand-ups Sarah Silverman, Maria Bamford and close friend Nikki Payne, as well as Teresa Pavlinek, Tina Fey and Amy Sedaris.
"I also liken our trio work to the group Stella," says Addelman. "They kind of do trio stand-up. They each have their own persona, but they fit into one persona as well, and they work independently as well as together."
The "alternative" tag, however, doesn't give comics licence to say anything they like.
"I have this small window of stuff I find offensive," says Prazoff. "It's male comics talking about smelly vaginas. You know what, dude? Let me talk about that. You can talk about anything else."
Inessa, Rebecca, and Holly on collaborating with musicians
Rebecca, Holly and Inessa on the limits of comedy