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Marty Topps’ Odes (Plural) to TapouT Gear

Putting on a killer comedy show can be expensive, especially when you go above and beyond a brick wall and a microphone. That’s something Marty Topps knows all too well – his Marty Topps House Party shows feature a DJ, confetti cannons, a professional dance pack, special effects, the whole wazoo. A growing list of expenses has pushed a number of local producers to seek out sponsors and Topps is no different. Recently he recorded some new theme songs in hopes of attracting some sponsorship dollars from his favourite brand: TapouT Gear.

“I made the tunes as a proposition to TapouT for a rebranding,” Marty told me. “Their marketing dept (marketing@tapout.com) ended up blocking my e-mail address after I wouldn’t stop sending in my songs (true story).. so I put a couple of them up on Soundcloud.

“As far as an actual sponsor, I am currently on a sponsorship campaign, generously giving TapouT Gear unsolicited, free advertising at my shows and on my social media. I just love the shirts. Think they’re great shirts!”

While the money may not be pouring in from TapouT yet, Marty’s next show March 2nd (that’s tonight!) hopes to raise some much needed cash for his show’s producer. From the invite:

Tragedy has struck our producer Brandon, but WHATEVAR! Who cares! Cuz it’s given us an excuse to throw the biggest, highest profile Marty Topps House Party show we’ve ever done! We’re raising $1,000,000.000 one penny at a time so don’t forget to bring your pocket book.

With dubiously promised appearances from big time Canadian celebs like Kim “Kitty” Katrall, Paul “Gross!” Gross and Brent “The Butt” Butt, it should be a great show.

Here’s a little taste of last month’s 10th Anniversary show for the uninitiated:

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My Favourites of Toronto Comedy 2011

So I just read through everything I wrote here again and man, I am a big fanboy nerd. How do you guys put up with me? Is this embarrassing? Am I embarrassing myself? I’m not sure. All I know is that I’m a big fan of comedy and I really enjoy what local comedians are doing. Writing this blog this year has had it’s ups and downs, but over all I’ve enjoyed it and all the comedy I’ve discovered because of it. But of course some stuff I like more than others.

This is not meant to be a ranking of what I believe to be the best. This is simply a list of my favourite funny stuff from the past year. That’s all this is. So don’t think about it too much, okay?

Favourite Video: Shit Girls Say

After spending a year rounding up the finest locally produced comedy shorts in the hopes of bringing together an often disparate audience, it was with a sense of awe (and a hint of jealousy) that I watched Shit Girls Say explode across the internet like H1N1. After popping up on Reddit, Buzzfeed and countless other eyeball heavy web hubs, Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphery‘s tonally perfect video-via-twitter joke didn’t need my humble bump. Shit Girls Say has all the makings of a viral hit: universal theme, high production value, rapid-fire joke delivery, spot on social awareness, celebrity cameo and, most importantly, it’s really fucking funny. Over-analysis aside, it’s the new gold standard for local funny makers. Just so we’re clear, I want to post more videos like this.

Favourite Twitter Feed: Michael Balazo @mbalazo

Right now Michael Balazo has 283 followers and that’s really too bad. His silly, whimsical tweets read like the musings of a hobo philosopher king. Balazo’s feed successfully walks the fine line between a day planner and a straight joke machine. His comedic voice comes through so loud and clear that I can hear his trademark inflection when I read his tweets.

Honourary Mention: Glenn McAuley @glennmacaulay

Favourite Open Mic: The Famous and Heinous Show at Pour Boy
Pour Boy

Oh my god. Open Mic night at Pour Boy is ridiculous. Since I started going to Will Smeaton’s circus in search of stage time this summer I’ve seen packed rooms, empty rooms, heckling Rolly Derby teams, unresponsive birthday parties, fights, near-breakdowns, killer sets, borderline hate-crime jokes, vomit in the bathroom, beautiful weather on the patio, groupies aggressively hitting on comics and lots and lots of drinking. But through all the hoopla and weirdness, every Tuesday (and later Sunday) night, Pour Boy gave comics the chance to perform in some of the strangest circumstances the world could throw at them. And as hard as it was some nights, everyone who grabbed that mic in the corner by the bar is a stronger performer for it.

Favourite Show: Comedy At The Ossington

For my money, a comic is looking for three things in an audience: 1) Respectful 2) Smart 3) Ready to laugh. Comedy at the Ossington proved itself time and again to be my favourite show in the city this year because the hosts delivered ideal audiences every time. The four affable hosts – Sara Hennessey, Steph Kaliner, Greg Alsop and Jeremy Mersereau – deserve kudos for cultivating a dedicated following of fans that were always with it and on board. It helps that the hosts themselves are extremely likeable and set the tone of each show perfectly with their mix of banter and themed jokes. Plus they have an open mic lottery. It’s a comedian’s dream.

Favourite Import: Picnicface

picnicface

When their eponymous sketch series debuted on The Comedy Network this September, Picnicface invigorated the too often uninspiring world of Canadian TV comedy. But when these Haligonians decamped to Toronto for post production and promotion they also invigorated the local performance scene. The idea that you could bump into Mark Little, Brian McQuarrie or Bill Wood at an open mic injected an aura of excitement into what can sometimes be an arduous task for comics. Seeing Evany Rosen host Sunday Night Live or Andrew Bush perform at The Ossington reminded us (or at least me) that there is only a few steps separating emerging performers from tangible success in this country. This year, Picnicface gave us a shot of hope.

Favourite Export: Nathan Fielder

After spending time at This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Laugh Sabbath alumni Nathan Fielder made the jump to LA where he wrote and directed segments for Important Things with Demetri Martin. This year he was a writer and part of the supporting cast for Comedy Central’s Jon Benjamin has a Van and was subsequently part of one of the funniest Funny Or Die videos of the year. While it remains to be seen whether JBHV will get picked up for a second season, Fielder has landed a development deal with Comedy Central and his future looks very promising. This guy is from here but he is definitely going places.

Favourite Big Time Visitor: Rob Delaney

The obvious answer to this one would be Louis C.K., but I didn’t go to that show. I wish I had. But I didn’t. And if I learned anyhthing this year it’s that it’s not a great idea to write about something you didn’t go to. But I digress. Rob Delaney is a rising star from Los Angeles who is mostly known for being really funny on Twitter. But while I might have discovered him in the virtual realm, it’s Delaneys’ attachment to all that is physical that makes him so endearing. He can talk about bodies, touch, smells, hair, sex and urges for hours.

Honourable Mention: Kyle Kinane

Favourite Joke: Tim Gilbert’s “La Famiglia”

Tim Gilbert crafts perfect one minute sagas that build up tension around real life insecurities and absurdities and then brings them crashing down by pulling the rug out from under everything with ridiculous imagery and true nonsense. His joke about “The most important thing” to him was my favourite this year. There’s no video of it and I don’t want to tell it here, because that would ruin it, So if you haven’t seen it, you’re just going to have to trust me on this one.

I guess in it’s place you can watch this one about High School

Favourite Set: Chris Locke “Do You Love Life Or What?”

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Chris Locke. I’ve written about him before. The dude is mint. It astounds me that he is not better known outside this city. So it was with great excitement that I attended the taping of his pending comedy special “Do You Love Life Or What?” at the Garrison in September. Chris came on stage, coughs into the mic and asks the whole audience if they “want to get out of here” and go someplace else. It’s like he’s daring you to root for him – and it works. Draped in sweat and worried about whether or not we could see him very well, Locke barrages the audience bizarre hypotheticals and convinces us to see the world his way for 60-plus minutes. He is so in touch with our concerns of how we’re perceived by others and he channels those feelings into jokes about murdering spiders and having your every move posted on YouTube. Despite his sometimes over-the-top social paranoia, you empathize with him as soon as he chuckles and clutches his stomach. Suffice it to say I can’t wait for the special to come out.

Oh yeah and this is also great.

So there you go. So long, 2011. You were pretty great.

Levi MacDougall’s Index of Humourous Index Cards

If you’re the kind of person who is always coming up with “dynamite ideas” then it’s a good idea to keep a record of any burst of inspiration that trickles out your brain. Some people keep a notebook on hand, others leave piles of post-it notes strewn across their desks. Maybe if you consider yourself a regular “Mitch Weaver,” you might use a tape recorder (Note to self: re-watch Dirty Work). We all have our own method of keeping track of our thoughts, but it’s safe to say that in this regard Levi MacDougall is a cut above the rest. When he’s not opening for Demetri Martin, Levi works fastidiously at maintaining a detailed index of his “words & things & ideas of things,” each one finely printed or typed onto a 3″ x 5″ index card.

leavi macdougall index1

Basically it’s jokes on paper. Great jokes on nice paper. See them all at levimacdougall.tumblr.com

Follow Levi MacDougall on Twitter @levimacdougall

Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival Wrap-up

November 8th to 13th the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival is taking over venues across the city. Every day we’ll post our top few picks so you don’t have to work too hard to find that perfect show. For the full TSCF schedule, check out their website.

THE SKETCHERSONSComedy Bar 9pm

Another TOsketchfest has come and almost gone. For a week, the whole city was worked up into a non-existent fervour. The excitement was unpalpable. What better way to cap it all off than in the comforting arms of a regularly scheduled performance starring the usual cast of familiar characters.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t go to a single TSCF performance. Perhaps I failed to perform my journalistic duties, but I just couldn’t get excited enough by any of the shows to make them part of schedule this week. It’s safe to say that I was not alone: the dearth of enthusiasm was evident in the complete lack of coverage by most local media outlets. When the highest profile press you get for a week-long event is a single post on BlogTO or a single interview on AVClub Toronto with Scott Thompson that focuses on fruit, you can’t be surprised if Joe Public ain’t shouting about the fest from the rooftops where we all keep our water coolers these days.

Like I said, I didn’t go this year, so I have no clue if the shows were packed or not. And again, in terms of my journalistic obligations, my designation as “blogger” stipulates I do as little research as possible. A brief glance at the TOsketchfest Twitter feed suggests at least some of the higher profile shows were full. But the lack of online chatter suggests that the crowds that do show up consist of friends and fans that are already tuned in. One of the goals of these fests is (or should be) to generate some buzz for newer acts and help audiences discover who the next generation of stars might be. It’s never going to be NXNE, but I wonder what could be done to crank up the excitement factor a bit.

Festival organizers deserve kudos for a couple great moves this year. They secured some heavy Canadian talent as headliners. Picnicface, This is That and Two Kids One Hall (featuring Scott Thompson and Kevin McDonald of Kids in the Hall) are all perfect fits for the festival and should have been big draws for audience eyeballs. TSCF also greatly improved their web presence with an great new website. One hopes that these festival building blocks will be considered the bare minimum in the years to come.

If the TSCF wants to compete with bigger sketch comedy festivals like San Francisco then there a couple suggestions I’d like to make from my computer chair:

Swallow Our Pride and Bring In Some Bigger Stars: As I mentioned, 2011’s headliners are premiere Canadian talent that deserve top billing. But the reality is that your average Canadian entertainment consumers are only vaguely familiar with these acts. And, excluding two fifths of KITH, their international pedigree is minor to non-existent. By mixing in some big (read: American) names alongside these Canadian gems, organizers could raise the profile of the fest and make our top acts look as strong as they are by standing them alongside more established stars. I’m thinking former SNL cast members, the Upright Citizens Brigade, comedians with Comedy Central shows, etc.

Stronger International Presence: Headliners are one thing, but the weight of the fest is held up by the below the radar talent. Scrolling through the list of troupes on offer each year, they are overwhelmingly local. While it’s important to showcase Toronto’s talented comedians, featuring such a high percentage of acts from the local scene only further insulates an already cliquey community. Bringing in more outside talent will give those local acts who are included a chance to make better connections to the broader comedy world at large. No matter what you’ve got at your party, it won’t be great unless you invite people to join in.

All Access Wristband: This year TOsketchfest offered an uninspiring deal on tickets: $40 for 4 shows. If you really want to hook comedy loving audience members for the whole week and not just the shows they know, give them a chance to indulge themselves. For $75, an all access pass would give superfans a reason to geek out and take a chance on the less-than-sure bets. This would truly make it a festival and not just a series of shows.

Now, these things are all easier said than done and I’m sure festival organizers have discussed if not even fought for these improvements. So let’s hope they can pull some of them off and convince me and everyone else not to skip the fest next year.

UPDATE: Wow that’s a lot of response. Read some of my comments about your comments here.

Also I removed the picture at someone’s request. I didn’t get permission. Fair enough.

TSCF Saturday: Smells Like The 80’s and This Is That

November 8th to 13th the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival is taking over venues across the city. Every day we’ll post our top few picks so you don’t have to work too hard to find that perfect show. For the full TSCF schedule, check out their website.

SMELLS LIKE THE 80sComedy Bar 7pm

Smells Like The 80s cordially invite YOU – personally – to their show. Watch this video, especially designed for you.


www.smellslikethe80s.com

this is that

THIS IS THAT LIVELower Ossington Theatre 8pm

CBC Radio’s This is That is Canada’s best executed satire going. Pat Kelly and Peter Oldring produce pitch perfect fake news reports that give The Onion a run for their money. In their first ever live performances at TOsketchfest, the guys take us behind the scenes of the “frenzied production” of their show. Amongst other inside baseball they’ll be unveiling some listener phone calls “too wild for morning radio.” SOUNDS like a recipe for fun.

cbc.ca/thisisthat

TSCF Friday: Falcon Powder and Picnicface

November 8th to 13th the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival is taking over venues across the city. Every day we’ll post our top few picks so you don’t have to work too hard to find that perfect show. For the full TSCF schedule, check out their website.

FALCON POWDERLower Ossington Theatre 8pm

Falcon Powder are the Boston Bruins of TOsketchfest in that they are the returning champions – they won Best of the Fest in 2010 – and Kurt Smeaton’s moustache bears a striking resemblance to that of Tim Thomas. I’ve never seen these guys and they have next to nothing on the internet save a poorly titled, cryptic, joke-less YouTube video promoting this show – BUT – you should probably check them out because they come highly recommended. And Kurt Smeaton’s twitter feed is pretty good.

@FalconPowder

picnicface

PICNICFACEThe Second City 11pm

Picnicface! Live! It’s happening! They’re on TV and they’ve got a movie and a book and now you can see them in person for real. True success in Canadian entertainment comes but once in a blue moon so see these headliners for yourself.

www.picnicface.com

TSCF Thursday: Two Kids One Hall and Inside Joke Films

November 8th to 13th the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival is taking over venues across the city. Every day we’ll post our top few picks so you don’t have to work too hard to find that perfect show. For the full TSCF schedule, check out their website.

two kids one hall

TWO KIDS ONE HALLLower Ossington Theatre 8pm

Scott Thompson and Kevin McDonald are two fifths of Kids in the Hall but if you didn’t know that by now then there’s probably no hope for you. Seriously, these guys are hometown legends. This is a sure bet. Still need proof? No you don’t.

inside joke films

INSIDE JOKE FILMSLower Ossington Theatre 10pm

I’ve never heard of this fresh faced New York comedy duo but in my research for this post I found their website to be the least offensive (sorry, The Imponderables) and their video (below) to be the most expertly executed. Jonathan Braylock and Ramy Youssef might still be virgins (apparently) but they’ve got some other skills.


www.insidejokefilms.com

TSCF Wednesday: British Teeth and Punch Drysdale

November 8th to 13th the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival is taking over venues across the city. Every day we’ll post our top few picks so you don’t have to work too hard to find that perfect show. For the full TSCF schedule, check out their website.

british teeth

BRITISH TEETHComedy Bar 7pm

These newly minted Tim Sims Encouragement Award winners are some of the most exciting newcomers on the scene. Ryerson Theatre grads Filip Jeremic and Allana Reoch impress with their huge range of hilarious, spot-on characters and sharrrrrrrp writing.

www.britishteeth.com

punch drysdale

PUNCH DRYSDALE Comedy Bar 9pm (Sketch Wars)

Norm Sousa and Cole Osborne are intense, crude, loud and probably 70% beer. These two Sketchersons alumni are back after a short hiatus with new material for Sketch Wars. And if their old stuff is any indication, the new stuff is sure to tickle that spot wedged between your funny bone and your gag reflex.

www.punchdrysdale.com

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