ART SMARTS: Is it comedy or is it theatre?

Columnist Janis La Couvée examines at the fine line between the two

Monday Magazine columnist Janis La Couvée. File photo

Victoria has its fair share of colourful stage characters. Birthed in cabaret sketches, at comedy clubs and through improv, they sometimes take on a life of their own, with entire shows being built around them. But—is it comedy, or is it theatre?

Mike Delamont (God is a Scottish Drag Queen) has a steady following, from the Fringe circuit in Canada and the US, where he is one of the top earning performers, to regular appearances on regional stages across the country with his bevy of shows (The Devil, Mama’s Boy, Husky Panda, Floriduh). God first appeared in Atomic Vaudeville sketches and was then developed as a one person show in 2010.

Delamont believes an essential difference between stand-up comedy and a solo show is the “ability to sustain a real moment of gravitas before the punch line. In stand-up you can’t let the darkness sit, there has to be a release”.

Delamont has also worked with close friend Morgan Cranny on his solo show Vasily Djokovitch: Russia’s #1 State Approved Comedian. Cranny started by first performing improv with Impromaniacs, is a member of Atomic Vaudeville, an improviser with the hit serial Sin City, host of The Mint comedy open mics and a regular performer with many local theatre companies and on the Fringe circuit.

Vasily began life as an Atomic Vaudeville bridge character who created space for others. “He was interesting because he was the anti-comedian, an earnest character” says Cranny. In order to create an entire show, they took the tragic parts of Vasily’s hinted-at past, added theatrical elements—a dance, a history lesson, props—and paid more attention to lighting and the stage set-up. Elements of improvisation and audience participation remain.

Delamont and Cranny will be performing with Wes Borg and Rod Peter Jr. at this year’s Victoria Fringe in The War of 1812. You can also catch them at comedy open mics across the city. Their other shows are touring this year with no plans as yet for Victoria dates.

Shawn O’Hara performed stand-up first, and debuted Brad Gooseberry (Field Zoology 101), a “pompous know-it-all idiot who doesn’t know anything,” four years ago at the monthly Come and Play with Ryan and Chris. “I hadn’t done any character bits and was interested in giving it a try. I used to love Jack Hanna Wildlife Expert as a kid” says O’Hara.

The first half of the show is scripted—the hapless Gooseberry gives a slide presentation filled with visual gags. The latter half is improvised as the character responds to submitted audience questions. Field Zoology 101, produced by Delamont, returns to the Victoria Fringe 2018.

Kirsten van Ritzen, co-founder of Broad Theatrics, is a well-known local actor and comedian who regularly teaches classes in both comedy and improv. Her “barfly and party girl” Louise was a character in a season of the live improvised serial Sin City and while Louise has no plans for a show of her own, she can be seen regularly hosting and performing at local comedy mics in town. According to van Ritzen, “performing comedy as a character is harder but it gives you more freedom. You can get away with much more, especially as a woman—it’s more acceptable to an audience. You’re not hiding behind a character, but rather, exploring.”

Find more from Janis at janislacouvee.com or on Twitter @lacouvee.

editor@mondaymag.com

Just Posted

Season opener: Blue Bridge launches with a spoof of Hitchcock classic

Broadway’s longest-running comedy, The 39 Steps runs Oct. 22 to Nov. 3 at the Roxy Theatre

Musical pipeline to Victoria continues for Bruce Cockburn

Iconic Canadian singer-songwriter brings considerable catalogue, new material to Royal on Nov. 8

Advice for first-time Rocky Horror Picture Show attendees

Get ready to dance, sing and throw toast

Adventures in photojournalism, courtesy UVic Southam Lecturer, Farah Nosh

Free multimedia event Wednesday highlights photog’s experiences in Middle East, Haida Gwaii

Island’s first international burlesque festival coming to Victoria

Performers from around the world to be showcased

Fashion Fridays: How to pose in photos

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Classic rock twin bill features the music of Fleetwood Mac and Rod Stewart

Dreams joins Rod & the Mods for Oct. 28 tribute show at the McPherson Playhouse in Victoria

Five Halloween activities for adults to celebrate the spooky season

Halloween isn’t just for little ghouls in Greater Victoria

City of Victoria seeks next Youth Poet Laureate

Nominations for the 2020 position close on Oct. 29

Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra launches new season

First up: Celebrating the Concerto on Oct. 27

Most Read