I guess it's kind of fitting that this year's edition of the CBC Winnipeg Comedy Fest jumped the gun on its usual Wednesday-night opening by, well, jumping the gun.
Tuesday's special-event/pre-opening-opening show was touted (true Freudian-slip story: as I tapped out this part on the keyboard, I accidentally typed "outed" instead of "touted") as the Trevor Boris Homecoming Show and DVD Release Party; as it turns out, it was a fitting and funny homecoming show but not in any way a DVD-release event, as the disc set in question has had its release delayed three weeks (til April 27) because its label, Warner Music, had to do some last-minute scurrying to finalize rights clearances for a musical track in one of the short-film extras in the set.
Now, "musical track" is a bit of a stretch, since the sequence in question features Selkirk-born funnyboy Boris in his Toronto apartment, dancing around in his underwear while belting out a few lines from a Black Eyed Peas number -- not really enough to make a musical impression, unless you're a record-label lawyer who's trying to protect his bosses from getting their arses sued off for copyright infringement.
So, three weeks' delay. Boris's giggling assessment: "Totally worth it!"
Anyway, back to the show. A pretty good crowd at the Gas Station Theatre, especially for a Tuesday night when there are so many more fest events on the immediate horizon.
Artistic director Al Rae acted as host and ad-hoc opening act, doing quite a bit more time than his usual greet-the-crowd/tell-a-couple-of-Winnipeg-jokes greetings entail. Funny stuff, too, including some sharp ruminations on parenthood, raising teenagers and being asked to act as godparent to a friend's new arrival.
Rae seemed to be enjoying his stage time so much, in fact, that he, the boss of the whole fest enterprise, was given the traditional wrap-it-up warning from the back of the room.
"Huh?," he queried, summoning his best DeNiro-esque indignation. "Are you giving me a light? Are YOU giving ME a light???" Followed, of course, by a perfunctory expletive and a couple more minutes of comedy.
Former local Bruce Clark and reclaimed local Chantal Marostica followed, crisply, and then Rae introduced what seemed to be a surprise-guest performer, Kid from the Hall Kevin McDonald. But it turned out -- quite amusingly -- that his contribution amounted to walking up to the microphone and introducing another Kid by shouting, "Ladies and gentlemen ... Scott Thompson!"
Thompson, who was on the schedule, did a tightly insightful set (clearly in preparation for his hosting gig at Friday's Whose Canada Is It Anyway? gala) that explored the contradictions of luck and fate that saw his last 12 months include a successful Kids-reunion TV series (Death Comes to Town) and a very difficult battle through cancer treatments.
Was it a matter of things in life just balancing out, he mused? "If it was balance, shouldn't our show have been better?" he mused. "Because cancer is (expletives piled upon expletives)."
After a short break, the evening's featured act took the stage (after a taped intro showing Boris in one of his earliest standup gigs at a Winnipeg Press Club comedy night); Boris was in fine form and clearly ready to enjoy every minute of his homecoming night. He presented a mix of standup and video features, and then, in what turned out to be the highlight of the show, invited Thompson back onstage to join him in a dueling-easy-chairs/pair-of-queens chit-chat.
After trading compliments and mutual gay-guy admiration, Boris got Thompson to delve deeper into his cancer-trip story, which proved to be both revealing and funny. And then he sort of blindsided his guest by asking if it was true -- as he'd been told by a mutual friend -- that Thompson's chemo regime resulted in the growth of "man boobs."
WELL ... this one didn't seem to have been discussed in the pre-show briefing. "I am SO not ready to talk about this yet," a flummoxed Thompson responded. But talk he did, and it was hilarious, and touching (including a line you'll absolutely never hear another male comic, gay, straight or otherwise, utter onstage: "I had to have a MAMMOGRAM.").
As they say in the biz, it's only funny because it's true.
Good show. Good start. More later.
BTW, the DVD that WASN'T released is called Trevor Boris: Over Easy. April 27.