Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Canada, homes and native lands
The "where to go?" aspect of Friday's fest-bound wandering got the simplest of "where to stay?" answers when I observed that the best strategy for seeing acts I'd not yet seen at this year's fest was staying put at the Playhouse for back-to-back galas. Which made the evening very -- almost lazily -- easy. Which is nice. So I had that goin' for me.
Given the state of reno-project chaos back at the homestead, the first Friday gala -- Open House -- did carry some added personal appeal.
Clearly, this repair-related fascination wasn't universally shared, as Pantages Playhouse auditorium was at best half filled when the show began. Host Tim Nutt forged on regardless, delivering a strong home-and-neighbours-focused set; the less-than-crackling atmosphere in the room forced him to work extra hard to get the decidedly reserved crowd warmed up for the feature acts.
Scott Faulconbridge was agitatedly energetic as he discussed home, kids ("I have a beautiful five-year-old boy at home. He's full of life; he's full of energy. I say that because he's for sale. If you act now, I'll throw in the grandparents."), and furniture and home-reno stores ("IKEA is proof that humanity is stupid; they have a successful business model, which is, 'You buy it, YOU build it.'"); L.A. resident Tammy Pescatelli kept things rolling with some funny stuff about marriage and motherhood and a cool observation about being bumped from the cast of Dancing With the Stars' second season after the producers opted for Sir Paul's ex, Heather Mills, instead ("You don't know a bad day at work until you've been replaced on a dancing show by a one-legged woman.").
New homeowner David Pryde talked about the importance of curb appeal -- nice looking on the outside, and without any nasty surprises once you're inside ("basically, the same criteria you'd apply to a whore.") -- and offered a quick lesson on the different kinds of mortgages ("There's 'variable,' which indicates that the interest rate changes based on fluctuations in the market, and 'fixed,' which means the bank takes away your testicles.").
Veteran sketch guy Patrick McKenna delivered one of the rare in-character pieces in this year's fest, coming out of the crowd as red-blazer-clad salesman Ross Bungalow to accept the "Golden Screw" award for realtor of the year; the bit was well delivered, and just borderline-naughty enough to be funny ("Real estate is like breast augmentation -- it costs a lot up front, but it's worth it.").
Cathy Jones -- always money in the comedy bank -- also did an in-character piece, appearing as matronly Miss Enid and prattling on amiably about her new digs at St. Jude's Seniors' Home; later, every-fest guy John Wing, a native of Sarnia, Ont., now living in L.A., explained why you really can't go home again. Show-closer Don Burnstick served up a disjointed collection of one-liners, mostly focused on what it's like to be the native guy who has the audacity to buy a home on Wellington Crescent.
A brief trip to the lobby, and then right back into my familiar note-taking perch for gala the second.... again (what's up with this?) in front of a half-filled house.
Whose Canada Is It Anyway? host Scott Thompson, who spent a couple of earlier shows trying to get his feet firmly beneath him with his gala-show set, delivered a confident and oddly charming opening; St.-Lucia-raised comic Gilson Lubin tried to explain why any right-minded person would seek relief from a climate that's "hot every day" by emigrating to frostbound Canada; and Montrealer Derek Seguin explored francophone profanity and how the current PM de-fanged the separatist beast by designating L.B. Province "a nation within a nation" ("It's kind of like calling a janitor a 'custodial engineer,' without giving him a raise.'").
Local product Don Kelly talked about being a Canadian who fits in with neither the native nor the white community, because he's the product of an Ojibway father and a Swedish mom ("We shall call him Dances With Bjorn -- he'll be able to track wild game and assemble IKEA furniture."); Sam Easton demonstrated his offbeat brilliance by outlining how tough life is for a white rapper in a white man's world (his set ended, to the audience's great delight, with a bit of hip-hop freestyle by his alter-ego, White Chedda).
Thompson's mid-show musings turned to his recent cancer battle, and how he drew inspiration from the triumphant comeback by Montreal Canadiens' captain Saku Koivu after being treated for exactly the same illness. His gentle audience coaxing led to a standing ovation led by Kids colleague Kevin McDonald, who delivered a floral bouquet to the host before scampering offstage.
Montreal-based comic Franco Taddeo reflected on being a resident of a do-gooder country, and did a cheeky bit about risque Quebec place names that probably won't make it into the final TV-show edit.
And speaking of not making the final for-air cut .... show-closer Rich Hall tossed all thoughts of format and time constraints to the wind as he delivered a waaaaaaaay over-long set that was pointedly hilarious as it careened from topic to topic -- mosquitoes, politics, the crushing U.S. budget deficit, and a raucous closing tale about attending a reception at Buckingham Palace for noteworthy American artists and standing line a receiving line behind a tipsy Don Johnson while waiting to shake hands with HRH.
It was a memorable fest moment; the only thing funnier than Hall's material was watching the guy who operates the get-offstage-NOW warning light develop a repetitive-strain injury while more or less losing his mind as Hall completely ignored his beacons.
That's what I saw. Which means I missed Hot Thespian Action and The Shock of the New, both at the GST. Any insights you can offer?
About Brad Oswald
Way back when Brad Oswald was TV-inclined little kid, his exasperated mother used to say things like, "Would you PLEASE turn that thing off and go OUTSIDE and play? If you insist on watching that IDIOT box day after day after day, you will NEVER amount to ANYTHING in this world!"
Well, go figure.
Brad joined the Free Press in 1987 and has spent most of the last two decades getting paid to watch the television as the paper’s resident TV critic. In addition to previewing and reviewing all the latest prime-time shows and covering the local TV industry, he also usually spends a few weeks per year in L.A., interviewing TV stars and attending Big Phony Hollywood Parties.
Brad also writes about comedy and other assorted entertainment topics, and has been known to wander onto local stages try out his own standup material as part of an ongoing quest to satisfy his deep-rooted need for affirmation. He was the winner of Rumor’s Comedy Club’s first Funniest Person With a Day Job contest.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Brad grew up in St. Vital, attended Dakota Collegiate and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Manitoba before enrolling in Red River College’s Creative Communications program. He played rugby for more than 20 years, which, quite frankly, amounts to a whole lot of blows to the unprotected noggin.
Despite that, during his two-decades-plus at the Free Press, he has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about television and other pop-culture topics, and would certainly not be the worst person to pick for your trivia-contest team.
For some reason, he firmly believes his Mom really would be proud of all this.
Ads by Google