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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Canadian Comedy Awards awards, day three

Well, here we are at day three of the Canadian Comedy Awards festival. Actually, I'm on day four, but I'll get to that tomorrow.

Day three was the awards part of the Awards festival. But I'll get to that in a second. Earlier in the day I ran into Mark Breslin in the mall. He was on his way to the Jewish Museum in Saint John and we were both amazed that there was one. He told me about the Vancouver club, which is going to cease being a Yuk Yuk's in May. The club itself will continue being a comedy club, but the Yuk Yuk's franchise will look for a new location in town. So we'll have two clubs again in a little while. It's never worked before, but I have high hopes. I told him that I realize that he, as a businessman, wouldn't like the competition but that I, as a comedy consumer, love it. To have two clubs going head to head, trying to win over customers with great acts and ambiance is nothing but positive for consumers. And why I think this new set-up might work is because the new guys will be positioned in the very club that Yuk Yuk's set up. The people are conditioned to go to that spot for comedy. And the new Yuk Yuk's has the name and marketing behind it.

If I see Mark again today, I hope to get an interview with him for the radio show. We've been trying for a couple of years to get together on the show, but he's never been in town on a Sunday night and I've never wanted it to be a phone interview.

I did, though, talk to television's Jon Dore for a half-hour and we'll run that interview probably on Oct. 25. That's the next open spot.

Now on to the awards. It was the 10th annual ceremony, if you can believe it. It seems like they just started a few years ago. Held at the swanky Imperial Theatre, the event was hosted by Sean Cullen, who turned out to be a really good host. He started out by sucking up to the Saint John audience: "It's a beautiful place. I love places that are all on a slant." (There's a big hill here up from the water, y'see.) And he compared it with Newfoundland's St. John's, starting by showering Saint John with compliments and ending with, "St. John's, of course, is a filthy shithole."

The show moved quickly, which is always important in an awards show. Twenty-three awards were handed out by 14 presenters. And here they are, with as much information as I was able to scribble down. For the fine details, I'm sure all the info is on the Comedy Awards website.

1. Best One-Person Show. Presenter: The woman who played Leslie the Low-Talker in the puffy shirt episode of Seinfeld. Winner: One Woman Show. Three guys accepted. I hadn't heard of a single of the nominees (a common theme throughout the evening, fyi).

2. Best Male Improviser. Presenter: Dan Redican of the Frantics. Winner: Kerry Griffin, beating out both Ian Boothby (who was not in attendance) and Taz Van Rassel (who was).

3. Best Female Improviser. Winner: Jan Caruana, beating out nobody I've ever heard of.

4. Best Improv Troupe. Winner: Impromptu Splendor, beating out Urban Improv.

5. Best Stand-Up Newcomer. Presenter: 3-time winner Nikki Payne. Winner: Nathan MacIntosh.

6. Best Radio Clip. Presenter: Some schleps from K100, a radio station in town. The male half, with a deep, booming voice, tried to get a laugh off the top and was met with silence. I love it when radio dudes get out in the real world and see that their humour doesn't translate. Winner: "Zen Hokey Pokey" by Joe Bird, beating out "Spelling Bee" by Canadian Content. Bird died earlier this year at the age of 41.

And that was it for any Vancouver representation.

7. Best Web Clip. Presenter: Tim Steeves and some guy in the balcony. Winner: Violator, by The Imponderables, who came out and goofed around. One guy grabbed the mic from another and did a take-off on Kanye West (it had to happen at some point). After they walked off the stage, Cullen entered saying they should be called The Incorrigibles instead.

8. Best Comedic Play/Revue. Presenter: Tony award winner Lisa Lambert, of The Drowsy Chaperone fame. Winner: "Barack to the Future" by Second City. Don't you love a punny title?

9. Best Direction - Film. Presenter: Pat Thornton, of The Owl and the Man. Winner: Martin Gero for "Young People Fucking".

10. Best Direction, TV Program or Series. Winner: Adam Brodie and Dave Derewlany for "The Jon Dore Television Show" (Jon Gets Haunted). Those two guys were young. But they weren't fucking.

Next Gordon Pinsent was brought to the stage where Cullen proceeded to quiz him on his imdb credits. It's amazing how little he remembered. Then again, his career goes back to the 1960s. Did you know he was in an episode of Cannon? Better yet, he was in Blacula. He said he took the part because of one line. He played the "white token" cop. The line: "Who the hell would want two black faggot draculas?"

11. Best Writing - Film. Presenter: The aforementioned Mr. Pinsent, who, as shown in his anecdote about choosing scripts based on the lines, knows a thing or two about writing. Winner: Martin Gero and Aaron Abrams for "Young People Fucking". You'll be relieved to note that Pinsent never uttered the last word when announcing the winner.

12. Best Writing, TV Program or Series. Winner: Ron Sparks for his Comedy Now special. Now, I didn't see all the nominees (or any of them, now that I think about it) but I'm not sure a stand-up special should be included with all the others. He was up against the writers from "Bravo! Fact Presents: The Second City Facebook of Revelations", "The Rick Mercer Report", and "This Hour Has 22 Minutes". I'm not a fan of two of those three, but when you think of writing, that's what you think of, not a stand-up comic who may or may not have done much of the writing for his special on small stages leading up to the special.

13. The Chairman's Award. Presenter: Tim Progrosh. Winner: I have no idea. Progrosh mumbled the name. Could it have been Lorne somebody? I don't even know what it is the guy did.

To cleanse the palette, we were treated to a sketch by Skippy's Rangers, featuring Paul O'Sullivan, Lisa Lambert and Harry Doupe about a guy with a thick brogue trying to order a beer.

14. Best Sketch Troupe. Presenter: Paul O'Sullivan. Winner: The Second City, beating out Halifax's Picnicface, the only other troupe I'd seen.

15. Best Performance by a Female - Film. Presenter: Roger Abbott and Don Ferguson of Air Farce fame. Winner: Samantha Bee for "Coopers Camera" (there was no apostrophe in the program; not sure if there is one in the actual film), beating out three young people fucking. Sam wasn't in attendance.

16. Best Performance by a Male - Film. Winner: Peter Oldring for "Young People Fucking". And yes, Abbott and Ferguson said it. Oldring beat out Samantha Bee's husband Jason Jones, and two other young people fucking.

Next Derek Edwards did about five minutes of stand-up. Turns out those signs he read on the BC highway are also the signs he read on the New Brunswick highway! I'm shattered.

17. Best Female Stand-Up. Presenter: Derek Edwards. Winner: Debra DiGiovanni, beating out Kristeen Von Hagen, who I saw earlier in the day sporting her Oak Bay High hoodie, and Allyson Smith, who still gets a mention because she lived in Vancouver for a while.

18. Best Male Stand-Up. Winner: Jeremy Hotz, beating out a solid lineup of Scott Faulconbridge, Glen Foster, David Pryde and Sugar Sammy. Hotz accepted in character, saying, "Thanks for this charred piece of glass. I don't think they're going to let me get back on the plane with it."

19. Canadian Comedy Person of the Year. Presenter: Sean Cullen. Winner: Seth Rogan, who accepted on video from Hawaii. He beat out the Air Farce (if you can believe it!), Brent Butt, Rick Mercer and Russell Peters.

20. Best Performance by a Female - TV. Presenters: Leah Pinsent (daughter of Gordon) and Peter Keleghan (aka Canada's Alec Baldwin). Keleghan was quite funny. He told us the difference between him and Baldwin: Baldwin is richer, a better actor, and puffier. Winner: Wendel Meldrum for "Less Than Kind", who gushed, saying how important the award was because maybe now the show will get picked up for a third season.

21. Best Performance by a Male - TV. Winner: Jon Dore for "The Jon Dore Television Show". Jon gave the funniest acceptance speech, which isn't all that surprising. As he walked up there, he looked back and said, "I'm supposed to be up here, right? I was listening to my iPod." Then when he got to his speech, he used his classic misdirection to great effect: "This was totally expected." Then he thanked a bunch of people, including many in the audience who had guested on the show or written for it. "And for those who haven't: Work harder." Earlier in the day, Jon told me (and it's on tape, so you'll hear it on the 25th) that if he won, he'd dedicate it to me. Or even give the trophy to me. He didn't. Bastard.

22. Best Performance by an Ensemble - TV. Winner: Less Than Kind, beating out, again, no show I've ever seen.

23. Best TV Taped Live Performance. Winner: Ron Sparks for his Comedy Now. Man, I've got to watch that special. It must be good. He beat out Deb DiGiovanni's Halifax Comedy Festival, Jeremy Hotz's Just For Laughs Gala, Hotz's What a Miserable Show This Is, and Laurie Elliott's Just For Laughs Gala. Sparks thanked Hotz for splitting his vote.

And that was it. I've got some opinions on the awards that I'll share in the next day or two.

After the show, I walked several blocks to the Phoenix Dinner Theatre for the sketch/improv showcase hosted by Redican, who is anything but frantic in his delivery. The show was packed. I finally got to see Picnicface do sketch live. I'd seen them on-line and have seen each perform stand-up. One skit involved a man on a ledge being talked down - literally - by a cad on the street who just wanted the guy's shirt. When he finally gave it, the dude proceeded to make fun of his chest hair: "Gilles Duceppe called. He wants his fleur de lis back."

The Sketchersons were next. I either didn't hear, or didn't understand, or didn't get, their first sketch about the Vargas Brothers, two weird divorce lawyers. They followed it with some lip synching to Let It Be, that was moderately funny with a moderately funny pay-off at the end. I won't give it away.

I didn't catch the name of the third troupe. Sounded like Chewus to me. [Editor's note: It was Shoeless. I was close.] I liked their take on an old-age home in the future, where the geezers were all techies who tweeted and texted and played X-box while the young orderly didn't do any of that stuff.

Second City followed. They had the best sketch of the night. Two moms at a playground. Everything starts out fine and mom-like and quickly descends. It was Louis CK-like in female sketch form.

The Imponderables closed the first half with aliens landing on earth, with a fun twist. Then a meeting of Douchebags Anonymous was silly fun.

The 11 o'clock stand-up show hosted by Dore was sold-out so even a VIP like me couldn't get in. Can you imagine? Don't they know who I am?! So back upstairs I went for the second half of the sketch/improv show. It would be the improv portion of the evening.

The 10-person Monkey Toast took to the stage first. They interviewed the mayor of Saint John (the real mayor), then performed scenes based on the talk. It didn't quite work for me.

PROJECTproject was next, who performed a series of scenes based on the one-word suggest, fork. Meh.

The National Theatre of the World did their Impromptu Splendor show, where they do a play in the style of a playwright. This night it would be Eve Ensler, who wrote The Vagina Monologues. Based on the suggestion of someone, tonight it would be The Nipple Monologues.

Next up, Vancouver's own Urban Improv, ladies and gentlemen! Four of the members made the trip: Diana Frances, Drew MacCreadie, Taz Van Rassal, and Chris Cassillan. They realized the evening was dragging and it was late so they were quick. So instead of doing numerous scenes and trying to impress, they impressed by doing one quick one. Coming out, they played on the improv form of asking for questions. The first couple were normal, then they kept going in that manic way impovisers do when they ask for suggestions. In all, they probably got ten suggestions, including "What colour am I thinking of?" (green, it was suggested), "What was Hitler's justification for the holocaust?" (a bad hair day), and "Okay, what's, like, a funny scene we could do for you?" (that's your job). Then they went to the scene where all the words were used in two sentences and just like that it was over. Redican made his first comment of the evening: "That was surprisingly satisfying." And it was.

Lastly was About An Hour, who had many of the same members as another troupe. They did a five-minute scene on About A (blank), filled in by someone in the crowd who unimaginatively yelled "Boy".

That's it. There's more to come tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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