After a terrible drive through construction, past accidents and the Toronto rush hour parking lot, that took 8 hours instead of the usual 6 and a half, I finally made it to London late enough to miss the first evening performance of The Big Comedy Go-To by Jimmy Hogg. The second show of the evening was The Canuck Cabaret with Paul Hutcheson and Sharon Nowlan. Now, I’ve spoken of my love for Paul before. He’s an amazing storyteller and an incredibly charming performer. He’s also one of the funniest people I’ve ever seen, so I was excited for this new bit. I had never met Sharon before but chatting with her at the bar afterward we had one of those “How have we never met before since we know so many of the same people” kind of conversations.
The show really did not disappoint. It was exactly what it said it would be: a cabaret filled with musical numbers, stories, dance, and even an incredibly brilliant and moving light show by Sharon. If someone saw the show and knows what those things she was using are called, please let me know below!
My only critique is that I would like to have seen them do more bits together. They started off strong with a hilarious opening musical number; Paul told new stories similar to what he does in his one man shows; Sharon did an amazing silent piece with a doll on her shoulder and her right arm as they danced and flirted together to some Sinatra (you really have to see this to believe it, I can't describe it well enough - it was incredible!); some individual stories about Canada; light show; and Paul closed everything on a 3 minute reenactment of Dirty Dancing that made me want to go watch the movie. Though funny the movie bit felt kind of anti-climactic. Perhaps a closing number together would tie things up nicely?
After that, we headed to the Black Shire Pub for THE BIG ONE! A stand-up cabaret where most of this weekend’s performers were going to be participating. I grabbed myself a good seat near the front and I was thrilled when I realized the first person up would be ELVIS! And he threw another scarf at MEEEEEEEEE!!! OMG! OMG! OMG! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
I’m sorry. Where was I?
Oh yeah, the stand-up.
Throughout the evening, many of the performers asked why I wasn’t participating. To be honest, I didn’t really see myself in the same league as these people. Most of them have toured extensively with their own material and regularly do things like stand-up, improv and sketch. Me? I feel like I’m just a novice. And I’ve only recently begun to feel, after seeing the crowd at the Airport Security screening bust a gut at my on-screen antics, that I am even that funny.
But watching my friend Cristel Bartelse up there bravely testing out some hilarious new material from her upcoming Fringe show (coming to a London Fringe near you!) did a little voice inside my head go: “Hey. I can do that.”
Maybe it was the beer talking. It could very well have been the beer talking, but watching performer after performer go up there, the voice got louder. Suddenly, I started getting this nagging feeling that I HAD to go up there. If I didn’t, I would regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday. Soon. And for the rest of my life. I turned to Christel and spoke out loud: “I have to go up there.” Her smile was wide and encouraging. “Do it!”
I walked over to producer Jayson McDonald. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no material planned but still I asked: “Do you have room?” He sent me over to the host with an urgent “If you want to do it, do it now.”
The host, Kristian Reimer looked amused by my request. I still didn’t know what I was going to say. Then I caught the current performer talking about vampires and the Twillight phenomenon. Bingo! I had my opening bit. “I have to go up now.” Ian MacIntyre from Approximately 3 Peters was wrapping up his set. “Ok,” Kristian said, “you’re up.”
I think I threw up in my mouth a little.
I was announced, there was music, I made my way up to the stage and set my beer down on a stool like every professional comic I’d ever seen.
Taking my cue from the previous set, I started: “I think vampire slaying would be a very difficult career move.”
There’s a chuckle. I’m awkward but in a completely adorkable way.
“I mean, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to stab someone in the chest before…”
Guffaw, really? Someone guffawed? And I was off!
I talked some more vampire slaying and Dustbusters and ideal careers and Princess Leia and my new found obsession with the King. It was surprisingly easy to flow from topic to topic. It was like writing a blog post, but out loud.
I finished on a good note. People clapped and some more funny people took to the stage, bringing down the house. It was a grand evening. I got a lot of really great comments and feedback throughout the night from people I absolutely adore and respect. For my first attempt at any kind of stand-up, it was not bad. Not bad at all.
Today’s the last day of the festival (already?) and I’m now off to enjoy as much as I can. There’s still time for you to check out a free panel discussion with some of the performers, a show by Uncalled For (my former billets who won Best Ensemble with this one at the Ottawa Fringe), a sketch comedy triple bill, an improve triple bill and finally an IMPROV CAGE MATCH!
For all the details, check out The Big Comedy Go-To website.