Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Lesson in Performance

So last night was the final night of the Island Stand-Up Showcase at the Arts Guild (no, I won't call it "the Guild", buzz off, Care.)  I went by myself because I hadn't gone yet and I really did want to see  how Taylor and Richard and Patrick and the rest were getting on with developing their acts.

I was very impressed with every one of the performers, but for different reasons.  First up was Richard Shroeter, who did a lot of his trademark stories about his wife. I like his one joke about quietly slipping his pants off when his wife asks him to take the garbage out so he won't have to.  He definitely toned down his act quite a bit, maybe just for time constraints (he had the shortest set), but some of the more awkward jokes he's made, which had me nearly dying when he's done them at Baba's, might best be left to the more understanding crowd.

Then came the surprise treat of the night, when they announced Lorne Elliot as the next performer.  And that's what he ended up resembling more, a performer moreso than a strictly a stand-up comedian.  He started off playing the ukulele and whistling a pretty intricate rendition of swan lake.  Then he did a few jokes, parodying his knack for making fun of the town he's in by exposing how generic such jokes really are, but at the same time showing he knew his way around PEI culture as well as most islanders.

Then he did something which showed off his abilities as a speaker and performer.  He said "well, I'm afraid I don't have much material tonight, since it was all very last-minute, but I do have plenty of ... Guardian.  He then took out a copy of the guardian, and read the story of the guy who took a chain saw to a gazebo downtown, but punctuated and timed the reading in a way that generated more laughs than should reasonably be expected from a crowd which presumably already knew all the details of the story.  This goes to prove the old adage that if you can get the audience to laugh if you make it seem like they're supposed to, and you do that by speaking in a way that sounds like every other time they've heard a joke told in the past.  All credit to him, it was a funny bit and he pulled it off like very few other comedians in Canada could.

Next up was Patrick Ledwell, the rising star of the night, and he again impressed me with his easy ability to come up with new material.  He had almost all new jokes from the last time I had seen him at Baba's, but he still told them very very well and you could tell that they were refined and practiced.    You can tell his theatre background right away, and he had the longest set of the night while never dragging in the middle.  I especially liked his bits about growing up in a big family and how getting a good kind of cereal was the most you could ever hope for for a treat.

After the break were the three edgier performers of the night, Taylor, Melissa Morse and François Webber.  Taylor again brought the audience into his own head very well, shared his feelings and current thought processes very effectively, and pulled off what is definitely his trademark nervousness that looks like he could burst at any time.  Since I've known him for so long I think I have a good intuitive feel for when he exaggerates, and when he wants the audience to think he's exaggerating but really isn't.  It would be interesting to hear the opinion of someone who was seeing him for the very first time.

Melissa was the fifth one up, and once again showed her stage presence quite nicely.  She also cut out some of the more offensive material from her act, which unfortunately meant that her very funny and stun-inducing opener was scrubbed.  There must have been a "no rape jokes" directive given to all the comedians.  She did a good job with her material, a lot of which I had heard before but which is very definitely reflective of her and she portrays a consistent persona which makes the material work together very well.

Last up was François, who reminded me the most of what you would expect from a working stand-up comedian.  He's been on the Yuk Yuk's circuit recently so that would explain it.  He had very smooth segues, consistently funny stuff, and was able to naturally just talk about himself in a way that seemed less rehearsed and more just a funny person talking to you, which I enjoyed a lot.

Lorne Elliot at the end of his set made special mention that he thought it was great that Charlottetown had a little scene like this happening. (Note, he didn't use the word "scene", of course.) And I have to agree, there are very few towns of 50,000 people that can both produce and support this kind of talent.  Cue them all moving to Halifax and Toronto...

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By al - 11:48 p.m. |


Just a wanted send out a special thanks for the review. It seemed fair to me and it is true, my set was shorter than normal and probably fits better in bar, but being the first up was also about building momentum for the show in general. Hopefully I was able to accomplish that. It was definately a new experience for me in that sense, but it was still a lot of fun to be apart of the group of comedians for these events. It has been quite the journey for me from agreeing to help Graham for a night to helping put on a successful comedy run at the guild. I look forward to having a small role in future events. See you at Baba's
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