How many times have you felt an unmistakeable emotion from someone – sadness, fear, joy, rage – without a word being uttered? Vibrations are powerful. Before you open your mouth on stage, try listening with your whole body and tune in to the feeling that’s already there.
Conor Bradbury is a member of Sex T-Rex, one of Canada’s foremost comedy troupes and winners of Second City’s Outstanding New Comedy Award at the Toronto Fringe. The following post is reproduced with permission.
Well it’s the end of another Toronto Fringe Festival and I’m feeling all of the feels right now. This community is so full of lovely, talented people who produce exceptional work and are insanely fun to get drunk with. This year at the Honest Ed’s beer tent there was a coloring contest, a makeshift tarp roofed bonfire, a stolen brick and far, far too many Steamwhistles. There was also a ton of sexual assault.
I know this isn’t a new development at fringe festivals (or in the theatre/comedy community in general), but it’s one that I’ve become more and more aware of over the past few years. I guess I used to think that not actually witnessing these assaults meant that they probably weren’t happening. I mean, how could a place so full of wonderful people, a place where I had always had such an overwhelmingly positive experience, also be a place where my friends were being sexually harassed and assaulted on a regular basis? It didn’t make any sense. It still doesn’t, really, but it’s happening.
Not to oversimplify things, but there are basically two categories of perpetrators: The ones you know and the ones you don’t. While there’s plenty to be said about both groups for now I’d like to focus on the ones you know.
Let me start of by saying I have absolutely no idea what the best way for a woman to react to a sexual assault is. It seems like there isn’t really a right answer and the fact thay we spend so much time focusing on the victim’s behaviour I find truly baffling and disturbing.
So that brings us to the men. It seems a lot of my male friends in the community (and I am very intentionally using the word friend when I say this) are a bit confused as to what actually constitutes sexual assault. So let me give you a few tips on how to avoid being a creep in the future.
1) Keep Your Fucking Hands to Yourself.
This covers everything between unsolicited groping to “overly long hugs.” As a general rule until you know otherwise, assume women don’t want to be touched. Because they don’t. At least not most of the time, and not by you. Physical contact is a mark of intimacy and it needs to be earned. Obviously touching can be part of flirting, but there’s a big difference between putting a hand on someone’s shoulder to gauge their reaction and grabbing their ass. A lot of what you consider harmless flirting is making women seriously uncomfortable. Which brings me to my next point…
2) Stop Assuming Every Woman Who Talks to You Wants to Have Sex With You.
They don’t. It seems like that should be obvious, but a lot of you seem to be having real trouble with this one. I don’t care who you are, how charming you think you are or how many N’s your show got. MOST people still don’t want to fuck you. If a woman laughs at your jokes, puts her hand on your arm or smiles at you when you walk by sometimes she’s just doing that because THOSE ARE THINGS THAT NORMAL HUMANS DO. Granted you’ve probably had a few too many pints and your ego is in overdrive, but you know what?…
3) Being Drunk is Not a Valid Excuse.
Everyone does dumb shit when they drink. Not everyone sexually assaults women. You are legally responsible for everything you do NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU’VE HAD TO DRINK (believe me a recent “urban exploration” of an abandoned factory taught me that much). If you truly can’t control yourself when drinking you have three options 1) Stop drinking. 2) Drink less or 3) Treat yourself like the werewolf that you are and lock yourself in a basement until you sober up.
This is obviously a huge and complicated issue that we could talk about forever, but if my male friends could just focus on those three points I think that would be a great start. I don’t even care why you do it. You can do it because you genuinely want to make yourself a better person, or you can do it just to save your own reputation. Because you know what? This is a small community and word travels fast. There are already so many whispers out there about which men in the community to avoid and the more whispers there are the louder they get.
Cameron and I saw True Blue at the Fringe festival, and five days later, it’s stayed with me.
The show is an hour of unscripted theatre in the style of NYPD Blue or True Detective. The pace is slower than most improvised sets, but it’s every bit as compelling. Unlike most improv, the actors weren’t going for laughs (although there were plenty to keep us entertained). But what was really refreshing was seeing improvisers sit in scenes long enough for nuances to emerge, and dialogue to breathe.
One of my favourite performances was by Shanda Bezic, an actor who I was surprised to discover only started learning improv last year. Her characters were grounded and authentic, yet still playful.
At the other end of the scale was Anders Yates’ hilarious turn as a coroner. It was clear he didn’t know much about coroner…ing, but scene partners Colin Munch and Amy Matysio used this gift to their advantage, and the audience’s delight.
I came away thinking how we don’t have to know everything, or be “expert improvisers,” as long as we commit fully to each tiny moment, and each other, on stage. And how being different – in format, style, or approach – is a wonderful thing.
True Blue was named Patron’s Pick, and there are still two more chances to see it this Sunday.
Canada is having a moment.
It’s the sudden explosion of Canadian comedy, on a scale that hasn’t been seen since the ‘90s.
Whether you’re a maple syrup-slurping Mountie, or just someone who googled “How to move to Canada” recently, here’s our unofficial guide to some of the funniest stuff from these parts. First up…
Baroness von Sketch
Unless you’ve been orbiting Mars or on a social media fast, you’ve probably seen the “Locker Room” sketch, which racked up over a million views in a matter of days.
Sketch after solid sketch, this laugh-out-loud look at modern life is a breath of fresh air on the male-dominated airwaves. It’s also a middle finger to the face of anyone who says women aren’t funny.
The series was created by and stars comedy powerhouses Aurora Browne, Meredith MacNeill, Carolyn Taylor and Jennifer Whalen.
Improv fans will also recognize Ann Pornel, Lee Smart, and Kris Siddiqi, among others who make guest appearances. And with additional writing by Jennifer Goodhue, Dawn Whitwell, and Monica Heisey, Baroness is a showcase of Canada’s fiercely funny female talent.
Did we mention Reggie Watts is also a fan?
Catch it Tuesdays, 9:30 pm on CBC, or view online.
The Whole Truths
Jim Annan, Scott Montgomery, and Kurt Smeaton (a.k.a. Falcon Powder) have been killing it in the comedy community for over a decade. Their new series for CBC digital, The Whole Truths, brings their rapid-fire, surrealist humour to a wider audience starting July 4.
If you’re not already a fan, we promise that after watching this trailer you will be.
This Is That
Also from CBC digital, This Is That is “a current affairs program that doesn’t just talk about the issues, it fabricates them.” The show built its fan base on CBC radio, beginning in 2010.
Long-time fans will remember Pat Kelly and Peter Oldring from their improvised web series Good Morning World, which was picked up by Comedy Network. And judging by the first few promos, this new series will be coming soon to a TV near you.
Keep an eye out for appearances from some of our other favourite improvisers, including Kayla Lorette and Caitlin Howden.
People of Earth
While not a Canadian production, we had to give this a special mention. Whether he’s doing a solo show, or climbing all over Isaac Kessler in 2-Man, No-Show, Ken Hall is loved by the improv community. So when People of Earth was announced this year, starring Wyatt Cenac, Oscar Nunez, and one Ken Hall, well, the community went a little crazy.
Check out the trailer below.
Other great series created by Canadians include White Guys, Doing It! with Brian and Darla, and Womanish. It’s exciting to see so many improvisers and sketch comedians bring their talents from stage to screen.
Hopefully this means network execs are finally wising up. After the sudden and short-sighted cancellation of Picnicface and more recently, Sunnyside, it’s time someone besides Lorne Michaels promoted Canadian comedy, in all its flavours.
As Obama said, “The world needs more Canada.”