Friday, August 7

Behind The Sketches: Smelt Shack / Seal Video

Yeseterday's post - Stand Up, Canada, Atticus Finch Is Passing By - was about a Sketch-22 sketch that opened the 2nd act of our Season 7 production.

Today's sketch topic - Smelt Shack - closed the first act of that same production, and features characters who are perhaps on the opposite end of the Canadian cultural spectrum to the Atticus Finch panelists.  And features a video that I am still amazed ever happened.

I'm a bit fuzzy as to the timeline of events that caused this sketch and video to come into being.  I do know that I had a few character nicknames floating around in my brain for quite some time - Upchucky, Stalag the German, a couple more - but had never really found the right vehicle to use them. I had decided, I think, that for this summer's show, come hell or high water I'd write a sketch around these characters - mostly so that we all could have fun playing cliche "good ole Island boys" types.  I placed them in a smelt shack setting, and got to writing

Somewhere along the way, during one of our writing-rehearsal / brainstorming sessions / gigglefests, we came upon the idea of melding the smelt shack script with a bit about the seal hunt industry.  I don't know who came up with the idea to have a penis represent the evil seals, but I do know who was totally on-board with being cast in that role.
So, yeah. we thought that a great way - an outlandish way - an "oh my god did I just see what I think I just saw, did they just do that" way to end the smelt shack sketch was to have these characters get excited about making a viral video that would show how (to these guys) the seal hunt is necessary because seals are killers of fish stock.
We'd do up an ultra cheap, poorly filmed video (as if these untalented guys were making it) using little figurines on a white bristol board or something that represented snow.  There'd be a hole in the board,and a seal would pop up and attack the figurine people.
AND the huge, surprise reveal was that the seal would actually be an actual dick, dressed up to look like a seal.
Oh my god. We all laughed so hard until we cried the first time that concept was imagined.  It would be SO funny, SO shocking...  I LOVE that first of all, one of us came up with the idea... I LOVE that we felt like we HAD to follow through on that crazy idea.  And I LOVE that we actually did follow through.  And I absolutely LOVED watching the audience react to that reveal every night of the run.
(the way the stage sketch ended, the lights went down on us and the video immediately started.  Because it was the last sketch of the act, we didn't need to rush off stage to change, so we'd almost always just stay sitting in the smelt shack set, watching the audience watching the video, and wait until the seal-dick reveal. So rewarding to watch the faces of audience members as the moment registered in their brains.)

I don't do it very often, but sometimes it really helps to write character dialogue out phonetically, and with purposefully misspelled (mispronounced) words and phrases.  I wanted these characters to be very low status in terms of grammar and education, and getting into their specific individual patterns of speech really opened it up to come up with some really fun lines - lines that would never have come into being if I had just written it in a more neutral way and asked the actors to "Island it up" during rehearsals.

One of my favourite lines of all time is "Watch of how scared she looks!"

I always had so much fun playing in this sketch. Such great energy  It always seemed to be on the verge of chaos, always daring to spin out of control.  But surprisingly, we kept really close to the script the whole summer.

Here's a censored promotional video that shows a segment of the sketch - Smelt Shack Excerpt


Smelt Shack

Upchucky:  Fuck's sake, boys.  The smelt's ain't bitin'!  What the fuck are we doin' stuck in this shack for on a Sayerdee noight?  Taint, we should be out talin'!!

Taint:  Any pardees goin' on, er wha?  Stalag, you know of any pardees?

Stalag: Nuh uh.  Court order don't let me go to pardees 'til September.

Eggroll:  Me too! Asshole Judge Lantz!!

Boner: I heard sumfin about Donna Laybolt puttin' sumfin on.

Upchucky: Fuckin' Donna Laybolt!!  Fuck her and the stuck-up miniature horse she rode in on!

Stalag:  Are you still squealin' 'bout Donna Laybolt owin' you a blowjob?  I told ya. For the a-millionth time...  Upchucky, she's not gonna blow ya!

Upchucky: Shut up Stalag, ya fuckin' German! She said she'd blow me if I mowed the lawn at her parents motel and I fuckin' mowed the lawn! 

Eggroll:  She wuz jokin'.

Upchucky:  Yer a joke, Eggroll!

Taint: And that wuz loik two summer ago.

Upchucky: So? She said it, so she'll blow me.  If she knows what's good for her.

Boner: Upchucky, Donna Laybolt, she not blowed anyone.

Upchucky:  Shit sakes, Boner, wouldja quit rainin' on my parade!

Taint: Donna Laybolt's lips'r hunnert percent virgin lips.  Tracy Goat tole me.

Stalag:  Both sets a her lips are virgin lips!!

Boner:  Birgin lips all ober her body!

Everyone but Eggroll laughs. He pulls out a couple of small action-figures and absently plays with them.

Eggroll:  I don't get it? What's the joke?  What'd I miss?

Taint: Half your grade nine year, Eggroll.  That's what ya missed ya stunned prick!

Eggroll:  Fuck you Taint!  You got held back a coupla grades too, ya know!

Upchucky:  Eggroll, what the fuck you doin' with them fingerines, anyways?  What are ya, 12?

Eggroll: They're awesome!  Lookit them, they're all scared and shit!

Eggroll passes them around.

Stalag: What the hell are they scared of?  Fuckin' pussies!

Eggroll:  Stoled them off my little brother.  Figured we could melt them later.  Give 'em something to be scared of.

Taint: Holy shit, lookit this one!  Who's it look like?

Boner: Donna Laybolt!

Upchucky:  What?  Lemme see!  (takes it from Taint)  Holy shit, it does look like Donna.

Taint:  Donna's tits're bigger.

Boner:  Watch of how scared she looks!

Upchucky:  She's scared of how fuckin' big my cock is, when she blows me!

Stalag: She's not blowin' ya.  You'd have a better chance of gettin' a blowjob from one of these smelts we ain't catchin'.

Boner:  Hey, Taint.  Am it true dat your pop ain't goin' sealin' dis wintner?

Taint: Hard truth, Boner. Hard truth.  Gonna be a poor winter for sure.  Dad'll have ta sell the big screen prolly!!  I don't wanna go back ta regular def.  I'll tell yas boys, all the popperozzies and Hot Lip Hoolihans have totally fuckin' roont the hunt!

Upchucky:  They're gettin' exactly what they want! Fuckin' popperozzies and skankin' celebrities!!  (mimicking) Oh baby seals are so cute!  It's a sin to kill such a cute fuckin' baby fuckin' seal!  Gimme a fuckin' break!!

Eggroll:  All's they do is they keep showin' how cute the seals are on all the commercials and whatnot that they do.  On the internet and everywhere.

Boner:  It's brame-warshin' am what it is!

Taint:  Baby seals ain't cute.  They're fuckin' monsters, rip the finger right off ya if they could.

Stalag:  I know a guy who got three friggin' fingers bit off.  By a horse.

Upchucky:  Horses are scary fucking man-eatin' sons a bitches!!

Eggroll: It's all propergander!  They cornered the market on makin' people think seals are cute'n'cuddly.

Upchucky:  Someone should corner the market on propergandering that seals are little fuckin' fish-eatin' cocksuckers!

Boner:  We should made are own bideo showin' how ebil baby seals are.  Pud id on youtube.  Dat'd show'm.

Taint: We should! My cousint got a video camera I can borrow.

Upchucky: We can use Eggroll's fingerines. Do it up so that it shows seals attackin' people on fuckin' ice flows an' shit!

Stalag:  Fuckin' awesome!

Taint: What do we use for seals?

Eggroll: Silly putty.  I'll make 'em outta silly putty.

Boner: Dey need to be lookin' scary but.

Taint:  Should be at least one mother-fucking scary as shit huge monster seal!

Upchucky:  Leave that one to me.  I'll take care of the huge monster seal.

Boner:  Holy fuck, boy.  We'll gonna make a moobie.

Taint:  We're gonna turn the seal hunt on its ass!!

Boner:  Let made dat bideo!!!

Thursday, August 6

Behind The Sketches: Stand Up Canada, Atticus Finch Is Passing By

Harper Lee and her fictional character, Atticus Finch, have been in the literary headlines over the past few months.  It made me think back on a Sketch-22 sketch I wrote for our 7th (and final) season - Stand Up, Canada. Atticus Finch Is Passing By.  I had a couple of minutes today, so I went back and re-read it and had a bunch of chuckles and many great memories of performing in it.  It's one of my favourite sketches of mine, partly because it's just such a weird concept.
I figured "why not post it here for anyone who might be interested".

You'd be surprised at how many sketches I've written over the years that have come from (or have incorporated) something said during the many lunch-times spent with Dave Stewart.  We often riff on all kinds of silliness, and this sketch eventually came from something said during one of those lunches.
I forget exactly how it came about, but I distinctly remember where we were when "Stand up Canada, Atticus Finch is passing by" was first uttered.  We were on the corner of Kent and University (by the public phone).  Maybe we were talking about titles for utterly lame Canadian game shows, and this concept popped up.  We laughed at it and that was it.
But the name stuck with me, and so when I was scouring my brain for sketch ideas to write for Sketch-22 Season 7, I decided to try and make that weird concept into an actual sketch.

The goal was to parody those rather stuffy, stiff and often boring (especially to a child) Canadian game show slash current events shows, like Front Page Challenge, that showed up on Canadian television in the 1960s and 70s.

I'm pleased with how it turned out. I like how there really aren't any jokes in it, and how it just kind of presents the weird idea without explaining it.  I like how this fake-example of Canadiana oddly and prominently features an iconic American literary character, again without explanation. I like the formality of it all, the expectation of propriety, and the utter dullness of the topic of discussion.
I expect many audience members were puzzled by what they were watching.  And that always thrills me too.
I love the characters we ended up with, and remember often having a hard time trying to keep from laughing during performances.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Stand Up Canada.  Atticus Finch Is Passing By.

Perry James - Andrew Sprague
Gregson Oxbridge - Lennie MacPherson
Mary Abercrombie-Pettingcock - Graham Putnam
Pierre Cardigan - Rob MacDonald
Robert Clothier (as Atticus Finch) - Dennis Trainor

Music up - a not-very-exciting instrumental piece.

Lights up to reveal:
Perry James, behind a podium
Gregson, Mary & Pierre sitting in a row of chairs
2 small tables, one on either side of the stage, each strewn with various papers.

Music down

Perry James:  Good evening, Canada, and welcome to "Stand Up Canada, Atticus Finch Is Passing By".  I'm your moderator, Perry James, and it truly is a treat to see so many fresh, young faces in the audience tonight.  Hey, let's get right to the discussion by introducing this week's panelists.
He's Philosophy Professor Emeritus at Kings College, and writes a weekly column in The Progressive Magazine, please welcome back Gregson Oxbridge.

Gregson (half-rises, bows and nods):  Indeed.

Perry James:  She's a four-time consecutive winner of the Lady Jane Pleasantries Prize, and political writer for the Guelph Intelligencer , let's appreciate Mary Abercrombie-Pettingcock.

Mary: Pleasures abound, Perry.

Perry James:  And he's a distinguished non-fictionalist and Canadian historian, who's latest book "Appraising The Canadian Arctic" is receiving numerous academic accolades, it's our Resident Panelist, Pierre Cardigan.  Pierre, I think you know more about our country than any man alive.

Pierre:   The more I see of the country, the less I feel I know about it. There is a saying that after five years in the north every man is an expert; after ten years, every man a novice. 

Gregson:  Quite!

Perry James:  We all know how the evening unfolds.  I'll bring up a topic of discussion and our panelists will debate its merits, pausing at the appropriate times when Atticus Finch passes by.  And it's my great honour to announce that this week, Atticus Finch will be portrayed by Robert Clothier, who plays Relic on the CBC television series, The Beachcombers, now in its 9th season.  Robert.

The panelists applaud politely.  Robert Clothier comes out, dressed in a white flannel suit, like Atticus Finch in the movie To Kill A Mockingbird.  Except he still has the toque that Relic always wears.

Robert:  It is indeed a pleasure to be playing the esteemed Atticus Finch.  I welcome the change of pace.  Today, I'll be in search of laws, instead of in search of logs.

They all laugh politely.  Except Gregson, who does not understand the reference, it being pop culture.

Perry James:  Alright, let's get right into this week's discussion.  Robert, if you would, please become Atticus Finch.

Robert Clothier changes his demeanor and *becomes* Atticus Finch.  He begins to sort papers on one of the desks.  The panelists are impressed at his acting.

Perry James:  Panelists, as you know, in May of this year, Canadians went to the polls, resulting in a Joe Clark led Progressive Conservative minority.  Since then, the government has had immense difficulty accomplishing anything of import.  Panelists, the question to you is this:  Is this government doomed to fail?  This will be a 15 minute discussion, and we'll begin, as always, with our Lady of the Panel, Mary Abercrombie-Pettingcock.
Let's play Stand Up Canada, Atticus Finch Is Passing By.  Mary.

Mary:  Quite bluntly, Perry, fellow panelists, audience... yes, this government is doomed to fail.  Mr. Clark, while a promising young politician, does not have a majority, and we know all too well how difficult it is for even a seasoned politician to govern without the great political machine willing to back him up.

Gregson:  I am effusively in agreement with Miss Abercrombie-Pettingcock. The only question  remaining in my mind, is... when.

Atticus Finch finishes sorting papers, and crosses, solemnly to the table on the other side of the stage.  All panelists stop their discussion, stand up and, Perry James included, silently pay their respects to Atticus Finch.
By the time Atticus Finch reaches his other table and resumes sorting papers, the panelists and moderator have noticed that the audience - our audience - hasn't stood up.  They don't know how to respond.  They recover somewhat, sit down and continue the debate.

Perry James: That's okay, panelists. That's fine. Please continue.  Pierre?

Pierre:  In this country, as you all no doubt know, three times has the government been felled by a vote of non-confidence.  Arthur Meighen in 1926, Diefenbaker in '63, and most recently, Trudeau just 5 years ago in 1974.  I prophesy that the lovely Mr. Joe Clark is about to join that not-so-illustrious grouping.

Atticus Finch again crosses the stage.  Again, the discussion is suspended as everyone rises to pay respects.  The panelists give the non-rising audience members looks of indignation. Only after Finch has passed to the other table do they voice their displeasure. 

Mary: The manners of a chickadee!!  Do you not see Atticus Finch is passing by!! 

Gregson: This is indeed a counfoundability!

Pierre: Vacuus Ordo!!

Mary: Perry, mayn't you intercede on decency's behalf?

Perry James (clears his throat):  I might just add at this juncture, ladies and gentlemen of the audience, please be mindful and courteous to Atticus Finch.  Thank you.  Panelists, you may continue the discourse.

Mary:  Thank you, Perry.

The panelists sit back down.

Gregson:  Let me be clear.  Joe Clark has pulled off an astounding feat. He's the only person to ever defeat Pierre Trudeau in an federal election.  No small feat, that!

Pierre:  Come, Gregson, you make it sound like a magic trick!  Truth of the matter is, someone was to eventually defeat Mr. Trudeau.  Joe Clark was simply the fortunate person to be in the right place, right time.

Atticus Finch again crosses.  Again the panelists and Perry pay their respects.  Their outrage at the audience is palpable, though, and can barely contain their fury until Atticus Finch has completed his pass. When he reaches the table, the panelists let loose:

Pierre:  What has become of this society?  Has a mob of buffoons infiltrated the studio tonight?

Gregson: A gaggle of poppinstocks would be more accurate. 

Pierre: It's the way this generation has been raised!  A complete lack of moral compass.

Mary: Well I won't stand for it! Stand up, damn you!!  Stand the hell up and pay your God Damned respects to Atticus Finch!!!  Come on!!  Stand!!  I'm not joking around here!!  

Pierre:  The wild native Esquimaux have more sense about them!

Gregson: These young ones!  It's the beginning of the downfall of Canada!

Perry James: Okay, panelists, let us remain dignified and courteous and respectful to the proceedings.  Let us continue with the debate.

The panelists sit.

Pierre: Despicable wretches!

Mary: They better all stand up next time Atticus Finch passes, that's all I'll say.

Gregson:  Would that I had my shotgun!!

Atticus:  Hush!  Hush now!

Panelists are shocked that Atticus has spoken. Atticus walks to centre stage.  The panelists and Perry all begin to rise.  Atticus motions them to sit.

Atticus:  No!  Do not rise for me.  For I am but a man. A man wont for nothing but decency.  And it saddens me deeply to see decency evaporated through the emotional outbursts of the men and lady of the panel.  The self-same people who demand decency from others.  But not just any decency.  It must be "their" decency.

I am reminded of an episode of Beachcombers from last season.  Nick Adonidas became upset when Jesse introduced some new methods for retrieving logs.  See, Nick was set in his ways. He didn't like the way things were changing.  He couldn't see through his stubborn ways to see the benefits of Jesse's methods.  And in the end, it wasn't Nick and Jesse and the Persephone who got the big log.  It was your's truly.

What are the benefits of not standing when Atticus Finch passes by?  I don't know.  But I suspect they far outweigh the negative ramifications of not standing up for decency.

In conclusion, I say reserve your respect for men who have earned it.  Not fictional characters.  But Real Men.  And, yes, Real Ladies too.

So, I say to you all... Stand up, Canada.  Not because Atticus Finch is passing by.  Rather, stand up for decency. Decency.  Decency.
Good night.

Atticus exits.

Thursday, July 23

If At First You Don’t Secede...

…try, try civil war.


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Wednesday, May 27

Getting Your Kicks - A Tall Hats Memory


This time last year, Graham & Lennie & Josh & Alicia & I were getting ready for "1864: The Tall Hat Chronicles". At the end of May, we were still shaping the show, and realized we had a number of sketches written that would, unfortunately, end up not being part of the show. Some of them were really great, but just didn't fit within the feel and flow of the show we ended up with.

One of those sketches, I wrote, is called "Getting Your Kicks". It would have been a video. 
Mostly because of time constraints (we couldn't find a half-day to shoot it), we never did anything with it. It's too bad, as I think it'd be a terrific little video.  
Maybe I'll get the gumption to get it done sometime and put it up somewhere. For now, if you'd like to read it, here it is below:

Graham would have played Theopolis (he played him in the stage show), Alicia would have been Sadie, and probably Lennie as Jam.

Tall Hats -  The Jam PSAs - Getting your Kicks

Location: in front of a field of horses, or old-timey stable.

Theopolis Desbrisay, his wife Sadie, and their son Jam.
Theo & Sadie in foreground, left.  They are fairly somber and stoic.
Jam a bit in background, right.  He is unfocused, throughout.  (his mind is unfocused, not camera-lens unfocused).
They speak directly to the camera.

Theopolis:  Hello, my name is Theopolis Desbrisay.  You know me as the owner-operator of Desbrisay’s Drugeroceria and Confectionarium here in Charlottetown.  This is my wife, Sadie Desbrisay.

Sadie:  And this is our boy.  Jam.

(they look over at Jam.  CU of Jam being Jam.  Then they look back to camera)

Sadie: We’re here today to talk to you about a very serious issue affecting the youth of today.

Theo:  It’s a dangerous and foolhardy game of dare what’s been sweeping the barns and stables acrosst Prince Edward Island a couple years now.  I first heard about it in 1862. The young folk call it “Getting Your Kicks”.

Sadie:  Teenage boys.  Young men in their prime, daring each other in front of the girls, to see who can stand the longest behind a fidgety horse without getting kicked.  It’s stupidity incarnate!

Theo:  Whoever stands the longest without chickenin’ is the winner.  Jam here wasn’t a winner.

Sadie:  Jam got himself kicked in the head by a horse playing that stupid nonsense, and now look at him!

Theo:  One of the other boys hard-squeezed the horse’s testicles.  That’s what set him off.

Sadie:  You don’t hard-squeeze testicles!  Everyone knows that!  Now Jam is ruint!

Theo:  Now, we might not be able to stop young people from playing foolish games like Getting Your Kicks, but we can make it safer.  That is why, as of now, Desbrisay’s Drugeroceria and Confectionarium is selling a new type of horseshoe.  A safer type of horseshoe. (holds up a rubber horseshoe)  It’s made of a new material called rubber, and we urge all horse-owners to shod their horses with them.

Sadie: Do it for the kids!  Do it for Jam!

Theo:  The Rubber Horseshoe.  Available now at Desbrisay’s Drugeroceria and Confectionarium.  And what do they say about the Rubber Horseshoe, Jam?

(they look at Jam, smiling, expectantly.  He does nothing but be Jam, ie. does nothing. After a moment...)

Sadie (prompting):  Softer Shoes --

Theo (cutting her off):  Hush, Sadie!!  Jam’s gonna say it!!  Go ahead, Jam.  Say the line. (nothing from Jam)  Say the line we talked about.  Go ahead.  Softer Shoes… (nothing from Jam)

Sadie: Softer Shoes for… (nothing from Jam)

Theo:  Jam.  Softer shoes for softer… (nothing)  Softer what, Jam.

Sadie:  Is it softer horses?  Jam, can you say “horses”?

Theo:  Softer shoes for softer…

Jam: … hampoes.  (or something similar that they can believe is him saying “horses”).

Theo:  Right!!  Horses!

Sadie:  Jam said horses!!

Theo: The Rubber Horseshoe.  Softer Shoes for Softer Horses.  Available now at Desbrisay’s Drugeroceria and Confectionarium.




Wednesday, February 18

The Films of 2014 My Eyes Have Seen

Of all the movies that came out in 2014 (according to some list I found somewhere), here are the ones I watched (so far).

My Favourite 10 (in a rough order of preference)
BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
WE ARE THE BEST!
NIGHTCRAWLER
THE LEGO MOVIE
UNDER THE SKIN
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
FOXCATCHER
EDGE OF TOMORROW

Movies I watched and enjoyed, but don’t rank as “favourites”
IDA
SNOWPIERCER
SELMA
BIG HERO 6
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
INTERSTELLAR
FORCE MAJEURE
WHIPLASH
INHERENT VICE
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
SUPERMENSCH: THE LEGEND OF SHEP GORDON
ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE
GONE GIRL
MR. TURNER
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
THE TRIP TO ITALY
GODZILLA
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
JOHN WICK
LUCY
22 JUMP STREET
MUPPETS MOST WANTED
NON-STOP
THE EQUALIZER

Movies I watched and didn’t particularly enjoy
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
FURY
THE IMITATION GAME
THE MONUMENTS MEN
THE NOVEMBER MAN
3 DAYS TO KILL
JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT
THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES
A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

Movies I started to watch, but couldn’t get through, so much I hated them
NEED FOR SPEED
A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST
TAMMY