When it comes to comedy in the Forest City, both the stand up and improv scenes are thriving but the sketch scene as of late? It has been pretty quiet. Sometimes though, it takes some old friends to remind you of how fun something can be. Case in point, Good Game is bringing their latest sketch show to the Arts Project this Saturday. I had a chance to chat with one member (of three) Craig Scorgie about what they’ve been up to recently.
For those who don’t know, how did Good Game come together as a troupe?
We all met in grade 11 drama class at South Collegiate. I had the crazy idea one day of producing a sketch comedy show at the London Fringe Festival and rallied up the funniest people I knew. Originally there was 7 of us. Out of everyone in the group though – Nick, Dave, and I committed the most to it and wrote all of the sketches together. We became a really strong writing trio, and over the next few years (because of schedule conflicts and things) the other members dropped out. In the end, it was just the three of us performing and writing together.
What’s the best way to describe your troupe’s style of comedy for somebody who hasn’t seen it?
In terms of our format – we do a variety of sketch, monologue, and musical comedy. We try and keep the show fast-paced, with energetic transitions… often using original audio clips to flow one bit into the other.
In terms of our comedic style – we often gravitate towards big, animated characters. We also write very absurd sketches, but we don’t like alienating the audience. So what we’ll do is layer a sketch with a bunch of different ongoing bits – or just write a sketch in a way that brings the absurdity down to earth to make it more relatable. That may not make any sense at all, but that’s the best way I could probably describe it!
I find it funny that you guys chose Easter weekend, a weekend synonymous with resurrection for this show. In a way, this show is a sort of resurrection for the non-fringe associated sketch show. For anybody interested in starting a sketch troupe, what is some of the best advice you can give?
Oh dang, you just blew my mind! The truth is that it’s the only weekend we could get a free spot in the theatre, but from now on I’m going to tell people that!
What worked for us is just being fearless. Do as many shows as you can, even if you know you’re terrible at it (we often cringe at the thought of some of our early sketches). Eventually, you’ll find your voice and a style that works for you, but you have to put in that time! The growing pains are necessary. And it’s something that’s ongoing – we’re constantly looking for ways to improve our work. London is a great place for figuring that out, the community here is very supportive. If we had started out in Toronto fresh from high school, we would have been eaten alive! Luckily we had some experience once we started doing shows there. Toronto has a supportive community too, but it’s also very competitive.
Good Game recently performed at the NYC Sketch Festival. How eye-opening was that experience? What did you learn there that you could incorporate going forward?
Performing in NYC was a blast. The space we had at the People’s Improv Theatre was really nice, and it drew a good crowd. The response was great, but I noticed New Yorkers laughed at completely different parts that I wouldn’t have anticipated… they very much liked jokey bits that had a clear setup and punch line. Some of the more subtle parts of our sketches had a milder response than we typically get in Toronto and London. Might be due to the big standup comedy scene there. Something to keep in mind next time we go there!
Also, it really made me appreciate the abundance of good sketch comedy in Canada. In New York, since all the best people are pursuing Upright Citizen’s Brigade to be on SNL, there aren’t many solid sketch comedy groups. The groups from Canada are a lot better because you have people sticking together for the time it takes to create something great. Although we did see a duo from Chicago, Teenager of the Year, that blew our minds, they were hilarious.
I’ve noticed that you tend to use London and area Comedians (Stephanie Neale, Andrew Bar, and Rachelle Lauzon) on your Comedy Bar shows. Is that something you’d like to continue on a local basis as you expand back towards London? Also what is it about the comedians coming out of London that appeals to the Toronto comedy audience?
I don’t know if there’s anything about London specifically, but I think out-of-town comics have a fresh perspective. A lot of the Toronto comedians influence each other and end up being very similar.
We love performing with London comics. And especially for a show in London, it’s good to show off the homegrown talent – people here are really proud of this city and so are we. We want to give these comedians the attention they deserve. Rachelle Lauzon is one of my favourite comedians from London, so I am very excited that she’s doing this show with us. If Fully Insured were still performing we would bring them out as much as possible too. They still hold up against the best Toronto groups in my opinion. They were a big inspiration for us.
We’re not sure if we’ll end up doing more shows in London, even though it’s something we’d love to do. This show is sort of a pilot project for us – if it works out I can see us doing something like this a few times each year. Unfortunately it costs a lot more to put on a show in London, and it requires a lot of promotion. Hopefully this night is a success and will be the start of something new!
What’s your favourite sketch that you guys have written and what was the inspiration behind it?
I’ll go with an old favourite, which is “Tim From Accounting”. I don’t think it’s our funniest sketch, but it’s the one I enjoy performing the most. It’s three guys at work gossiping about this person Tim from accounting, and all the strange things he does. After a while they find out that Tim is a dog, and was fired for being a dog.
The reason I like this sketch so much is that it’s the first sketch we ever performed, at a high school open mic more than 10 years ago. Since then the sketch has evolved to the point where it’s completely unrecognizable from the original version, and it changes each time we do it. To be honest I can’t even remember what inspired it, since our first draft of it was so long ago. But just the history of that sketch and how we continue to bring it out every once in awhile is something I enjoy a lot.
Let’s settle the age old sketch comedy debate. In your opinion, what’s the greatest comedy sketch of all time: Monty Python’s Dead Parrot or SNL’s Word Association?
Oh that’s a loaded question! The 3 of us have different tastes of comedy, but I think we’d all pick Dead Parrot if it came down to just those two. Nick and Dave are big Python fans. I’m more of a Kids In The Hall / Mr. Show guy personally… I get a lot of flack for that.
Lately with the introduction of the London Music Office, it seems the London music scene is shaping up. What do you think the London comedy scene has to do to follow suit?
It’s definitely been exciting to see how the music scene in London has taken off recently.
In terms of a comedy scene – honestly, have affordable opportunities for people to perform and produce their own shows. I can’t speak for stand-up comics, but it’s really hard to find a venue to put on a sketch comedy show in London. For sketch you need a stage, and usually a bit of sound and lighting. In Toronto, Comedy Bar and The Bad Dog Comedy Theatre are the perfect venues for producing a sketch show. It costs $80-100 to book with Comedy Bar (technician included), and they have a regular audience so we don’t have to do much promo short of a Facebook event. We can even get away with charging $5 a ticket, which brings more people out too.
In London, it costs an average $300-350 to book one of the cheaper spaces for one night. Plus you have to do a big media push to get people out to the show, which takes time, money, and luck. This is something we really want to do though, so we’re hoping it’ll work out! There are so many great acts we’d love to bring out and put in front of a London audience.
Do you think a “London Comedy Festival” would be an important step in that direction?
Definitely! Jason McDonald used to produce the Big Comedy Go-To Festival in London and that was always fun. He managed to bring out some good acts for that too. Each year the audience grew, so I imagine if someone maintained something like that for long enough in London it could turn into something great. The problem I guess is the venue costs here, someone would have to put in a lot of work for the first few years until it took off. If the right people put their heads together, I can definitely see something growing here. If anyone’s interested in doing this, give me a call! I’d love to be part of something like that. Plus I’ve seen first hand how the growing success of the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival has completely changed the landscape of sketch comedy in the city.
One Last Question….
If the owl from your first show “Kh!” had a life outside of the show, what do you think he’d be up to nowadays?
Little known fact… we actually have two owls. One’s named Al, and one’s named Pepperoni (he has red spots on his chest). Sometimes Pepperoni plays Al in a sketch that Al appears in, he’s the stand-in (stand-in for Al). Pepperoni is based in Toronto, and Al is based in London. So if you’re seeing one of our owls in London, it’s probably Al.
But to go back to your question, they’ve both been working in the office with Tim from accounting. They’re both in HR, keeping a good eye on things. We haven’t used them in a sketch since last year, but if there’s a role with their name on it, we’ll bring the owls back for sure.
Feature photo by Max Kopanygin