Hot Thespian Action, not afraid to bare it all for comedy.
When sketch troupe Hot Thespian Action performs, it's a very hot ticket in their hometown of Winnipeg.
In fact, the five members, Jane Testar, Shannon Guile, Jacqueline Loewen, Ryan Miller and Garth Merkeley, sold out their entire run of shows at the 2012 Winnipeg Fringe Festival, performing for more than 1600 people in seven shows.
SCENE caught up with a few of the Thespians to find out how democratic their writing process is. And we asked them questions separately, to see if they're really all on the same page...
What typically inspires your sketch comedy?
JT: Things that annoy me: dumb people, dumb girls, people who talk on the phone when ordering food and animals. I've written FAR too many animal related sketches. What's funnier than talking animals?
I'm also a huge fan of "what if" scenarios. For example, "what if Julius Caesar was actually a really nice guy, but the conspirators had to stab him anyway?" or "what if the Dodo bird was eradicated because it made the most annoying sound ever heard?"
SG: We absorb all the wonders of the world around us as inspiration and usually take our comedy from a place of love or hate (which really is just a twisted love). For an example, "I love dumb dumbs, they make me so mad I laugh, especially when they use words like 'irregardless' or when they drop f-bombs and b-snatches as a form of compliment."
Does there have to be total agreement within the group for an idea to proceed?
JT: Definitely majority rules. Sometimes one of us will be against an idea, but once they see the sketch, they're on board. So we have to give an idea a chance even if we're not all behind it.
Though if three out of the five of us thought it wouldn't work, we'd definitely scrap it. Or "shelve it" for another time.
What happens when there are disagreements?
GM: Disagreements usually result in hours and hours of discussing the pros and cons. And eventually we usually go to an outside opinion. We ask a trusted friend, or perform the sketch to them, and usually whatever they decree, we go along with. Basically we're always doing our best to predict how the audience will react to something. And often that's not something we can guess from inside. We need an outside eye.
SG: This is where I feel we have excelled beyond most collectives and is one of the reasons we are still able to be friends. We listen and talk things through and trust that we are each looking out for the greater good of the company and all try to keep our egos at the door.
This doesn't happen 100% of the time but that is where having five people in the room comes in handy. And if all of that doesn't work, we duke it out cage-match-style, and by that I mean, we go get coffee and cookies and come back to it later.
How did the concept for the above sketch come about?
JT: This is a world wide pet peeve. Bad grammar can make the blood boil. So we took our other pet peeve, dumb girls, and combined them.
It was a blast sitting there thinking of all the common grammar atrocities we tend to hear. Someone would say "Oh! How about when people say "I seen"?" and then everyone screams "Awww! I freaking HATE that!".
I LOVE getting together with my friends and just hating things. Sketch comedy has really provided me with that opportunity.
Hot Thespian Action performs a sold out show at the Gas Station Arts Centre on April 13 at 8 p.m.