Just jokes: 5 standup and sketch shows at the 2018 Winnipeg Fringe Festival
These comedians stepped up to the mic — we reviewed their shows
Care to sit down for some standup comedy? Seeking a sketch show?
For sketch fans, this quintet of talented young comedians offers up a tasty smorgasbord of laughs.
Running through about a dozen sketches in a tight 45 minutes, this troupe has mastered one of the cardinal rules of sketch comedy — let no scene linger longer than its premise allows.
We get short, snappy takes on everything from discount airlines (a standout bit) to a hilariously awkward game-show contestant to the world's worst theatre class. Their comedic sensibilities are odd — the Kids in the Hall inspiration they cite is apparent.
The group's character work is great — Jaydin Pommer's weird game-show contestant and her inspirational quote-spewing mom are highlights — and their comic timing is bang on.
As in many sketch shows, not every premise pays out with big laughs, but it's a solid pick for anyone looking for a light comic bite.
— Reviewed by Joff Schmidt
Darwin vs Rednecks
Kentucky comedian Stewart Huff, the creator of last year's Fringe show Donating Sperm to my Sister's Wife, returns to Winnipeg with a new standup comedy set.
The title is a bit deceiving; it has nothing to do with Charles Darwin and instead focuses on Huff's not-so-flattering view of American culture.
Huff makes his brand of socially conscious comedy easy for a Canadian audience to digest, given he waxes poetic about how much more enlightened and educated he thinks Canadians are.
He's preaching to the choir, and the choir eats it up — Huff kept the audience busting a gut for his entire 60-minute set.
But Huff's set isn't just about calling Americans stupid. He also sees the silver lining in his countrymen and tells a few heartwarming stories that show the humanity in all people.
If you're familiar with Huff's comedy and liked his previous Fringe show, be sure to snag a ticket to Darwin vs Rednecks before it sells out.
— Reviewed by Stephanie Cram
I'm Not Taylor Swift
Winnipeg standup Anjali Sandhu had some unfortunate opening night glitches with the "badass audio-visual thing" that was supposed to begin her show. No matter — she handled it like a seasoned pro and for the most part, her material is more than strong enough without it.
She's remarkably assured and polished for such a young comedian, with a great sense of timing and a strong stage persona — sarcastic and edgy, but as willing to make jokes about herself as she is about her Indian heritage, her occasionally racist grandma and white people. She largely skates on the right side of the fine line between being sarcastic and edgy and just plain mean.
Not all the jokes quite land, and her solid half-hour set might leave you wanting more. But standup comedy fans will be satisfied — and she's clearly a young comedian to watch on the local scene.
(Oh, and we did finally get to see the intro video. It was fairly badass.)
— Reviewed by Joff Schmidt
Delightfully Rude is a solid five minutes of laughs, which is great in standup unless you're slotted for a 60-minute show.
I am a strong supporter of experimentation at the Fringe, but Elaine Orion did not have sufficient tried and true material for a full hour-long set. If I am seeing a full night of standup, I have no issue with a solid five or 10 from a lineup of performers, but if I am paying for a full-length solo performance, that's what I expect to see.
Orion's material ranges from church life in America, to rape culture, to stocking up on abortion alternatives as the end of days in the U.S. approaches.
Halfway through the set, Orion helpfully explained that some audience members have trouble figuring out how to find her punchlines. She suggested we listen for the pauses … awkward ...
Some funny bits — but not worth the virtual trip south of the border.
Sidetrack Bandits: Round 2
There's stiff competition for sketch comedy performers at the Fringe. If you want to get bums in seats, you need to be good. Consistently good.
Sidetrack Bandits aren't. The three men and one woman who make up the troupe have one excellent sketch, about a couple with a Netflix addiction. For the most part, the rest of their show falls flat. A Star Trek parody barely lifts off.
The good news for Sidetrack Bandits is that they have good energy and a good keyboardist. Hopefully they'll have better material next year.
— Reviewed by Kaj Hasselriis
With files from Stephanie Cram, Kaj Hasselriis, Michelle Palansky and Joff Schmidt