St. Patrick’s Day is not a holiday commonly associated with comedy. Nonetheless, Théâtre Sainte-Catherine Café-Bar was particularly abuzz on Friday March 17, as the Sketch Republic—“Montreal’s premier monthly sketch comedy night”—prepared to host its long awaited “Peter ‘n Chris Show,” featuring two-time winners of the Just for Laughs’ Montreal Fringe Comedy award in 2012 and 2013, Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson. Founded by Erin Hall, Sketch Republic hosts monthly events, “featuring a rotating line-up of the best local and visiting troupes at venues all around town.” Leading up to headliners Carlone and Wilson, the show featured two sketch troupes—Goddamn Bear and Pickle Party—and local stand-up comedian Rachel Gendron as host. The diversity of comic styles and experience levels made for an evening that felt well-representative of the wide spectrum that is Montreal’s comedy scene.
Goddam Bear, made up of members Andy Assaf, Laura Buchanan, Jason Grimmer, and Dimitri Kyres, was first to take the stage. The troupe opened with a sketch about trendy DJ’s inappropriately hosting a “Benefit for Sick and Ugly Children.” While the bit was a little messy and at times hard to follow, the scene was not without well-crafted one-liners.
“I am now going to play for you the slowest music ever head on the earth, inspired by my time with the whales,” deadpanned one DJ.
In another scene, the group plays an improv team, pushing teammate Grimmer to his breaking point in a workshop. Grimmer’s emotional but articulate outbursts were symbolic of the juxtaposition between improvisational comedy’s spontaneity and sketch comedy’s carefully crafted structure.
Following Goddam Bear was Pickle Party, comprised of duo Emily Bilton and Martha Graham. Less verbose, but more physical than their openers, most of Pickle Party’s sketches featured dance. In their best and final scene, Bilton and Graham played performers auditioning to play the Monkees. However, as the eponymous song, “Hey Hey We’re the Monkees” began to play, Bilton became overwhelmed by ape-like urges. Graham is the perfect straight-man, maintaining her goofy choreography even as her partner begins throwing bananas at the audience.
Both groups incorporated video into their set. Pickle Party’s “Tofu–Nature’s Crumble” advertisement was an overdone attack on the bean curd, and Goddam Bear’s take on modern meditation ran too long. Still, it was interesting to see the groups experiments with non-traditional mediums in a live forum.
While entertaining, these performances were not without amateurish moments. At one point, host Gendron forgot the word “troupe.” Bilton had to ask the sound manager to make the music louder so she could concentrate better. Nonetheless, both troupes delivered strong performances and were suitable openers for the especially skilled Peter ‘n Chris.
Duo Peter ‘n Chris are a Canadian sketch comedy phenomenon. The local celebrities brought excitement to the small café. Each of their sketches were perfectly timed and performed—the seamless execution highlighting not only their natural chemistry, but also the expertise that comes from years of friendship and experience. Their sketches varied in length and style, showcasing a repertoire that highlighted their broad skillset. Some of their sketches were just one-liners—in one, Wilson is “Gandalf the Crossing Guard”– shouting “You shall not pass!” at pedestrians. In another quick bit, Carlone is a man perplexed by his air-guitar, which is not making noise. The two are also capable of longer, more situational pieces. In an especially witty sketch, cop Wilson arrests Carlone for harassing a neighbour with a story that has gone on for too long.
Even so, Peter ’n Chris’ best moment was when they brought all previous performers up onstage in a convoluted fight sketch. The scene itself was not especially memorable, but the shared spotlight was a nice ending for an evening focused on camaraderie.