“I’m just terrified to get up on a stage with them all again… because no one has ever tested me like they did. You always had to be at the top of your game.” – Martin Short in the Toronto Star
First and foremost, I’d have to be a complete and utter jackass to presume I could effectively “review” an event of this magnitude, so please consider it a… loving memoir. A week ago tonight I had the severe pleasure of attending SCTV’s Benefit of Laughter, which was a charity event held to raise money for the Second City alumni fund. To say it was a hot ticket would be the biggest understatement of the 24 years since the beloved station stopped broadcasting in 1984. For two side-splitting performances SCTV was definitely back on the air – onstage in a small theatre in Toronto – and it was a wonderful sight to behold.
I let a week pass before sitting down to write about the night because I wanted to be able to consider, share and link to what other bloggers and the media wrote about the events. Surprisingly there is very little mention of the actual performances online – nothing, actually – and my site is getting the bulk of the related search engine traffic. I’d be writing the show up regardless, but now I feel obligated. So wish me luck, grab your Count Floyd 3D glasses and hang on to your toques.
An SCTV Reunion? Don’t Play With my Emotions Like That.
The Toronto Star interviewed all of the SCTV principals just before the two shows last week in what is probably the best pre-event article you’ll find. Catherine O’Hara (excited), Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin (scared), Joe Flaherty (sorta looking forward to it) and Martin Short were all obviously more than happy to perform together again and to raise money for their Second City peers. The Star did a wonderful job of ramping up to the event, so please read their piece for the full story.
I already mentioned a lot of the background and how my sister and I came to be VIPs for the event in a prior SCTV Reunion post. I’d love to be able to report that I’ve become Catherine O’Hara’s cabana boy, but alas – we paid our way in and sprung for the top tier tickies. I knew it was a great cause and once in a lifetime experience going into it, but after being there – I think I would have paid far more. Perhaps even hocked my Five Neat Guys LP collection. It was good.
Goin’ Down the Road
Although we originally drove from Ottawa for the event, my sister and I spent Sunday night at our cousin’s in Hamilton. We struck out for Toronto at around 5:30pm on Monday figuring 2.5 hours would be more than enough time to get into the city, drop my car off at a friend’s and then get a cab over to Second City. Toronto traffic, a bastard of a GPS system and one insane cab driver on mentholated schnapps later we were 10 minutes late for the show and just closing in on the location. May I suggest to Second City that in the future they print their address on tickets? Schnapps isn’t particularly good for one’s sense of direction. I’ll give them this, though – they actually called my sister’s cell phone to find out where we were and to make sure we knew how to get there. I know there was a long waiting list, so I’d like to thank them for taking that extra step and not giving our seats away.
We finally got there, were asked by the doorman if we were the “last two everyone is waiting for”, and were shown to our great seats just as the first sketch was starting. We were at a small table in the middle with a lovely couple who eventually introduced themselves as the director and his wife. Thank you for the nachos and Brian – well done, sir! He let on that he was a little nervous about how the show would play out and said that the cast had only one evening and one full day to rehearse and prepare. Since the show was over two hours long I can understand his concern. I noticed that the hysterical laughter surrounding him on all sides definitely had a calming effect. After the show, his super-friendly and lovely wife (whose name escapes me) told me that she mentioned to Eugene Levy and Martin Short that the people they were sitting with had come from Ottawa and they were quite impressed. And by “impressed” I of course mean “ready to file restraining orders”.
Let There be Laughter
How on Earth do I do justice to the actual show? I didn’t take notes – I thought some other blogger who was a bigger SCTV nerd than myself (it happens,) would cover all of the painstaking details. But they haven’t and all I hear are internet crickets. I’ll summarize my favorite sketches and anyone looking for more info or explication is free to leave comments or send me an email which I promise I’ll answer. Please limit your inquiries to the SCTV reunion, and not as to whether I’m a complete waste of space with a drinking problem.
- Meeting With the Teacher: Catherine O’Hara played an overwhelmed school teacher in the opening sketch who had called together the parents of her 4 worst students. The reasons behind the children’s struggles soon became very apparent. Edith Prickley, a grumpy Italian (Flaherty) a nerd (Levy) and a creepy dude reminiscent of Nathan Thurm (Short) made up the parents. O’Hara: “Where did your son get such a dirty mouth?” Flaherty: “How the fuck should I know?” Audience: “We are in absolute comedic and nostalgic bliss”. I’m allowed one James Lipton moment, no?
- The Job Interview: This sketch starts out with the big boss (Levy) introducing himself to a job applicant (O’Hara) and then asking if it’s OK if they have a group interview to save time. He then says that the other applicant will be arriving shortly. At this point, I leaned forward and whispered to my sister “I bet Ed Grimley’s gonna come through that door”, and wouldn’t you know it – he did. I lost it and had my first of many laughing fits complete with streaming tears. And guess who got the job? O’Hara’s parting line to Grimley: “You’ll be in my prayers, sir.”
- The Variety Show: Although I’m still miffed Count Floyd was absent from the show, if Bittman and Maudlin hadn’t made an appearance I might have gone on a tri-province shooting spree. The first of two references to John Candy was made when Sammy Maudlin mentioned how much he missed having William B. as his sidekick. Bobby Bittman came out to plug his new book “Born Lying Down” and the segment was topped off by a visit from Jackie Rogers Jr. and Lola Heatherton – fresh from being booted off dancing with the stars. They proceeded to demonstrate their final routine as I proceeded to snort Molson Canadian up my nose and then all over my brand new shirt.
This post is getting frighteningly long – those were my 3 favorites, but really just the tip of the iceberg. Colin Mocharie appeared in a sketch at a funeral for a man who died with his head in a can of pork and beans and also did an audience-suggestion improv bit with Martin Short and several members of the current Toronto Second City Cast as well as Women Fully Clothed. Robin Duke stole every scene she was in, by the way, and was very nice to me at the after party when I accosted her while she was getting a coffee. Joe Flaherty made sure everyone remembered John Candy when he mentioned him during the standing ovation and let everyone know just how much he was in their thoughts. “He’s here!” someone shouted from the audience, to which Joe smiled and said simply: “That’s right“.
After the Party Comes the After Party
We never touched our wallets during the entire performance and the after party next door at Wayne Gretzky’s was no exception. Tray after tray of hors d’ourves, wine, bottled water and pints made the rounds. Janet and I grabbed a couple of beverages and began to wander.
A backdrop had been set up for official photos to be taken, but none of the cast had appeared yet. The photographers, a pair of cool and bald twin brothers, asked us if we wanted a photo and we agreed, knowing full well they just wanted to test their apertures, f-stops and such. We ended up carving out a nice little spot for ourselves right near the impending action though, and even met a nice couple to chat with. It turns out Jack had been to my blog that very day when looking for info about the show. People tend to remember one-syllable last names that are synonymous with a dessert.
We weren’t allowed to take photos during the show, but my snaps from the party speak a thousand words, with one exception. My sister’s deceptive flash caused me to turn my head a second too early so Martin Short can now count himself as one of the lucky few to be photographed with the elusive sasquatch. All the cast members were happy to pose and chat with their fans, and the highlight of my
life evening was managing to make both Mocharie and Flaherty laugh. Although it may have been nervously. Please enjoy the SCTV Reunion Gallery and I hope you enjoyed my affectionate write up. I’ll never forget the experience and count myself lucky to have been there.
More SCTV Reunion Stuff (as I find it):
- Interview on CityTV: Andrea Martin says the audience at the first show was like an extended family. Aw, shucks!
- 680 News Interviews: Audio interviews with several cast members before and after the show.
- Comics Pay tribute: Several well-known comedians explain why SCTV is so special to them.
- SCTV Locations: Trevor also attended the show and may be the biggest fan of the show in existence.