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Thursday, May 29, 2008

15 years: Comedy

In honour of The Coast's 15th anniversary, our panel of seasoned experts and promising up-and-comers dish on 15 years of Halifax arts, music, comedy, film and style.

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Newfoundland native Cathy Jones moved to Halifax in 1993 to star in the CBC political satire This Hour Has 22 Minutes with Mary Walsh, Rick Mercer and Greg Thomey. A founder of the seminal troupe CODCO, she is the current 22 Minutes' only original cast member. Evany Rosen moved from Toronto to attend King's College in 2005, where she was recruited by Mark Little and Kyle Dooley for their improv group Pumpkinface, now the eight-person sketch juggernaut Picnicface. They spoke over carbonated drinks at the Victory Arms Pub on a sunny Friday afternoon.

What was the television climate like in 1993?

Cathy Jones: You know, we didn't know how to do TV when we started CODCO. We constantly put together shows where there would be a 17-minute sketch and then there'd be a one-minute sketch and we didn't know how to put together a 22-minute package. When we started This Hour we said, 'No sketches over two minutes.' So the two-minute rule was imposed right away. And at that point we didn't have the Harper government so people could actually get to the politicians.

Do you feel you're part of a scene here, that there's a comedy community?

Evany Rosen: Yes. I wish it was bigger. There's not a whole lot of sketch going on in Halifax, in the small, live capacity. There's definitely a stand-up community, but it's small and mostly void of women. At Yuk Yuk's there's me and Catherine Robertson and Cheryl Hann from Picnicface and that's pretty much it.

Jones: My dream would be to make a show that if there's a young character, I could pull from those guys and we couldget together and do some stuff. I think people who can do stuff should be doing things together. Then bring in a monkey that can lick its own balls and you've got a great show.

Rosen: You always have a great show with a monkey that can lick its own balls.

Why do you think there are few women in comedy?

Rosen: I think that it's because with any art form, really, I think this is so with writing, I think this is so with film---acting is the only one, girls have been allowed to act since the 16th century---women have not been encouraged to do them and have been told they're not going to be as good. Music as well. If you look back at certain eras, there is no female Rolling Stones group, no Beatles. Not in the same huge capacity. But I think because comedy has come into its own in and of itself much more recently than those other art forms, it's taken a lot longer for comedy to acknowledge, 'Oh, maybe women can be funny.' And it's not only the community that has to acknowledge that, it's the people taking it in. It's just regular audiences.

Jones: I think we have a responsibility as women. We can't be men, so we do what we do. We're not being pushy all the time. If someone gives you a chance, OK, you go, then you do it. I see you doing it. You're not going, 'Oh, I've gotta have the big tits.' So what? You're fuckin' funny! It's OK: In the world that's one of the things that girls do, that's one of the things that girls are. I don't think Mary ever thought that. Mary's a powerhouse. But you'll get hurt. You will get hurt. You put your guts out there, and say, 'Here's my guts, do you like 'em?' Sometimes they won't and you will get hurt. Or you will not be a sensitive artist. Right? You have to feel pain. You have to feel, uh oh . 'Oh! That fuckin' hurts. They don't like that.' Sometimes you can relax and go, 'Oh, they didn't like that one.'

Rosen: It's like constantly hitting on people that are better-looking than you in a bar and hoping that somebody's gonna like you. As far as being a woman goes---we have this video called Women in Comedy and it's me trying to talk about being a female comic and the guys just totally fucking with me.

Jones: That's really funny.

Rosen: Clearly satire of the whole idea that women can't be funny. It's got all these comments on YouTube---some people like it, some people don't. And some of them are like, 'Yeah, you're right, 'cause the women in this aren't funny.' Yeah, I was playing the straight man and Cheryl was funny. Fuck off. That doesn't bother me as much. But there was one comment that was, 'Poor Evany, she clearly doesn't get that she's the token girl. They're making fun of her.' I was like, 'I wrote the sketch, asshole!' I was like, 'Let's do something serious where you all come in and make fun of me.' And everybody worked on it and we all helped write it, but it's like, I know what's at work here. The suggestion was that I was too stupid and being led along by this pack of mean boys.

Jones: Look at the world you're in. Girls Gone Wild? Liberation being that you can show your ass? You can flash your tits and kiss other girls without having any fun? It's a weird generation. You've got a powerfully good, important, strong job to do. I see you as like Catherine O'Hara---you'll get a role in a film, then you'll get more roles in films and find out you can do stuff and you won't want to hang around with a bunch of boys being funny anymore.

Rosen: I'll take it, thank you.

---Tara Thorne

Read more! Listen more!

Read the full comedy interview here.Audio wextra 1: A Great Show On compiling the killer variety show line-up.Audio wextra 2: Humiliating Possibilities On the perks of fame.Audio wextra 3: Barbed Vagina On being funny women.Audio wextra 4: The Animals Froze On finding good work.

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