By: Rory MacDonald-Gauthier
Patrons of Swizzle’s Bar and Grill were treated to a fresh take on standup comedy routines on Sept. 24, as Algonquin scriptwriting students acted out comedy routines and skits they wrote for a fundraiser.
The fundraiser, titled “Comedy Etcetera,” was organized by Et Cetera Youth Pride, which is an organization that focuses on allowing youth of all identities to create, explore and express themselves in a safe and equal environment. The event was MC’d by scriptwriting coordinator and professor Rick Kaulbars, who took on the identity of top hat poet “Emerson Lake.”
“I have a strong connection with those who are in the community,” said Kaulbars. “I work in entertainment and I have a lot of gay friends. I thought, one of the best parties you could arrange would be a cabaret burlesque in a place like the great Swizzle’s club.”
This was the first in a trilogy of shows that the scriptwriting students participated in, with the next two slated for the second last Tuesday of October and November. Within each event the students are responsible for writing six to seven skits that include satirical public service announcements, fake news and comedy sketches.
With less than a month to prepare for their first show, students of the program learned to feed off one another’s skills in order to polish their work.
Roman Mancini, a graduate of the University of Ottawa’s political science program and current scriptwriting student at Algonquin, felt that the initial involvement with writing and performing for an audience on such short notice has been crucial in his scriptwriting development.
“Three weeks ago, I had never written anything and thought I was funny,” said Mancini. I thought I could write scripts. We’re now here just three weeks in, already writing and performing.”
The students were given free rein on the categories and delivery of their material, but Kaulbars made it very clear that he wanted irreverent humour present, excluding racism, homophobia and misogyny.
Luckily for Mancini, this was a situation in which he had an arsenal of material to work with.
“I tried to be as offensive as possible,” explained Mancini. “That was a big thing. I started off thinking, who can I offend the most? With this, you hope that what you wrote is funny, and hope that it won’t bomb.”
Kaulbars believes that it’s one thing to sit with a group of people and write a script, but it an entirely different situation when people are faced with performing their material to a live audience. Having performed standup comedy and dinner theatre for years, this is a hard-earned lesson that he holds in high regard.
“Nothing bonds people like a show. Nothing makes people think, I’m scared shitless,” exclaimed Kaulbars.
Kaulbars hopes that his students consistently write material, to keep the motion fluid. He notes of the hundreds and thousands of people self-producing material on YouTube, and of the endless possibilities of how one joke could land you a job in the big leagues.
“I want them to know that they can do it,” explained Kaulbars. “Whether it’s creating YouTube web-series or creating pitch bibles for TV series that get attention – get buzz. Any kind of buzz is great.”
Upon presenting these acts the students will begin preparing original TV show ideas, which they will present to CBC and CTV development heads in the second-term.