Okey dokey, let’s talk Canadian content, specifically the comedy content.
You get a lot of laughs watching Canadian TV, including the news coverage. On Saturday night, there was a doozy of Scheer comedy on the election coverage. Oddly choreographed, mind you, but howlingly funny. At a campaign stop, Andrew Scheer introduced his family, who had alighted from a bus. Then, he shook hands with them, as Conservative leaders do.
Eventually, he started talking about the local candidate, one Justina McCaffrey. Next thing you know, when it’s time for McCaffrey to take questions, the candidate legs it out of there, with reporters giving chase and leaves in a speeding car. It was hilarious stuff.
How on earth can conventional, scripted comedy compete? Well, there’s great news on that front – CBC TV is on a roll with sketch comedy right now and the new CBC season is under way.
TallBoyz (Tuesday, CBC, 9 p.m.) is new and very funny. And I mean funny in a fresh, zippy and up-to-the-moment manner. Meet Vance Banzo, Guled Abdi, Franco Nguyen and Tim Blair who are, at regular intervals, being chased by transit authorities. If you live in Toronto, you know the feeling. It’s Toronto-centric, this new show, but that’s not a drawback at all. There’s also a touch of Kids in the Hall to the style (Bruce McCulloch is the producer), which is sometimes surreal, but TallBoyz are utterly distinct and the comedy goes from acute and cutting to uproariously broad.
That something-for-everyone approach works because these are comics who can do singular roles that rely on individual skills and work winsomely as a group. There’s a sketch in the opening episode that isn’t typical, but sets the series apart – it’s really about the controversy in Ontario about the sexual-education curriculum being dialled back by decades. As the sketch unfolds, it’s both funny and, you can tell, a blast of rage. Kids watch a 1990s-era sex-education drama unfold on TV with some mystification. “Do they mean sex?” a high schooler asks at one point. “I’m not legally allowed to say,” is the cagey reply from the teacher.
Then there’s a very funny bit about one in three Torontonians claiming to have almost met Drake, which people both inside and outside Toronto will adore. And then the transit cops turn up again.
The core material often mocks contemporary males. A spoof of boy bands that climax each show by taking off their shirts turns very surreal. And a sketch in the second episode, about guys doing intense workouts at the gym, is uncannily close to the truth while having an excellent punchline. There’s a touch of Baroness von Sketch about that one.
TallBoyz trips lightly through issues of race and misogyny, but never so lightly that there isn’t both original humour and the sharp sting of relevant satire. A bit about a black man driving a car and being stopped by the police is both deadly serious and scathingly funny. Occasional forays into mocking TV tropes and clichés don’t work as well. All sketch-comedy teams lean toward mocking TV and it’s fair game, but not always as sharp as intended.
What’s especially refreshing about TallBoyz – there are good jokes about literally being a tall boy, by the way – is that it’s not an expensively assembled or lavishly made comedy series. It’s rooted in the right-now in Canada and arrives crisp and fully formed. A gem of a new series, based on the first two episodes.
Baroness von Sketch (Tuesday, CBC, 9:30 p.m.) returns for its fourth season and the opening episode is excellent, not a weak sketch in it. Meredith MacNeill does one of her extraordinary feats of physical comedy in one, particularly out-there bit. There are some nice cameos, too – the almost ubiquitous Tony Nappo does a great job playing one of those palookas who chats up women on the street.
After that splendid hour of one dazzling new and one returning sketch-comedy show, you can, of course, watch The National on the CBC, which will undoubtedly deliver more election-campaign tomfoolery to make you howl. What great comedy times we live in.