Okay, so it didn't have the pizzazz of the Vanity Fair post-Oscar soirée at Mortons. The canapés came courtesy of Humber College hospitality students, instead of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. And Kenny Robinson, Canada's King of Nubian comedy, nominated for Pretty Funny Writing -- Series, and decked out in a glittering black suit and wide-brimmed fedora, was as close to Halle Berry's high style as we were going to get. Still, with the emphasis on gags over glamour, this year's Canadian Comedy Awards at the Docks in Toronto on Thursday night was one helluva party.
The show itself, however, was quite another matter. It was marred by an inadequate sound system, missed stage cues and noisy, plastic chairs better suited to a backyard barbecue. It was capped by the fact that a third of the evening's winners were not present to accept their awards. All this made for no small amount of grumbling and murmurs of "swan song."
Yet, despite the glitches, and ironically due to the fact that there was no broadcast deal this year due to lack of sponsorship, the ceremony's pace was blissfully accelerated.
Host and winner of Pretty Funny Standup -- Male last year, the self-effacing Brent Butt introduced himself with: "When you hear my name, you don't think edgy -- you think, well, my mom's not seeing anybody."
Commenting on the absence of many of the nominees, he suggested: "Maybe they're shooting a feature film in Los Angeles or," he paused, and with a smirk added, "they're middling in Wawa at O'Tooles."
However, what truly distinguishes the Canadian Comedy Awards from any other awards show is that here one waits eagerly for the acceptance speeches. And the winners did not disappoint.
Doug Morency, who picked up the Pretty Funny Comedy -- Comedic Play award for Second City's Family Circus Maximus, proved fast on his feet when the base of his Beaver (yup, that's what the award is called) fell off. "Obviously, they're not made in Canada," he quipped.
Vancouver native Kristeen von Hagen, who took home the coveted Pretty Funny Standup -- Female, bounded on stage, saying, "Thank God. I wore my best track suit!"
But one of the funniest bits was delivered via cellphone as comedy manager Lorne Perlmutar took the spotlight on behalf of his client Sean Cullen, who won Pretty Funny One Person Show for Erotic Laser Swordfight. From his digs in Los Angeles, Cullen offered his idiosyncratic acceptance: "People of France, thank you for your kindness. Please send money because I need to be released."
In addition to an upcoming six-episode CBC series called The Sean Cullen Show, the quirky comic has just been cast to host an NBC presentation pilot game show being produced by Madonna's Maverick called, not surprisingly, Truth or Dare. Perlmutar giggles at the thought. "He has worked 20 years to become Wink Martindale."
Pretty Funny Standup -- Newcomer, Debra DiGiovanni, the only female nominee, asked, as she was handed her Beaver, "Is there a tiara, by the way?"
DiGiovanni, a one-time CITY-TV tour guide and receptionist who hails from Tillsonburg, Ont., is a talent to watch, as are the winners of Pretty Funny Sketch Troupe, the Gentleman Callers. Comprised of Alex Oliveira and brothers Terrance and Michael Balazo (the latter plays the accompanying guitar and possesses a charm not unlike Adam Sandler's), Gentleman Callers fills the musical-comedy gap left by the now-defunct Corky and the Juice Pigs (of which Cullen was formerly a part).
Well on his way to becoming the Susan Lucci of standup, the heavily favoured Mike Wilmot was passed over for the third year in a row as Pretty Funny Standup -- Male for Newfoundlander Shaun Majumder, who is currently in L.A. working on a sitcom pilot with Cedric the Entertainer (of The Kings of Comedy).
Once again, Salter Street Films and the CBC have proved unstoppable, sweeping the awards with four Beavers going to Made in Canada (Rick Mercer, Pretty Funny Male Performance; Bob Martin, Pretty Funny Writing -- Special or Episode; Pretty Funny Direction -- Series; and Pretty Funny Direction -- Special or Episode), and one to This Hour Has 22 Minutes for Pretty Funny Writing -- Series.
Still, when all is said and done, one can't help but wonder whether these awards might gain more credibility, financial backing and respect if the producers opted for the word "best" over the grade-school idiom "pretty funny," and if the trophies weren't Beavers, leaving themselves open for a long evening of puerile mockery.