The art of the comedy duo is a tricky one. Most of the time they pop into existence when two people with the same sense of humour spend ridiculous amounts of time together. Maybe they're roommates that never planned past college, or maybe, as you might wonder about Winnipeg's Bucko (Aaron Merke and Lauren Cochrane), they are romantically linked? Perhaps this is also the case with Toronto openers Parker & Seville.
Playing to a light crowd at Toronto's Theatre Centre Incubator, one of the participating venues for the 10th instalment of the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival, there are two different styles at play here. The first, in Parker & Seville, is an expansion of riffs that Dave Barclay and Matt Kowall probably started in their living room, can occasionally be boiled down to "two guys fucking with each other." A common device used here is the off-stage mic, in this case representing a sentient house, and the self-awareness of an intensely cartoonish Irish fellow. There is fun to be had for sure, but sometimes you've got to reel it in and know when to quit.
More impressive was The Heatstroke Boys, a CBC Radio concept they created about two guys with mind-numbing heatstroke and the antics they get into. Why are they taking job interviews with heatstroke? Why is it like an old-timey radio program? It doesn't matter, because the premise is a funny one.
Adversely, Bucko (pictured) are tight. These two are clearly in tune with each other, and they lean on being well-rehearsed. There are some good bits here, notably the shop teacher who subs in for sex-ed., and some extreme badminton "athletes." If Parker & Seville champion the off-stage mic, Bucko do the same with pre-recorded audio. Their "reaction" comedy is at times priceless, and when they're at their strongest. In between the bits of gold, though, it's occasionally flat, with sketches you feel like you've seen before. But even these end well. Bucko know how to finish a sketch, which is often the most challenging part.