Tonight, Tonight! With Caitlin Howden Little Mountain Gallery, Vancouver BC, January 30
Published Jan 31, 2015Little Mountain Gallery is the clubhouse of Main Street's comedy scene. It's messy, and cold, and sometimes the rows of appropriated theatre seats collapse if you shift your weight the wrong way, but it's that rough-around-the-edges quality that makes it the perfect home for the city's funniest alternative shows. Productions here always feel slightly illicit, like the performers are getting away with something, even if that something is just attempting to make the crowd laugh. It's electric.
So it was the perfect venue for the first edition of Tonight, Tonight!, a semi-improvised talk show spoof that hovered in the murky (but hilarious) intersection of sketch and improv. It's produced by Sunday Service's Ryan Beil, who has a track record for creating monthly shows that regularly sell out — Rap Battlez, "Weird A"l Karaoke — so it won't be surprising if Tonight, Tonight! develops a cult following of its own in the coming year.
Dino Archie — perhaps Vancouver's favourite comic right now — warmed up the crowd with a standup set that killed before it even began (who can resist his ear-to-ear smile?), describing his recent Dubai comedy tour, the etiquette of sexual choking and his deepest fears with glee.
Dressed in an embroidered peach robe, which was quickly removed to reveal a professional pantsuit, because she is a professional lady, Caitlin Howden (an award-winning improviser with Vancouver's beloved Sunday Service troupe) was the perfect host: charming, warm and weird. Some guests were real (like Hot Hot Heat's Steve Bays), some in character (basically everyone else, really), but all were mesmerizing, thanks in part to Howden's comedy chops, which elevated everything to a level of silliness that bordered on sublime. She offered her guests hot towels from a rice cooker, invited them to perform Al Pacino impression debates and even threw dodge balls at a few select players (poor, poor, Steve Bays). The audience was instructed at regular intervals, through draws from a hat, to engage in 14-second dance parties.
Her guests were Vancouver's comedy heavyweights, and the crowd responded accordingly: Graham Clark, puffing on a corncob pipe, showed up in character as Wilderness Man character, thrilling the audience with his ignorance of anything non-squirrel-related, while Sunday Service musical director Emmett Hall portrayed the insufferably pompous billionaire inventor Richard Gilpen. Unsurprisingly, Andrew Barber (you may recognize him from his viral YouTube videos as Boston Greg) stole the show, transforming himself into Scarborough, a Neil Young-esque songwriter with a bob and a cowboy hat who spouted worldly wisdom and shared his heart-wrenching improvised jingles for a diaper company.
The night ended with a delightfully sensual cover of "Lady In Red" by musician Mark Mills — could we have asked for anything more? — and then the crowd filtered out onto Main Street to see where the rest of the night would take them.