Bruce McCulloch: Tales of Bravery and Stupidity TOSketchfest, Toronto ON, March 6

Bruce McCulloch: Tales of Bravery and Stupidity TOSketchfest, Toronto ON, March 6
Photo: Michael Poole
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"By the end, there was weeping," is not something you'd expect to read about a Bruce McCulloch one-man show. But as the 53- (and-a-half) year-old exhibited his own transformation from the cynical "dark one" of Kids in the Hall to a father and husband and friend ready to embrace the love within, it was clear that this was a truly extraordinary and poignant comedic performance.
 
With a sparse stage consisting of a desk work area and a music stand with jokes and notes, McCulloch was free to wander and dance and joke within his idiosyncratic physicality. The one-time athlete still has a specific grace and rhythm in his movement and speech, and it all oozes out as pure funny.
 
The show felt like it had two parts: a more disjointed and absurd half full of quick, sharp jokes, and then a chaser of philosophical wonder and introspective but no less bizarre material. Whether being pegged as a terrorist on a WestJet flight, or tripping balls at a Vancouver rave, McCulloch attacks his life like a material miner and vivid storyteller.
 
And then there was Gord.
 
McCulloch spoke solemnly, fondly, and hilariously about his friendship with "Friend of the Farmer," Gord Downie, whose emails to "Brucie," McCulloch read to us. When they met, Downie was a vital star, a neighbour and a hero, but McCulloch also engaged with him in his last year with cancer and the stories were so moving, the teller himself could barely do it. He wept. We gasped. It felt like Gord was there with us, as he surely would've planned to be.
 
That a surrealist like McCulloch would take us all on this super funny but insightful journey was something of a shock. Then again, he has often grappled with the tension between poseurs and real deals, faking it and actual heart, all from a stance that sentiment is the refuge of the weak.
 
But this is inarguably an emotionally engaging show that finds Bruce McCulloch letting go of such defined delineations and, more than usual, accepting (some) people for who they are (mostly) and life for what it is (kinda shitty, but we all plough on).