John Gets A Tattoo Social Capital Theatre, Toronto ON, May 5
Published May 06, 2016"John Gets A Tattoo" was a wonderfully unique show that did exactly what its title promised: while sharing the stage with a musical comedy duo and a series of improv groups, John Richardson got his first tattoo in order to fund his upcoming run of Toronto Fringe shows with his troupe the Nice Guys, and it was recklessly, ridiculously entertaining.
To start the show, Richardson gave away a pair of gold-coloured underwear that bore the face of one of his fellow improv group members, then conducted a Family Feud-esque warm-up game that was far more engaging and funny than the usual prompts improvisers use to get audiences accustomed to yelling out suggestions. Following that, the three other members of the Nice Guys ad-libbed about how ridiculous it was that Richardson agreed to get the Josie and the Pussycats logo inked on his arm in the name of entertainment, and they effortlessly nurtured the audience's anticipation while the tattoo artist got Richardson to sign a waiver.
The silliness of the design wasn't the only thing that made the tattoo a valuable part of the show: the constant buzzing of the tattoo gun often provided unique fodder for the comedians. Namely, the unnamed improv troupe consisting of Lisa Gilroy, Natalie Metcalfe, Matt McCready and Colin Sharpe got big laughs by taking long pauses and cautiously listening to the noise as if they were unable to determine its source. Similarly, the buzzing inspired British musical comedy duo Flo and Joan to do some amusing ad-libbing before their love song from the perspective of a stalker.
Furthermore, the pain of tattooing inspired the Nice Guys to hurt themselves in solidarity with their fellow troupe member, so they agreed to eat slices of hot peppers every time they entered or exited a scene they created. Naturally, the consequences were priceless — the Nice Guys took their scenes in hilariously unlikely directions to avoid inflicting pain on themselves. For example, when one improviser said that their scene partner should leave immediately to see their hospitalized wife, he calmly replied: "Oh great, she's in the best possible hands!" and proceeded to refuse to leave. Nevertheless, all of the troupe members inevitably ended up tricking each other into terrible pain in the end to deliver near perfect schadenfreude.
Yet not every part of the show lived up to the Nice Guys' standard. Lisa Gilroy, Natalie Metcalfe, Matt McCready and Colin Sharpe broke character many times during their set, while Flo and Joan were musically tight but not especially funny in their song about loving brunch. In addition, Mantown jumped between scenes too frequently to let any premise properly develop its potential. Though their joke about Frank Sinatra based on an audience member yelling out "My Way" was very funny, their stories about their parents were admirably candid, and their call-backs were solid, they squandered a lot of unique ideas by going through them at an excessively rapid pace.