Retrospectively Speaking, Part 4: The Mentor
As part of Assaulted Fish’s 10-year anniversary, we asked some of our closest friends, fans and families for their memories of the past decade. Today, our conversation with the brilliant and hilarious Morgan Brayton.
It is difficult to know what to say about Morgan because she very likely has said it better herself. So let’s start with what it says on her website:
“Canadian Comedy Award nominee Morgan Brayton makes her home in Vancouver, British Columbia (that’s in Canada) where she performs, writes and enjoys vegan cupcakes with her wife, her two amazing kids and an excessive number of cats. Morgan is the writer/performer of the award-winning and critically acclaimed one-person shows Girls Like Me and Raccoonery!. She was half of the comedy duo The Crawford Twins and a former member of the popular sketch troupe 30 Helens. Morgan has been a featured performer at Toronto’s We’re Funny That Way Festival, the Vancouver Comedy Festival, Seattle SketchFest and on CBC’s The Debaters and played Mickey Dolenz in a self-produced biopic. Possibly. Morgan is also an in-demand event emcee who can be found hosting everything from burlesque shows to awards galas. An accomplished film and television actor, Morgan can be seen on big and small screens everywhere in a wide range of roles such as: Chubby Best Friend, Second Cashier and Person with Face.”
Morgan played a very important role at the beginning of Assaulted Fish’s career (for more on that see the previous blogpost “To All the Troupes We’ve Loved Before”). She has been a mentor, an inspiration, a patron and a friend.
Holy moley – a decade has passed! What has been most notable for you in seeing Assaulted Fish evolve over the last 10 years?
The fact that they still exist after ten years is amazing! And that it’s not just Marlene performing with different people every show, clinging to the name Assaulted Fish, embarrassing herself trying to hold on to the glory days like the guy from Bay City Rollers. Ten years is truly remarkable for any performing group and I don’t know of many comedy groups who last nearly as long so clearly, they have something special going on.
Assaulted Fish fondly call you their mentor – what advice have you given to the group in the early days?
I don’t mean to brag but I am the one who started calling them Ass Fish. You’re welcome. I don’t know if I’ve ever given them any advice. I gave them gigs which is actually much more valuable.
What are some of your fave Assaulted Fish sketches and/or characters and why?
I really love that there is a diversity of styles in their shows, nicely representing the sensibilities of the writers behind them, yet tied together by their signature Ass Fish-ness. But my favourites have to be the more absurd ones. Diana as the lychee stands out. She is just a tiny bundle of hilarity. And the original Sacred & Profane sketch still fills me with giggles. But I love Nelson’s fearlessness (or is it shamelessness?) as he dives into his goofy characters. I love watching Marlene play the straight man then surprise an audience with her ridiculousness. I love the way Kuan’s brain works in his writing and how that cleverness is palpable in his performances too. He’s delightful to watch. Darcey’s “Safety” foreman still pops into my head now and then to entertain me and Yumi has a likeability to her performing that I will always, always love. It is really a special group of people who found each other and who make up this kickass troupe.
How has a troupe like Assaulted Fish paved the way for other comedy groups and comedians?
I think Ass Fish has set the bar really high for groups that have another aspect to their group in addition to comedy. As a “pan-Asian Canadian comedy troupe”, being Asian informs what they do. Of course it does. But there can be a tendency for such groups to use their non-comedic element as a crutch rather than a driving force. (As a queer, female comedy performer I know something of this.) The fish don’t rely on that crutch. They don’t rely on stereotypes to get easy laughs, nor do they accept that they have a niche audience. They don’t. Their audience is broad because they are good. They are smart. They are funny. They are professional. They are slick. The writing is strong. The performances are solid. They speak to and from an Asian perspective but they never let that be enough. I think they have paved the way for more troupes and comedians to be true to their stories and perspectives while continually striving to be the best they can be which, at the end of the day, is what great comedy is, right? Truth. Good story telling. A clear perspective. And finely honed performance skills. Yup, that’s some good comedy right there.
What surprises you the most about Assaulted Fish?
That they still talk to each other after ten years.
If you had to describe Assaulted Fish as a reality show, what would it be? Why?
Ugh, I hate reality television. And I love Assaulted Fish so I can’t even think about this possibility. But I will say that, if it were one of those elimination shows where someone gets killed / voted off every week, my money would be on Marlene because she is quiet but cunning. So, Marlene would win and surprise everyone. Except Kuan is a lawyer so he can’t be trusted at all and would probably find a way to cheat and win. I know, I know, he’s not that kind of lawyer but he’s still a Sneaky Pete! Yup, Kuan would definitely kill another human being in order to win. Okay, so my money would be on Kuan. Hmmm … wait, no one would expect cute-faced Diana. But I can personally attest to her having a wicked mean streak. I’m not going to go into how I know but let me just say I have the scars and high insurance premiums to prove it. So I’m going to change my vote to Diana. Oh, I know what you’re thinking: what about Mr. Popularity, Nelson? Wouldn’t he charm the judges and get the public vote? Wouldn’t he get the coveted rose and marry the farmer? Good grief, it’s like you people don’t even understand how these shows work. Obviously Nellie would get the spin off Honey Boo Boo show. Okay, so my money’s on Marlene. Or Kuan. Or Diana. But probably that Chris guy who is stepping in for Nelson in the Fringe. I hear he’ll do anything for a part.
(Morgan headshot by Michele Brayton – Morgan and Kuan by Nelson Wong – Interview by Linda Ong)