Note that the following reviews are the completely subjective opinions of the specific writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other members of Assaulted Fish.
Martin Dockery: Delirium
If the offstage Martin Dockery were anything like the onstage Martin Dockery, you’d wonder how he could tie his shoes in the morning without entering into a reverie about the history of knot-tying; digressing into a philosophical inquiry as to why we choose to interpose shoe leather between our feet and the earth; creating a hilarious, fantasy world where the shoeless and shoed are engaged in a perpetual war; and somehow relating all of the above to a developmental, life crisis he was having at that moment. In Delirium, Dockery’s hyperactive imagination turns toward the existential in three autobiographical stories – Dockery’s Canadian girlfriend being held up at the border, a chance encounter at the Burning Man festival, and his grandfather’s book about the life-cycle of the Monarch Butterfly – tied together by recurring themes of passion, loss and transience. These serve as the launching pad for a cascade of frequent and frequently hilarious digressions on among other things, the joy of moving sidewalks, a restaurant that serves nothing but strawberry sandwiches, and a passive-aggressive airplane encounter. While Dockery initially draws you in with his charismatic, rapid-fire, floppy-limbed stage persona, it is the times where he slows down his mind and opens his heart that will linger long after the show is over. In those moments, Delirium resonates with the poignancy of a man who has tasted true happiness, but with it, the absolute knowledge of how fragile and evanescent it is. –– KF
The Lady Show
Okay. Let me say right off the top, anything I say about The Lady Show is going to be seriously biased because, quite frankly, I love these ladies. Morgan Brayton has been a friend and a mentor for over a decade and Diana Bang has been my artistic partner-in-crime for fifteen years in the sketch comedy troupe, Assaulted Fish. An excerpt of my own play, Self-ish debuted at a Lady Show last year. I am even wearing a Lady Show hat as I type this. Honestly, I have about as much objectivity as a hockey dad on this one.
So with that in mind, I am going to abandon any pretence of writing a conventional review. I will simply tell you what I like about The Lady Show and let you make up your own mind (which, come to think about it, is pretty much a conventional review).
For the uninitiated, The Lady Show has been putting on regular shows since 2015 and has been a fantastic vehicle for female comedy practitioners in Vancouver, particularly those who exist outside the mainstream. The current line-up is a collective of four individual comedians (Diana Bang, Morgan Brayton, Fatima Dhowre and Katie-Ellen Humphries) who have very different vibes and styles of comedy. The end result is kind of like one of those old time variety shows, where different acts get to strut their stuff before coming together for the big finish. While all four cast members present material that is decidedly progressive – proudly feminist, multicultural and LGBTQ positive – their approaches and comedic sensibilities are very diverse. The personal and intimate stand-up comedy of Dhowre sits side by side with the character-based, conceptual monologues of Brayton; the sharp, pointedly topical Humphries leads into the surreal, absurdist Bang. And are they funny? God, yes.
So to summarize, I like my comedy diverse, progressive and laugh-until-you-lose-braincells funny. If you do too, chances are you’ll like The Lady Show. –– KF
And in other news…
There are still four more showings of Self-ish, starting today at 5:00 PM. If you haven’t gone, we would love to see you there. If you have gone and liked it, there are still plenty of tickets available so tell your friends!
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)
A Big Box of Funny – Clockwise from top left: Reid Along With Browning, OPM, Kasper Hauser, MEAT, Morgan Brayton, The Pork Filled Players, The Cody Rivers Show, The 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors
By Kuan Foo
One of the greatest things about being in a sketch comedy troupe is that you get to perform at comedy festivals where you can see a lot of great and inspiring comedy. People that we have had the pleasure of seeing or sharing with the stage with over the past 10 years include the Blackout Broadcast, Bucket, Canadian Content, Charles, the Cory and Doug Show, David C. Jones, the Dead Understudies, Hey You Millionaires, the Kupps, KYHU, Obscene But Not Heard, the Skinny, Ten West and the 30 Cent Players.
Backstage with Doug Morency and Ayumi Iizuka of the Kupps, the epitomes of class and professionalism on and off the stage. They also taught us that ukuleles are hilarious when correctly deployed.
The following are some of the troupes and individuals who have had the biggest influence on us in our development as a comedy troupe. Thank you all for letting us play in the same sandbox as you. (P.S., I have no idea if those are real titles for the individual sketches I have listed but those who have seen them will know what I’m talking about.)
Morgan Brayton. What can we say about Morgan that has not been said (and likely by her). It is not too much of a stretch to say that we owe our continued existence to Morgan. If she had not plucked us from obscurity, like a Hollywood producer discovering a small-town ingénue at the county fair, and programmed us into Vancouver SketchFest in 2005, we likely would not have celebrated our second anniversary, much less our tenth. Over the years she has been a supporter, a mentor, an ally and an incredible friend. And she is also one of the smartest, funniest, fiercest sketch comedians that we know, whether performing solo or as part of a group. She taught us one of the most important lessons that any comedian can learn: that you are ultimately responsible for what you put on stage and how it is perceived. Or, to put it in her more succinct words, “Never write a cheque that your ass can’t cash.” Personal favourite sketches: Any of the “Button Bradley” monologues, “I want a baby!” (from the Crawford Twins with Lauren Martin), “ICE CREAM!”
MEAT (Elizabeth “Biz” Ellis, Reggan Holland, Becky Poole and Livia Scott). I’m not sure if this NYC group is still around but they were arguably the biggest influence on us in terms of content, philosophy and intelligence. An all-women group that never made women the butt of the joke but instead created comedy that was dazzlingly varied in form and content, sometimes sharply political, sometimes surreal and geeky, but always hysterically funny. We met them at Vancouver SketchFest in 2005 where they immediately took us under their wing and made us feel like a real comedy troupe for the first time. Personal favourite sketches: “Dancing Poodles”, “Black Babies” and “Evil British Children.”
Pork Filled Players (Current line-up Brian Beckley, Matt Dela Cruz, Agastya Kohli, Narea Kang, Maggie Lee, May Nguyen, Melissa Slaughter, Roger Tang, Brad Walker, Owen Yen and Yvette Zaepfel), OPM (Charles Kim, Ewan Chung and others), 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors (Michael Hornbuckle, Greg Watanabe and Peter Wong). I’ve lumped these three groups together not just because they are all Asian American, you racist, but also because they were all instrumental in showing us that you could be respectful and true to your identity but not restricted by it. I remember being asked at a panel discussion if we found being an Asian Canadian comedy troupe “limiting.” The answer is that we find being an Asian Canadian comedy troupe about as limiting as Monty Python found being a troupe of freakishly tall, Oxbridge-educated Englishmen limiting, which is to say, being an Asian Canadian comedy troupe is only limiting if you think being an Asian Canadian is limiting. These three groups are anything but limited and we have been honoured to perform with and be inspired by all three over the past decade. OPM, alas, have hung up their spurs but the PFPs and the Warriors are still going strong. Personal favourite sketches: PFPs “I’m dead”, OPM “Homeless Chinese woman”, 18MMW “Citizenship test”
Reid Along With Browning (Matthew Reid and Sean Browning). The self-described “thinking man’s hot bowl of stupid” are the Pixies of sketch comedy: they are never going to be as popular as Nirvana or Pearl Jam but they are the group that all of the other bands listen to and secretly want to be. Almost impossible to describe except to say that while many groups DO absurdist humour, Reid Along With Browning ARE absurdist humour (and really nice guys to boot). Personal favourite sketches: “Reid Along With Browning: Edgy” “Waiting for Godot: the musical”.
The Cody Rivers Show (Andrew Connor and Mike Matthieu). Probably the most inventive comedy troupe we have ever seen, combining elements of theatre, dance, mime, slap-stick, wordplay, time-travel and wrestling, sometimes within a single sketch. No two sketches are alike or even closely related. I once heard someone describe them as what would happen if Robert LePage created sketch comedy. I would disagree only in that Cody Rivers often transcends sketch comedy altogether. Personal favourite sketches: I don’t even know where to begin.
Kasper Hauser (Rob Baedeker, Dan Klein, James Reichmuth and John Reichmuth). Watching them is like entering an alternate universe where you no longer make sense. They are masters of taking a offbeat premise and playing it out to its (il)logical conclusion with complete commitment. And they once did an entire show in clown suits. Personal favourite sketches: “Phone call to the 14th century” “Blaine Cardoza.”