Review: Monkey Toast: The Improvised Talk Show (Jan Caruana, Lisa Merchant & Ron Tite)

Monkey Toast opens to a full-house at Toronto’s Comedy Bar

The Monkey Toast show I saw on Saturday follows a talk show format broken up with a bunch of comedic improv skits. The night I attended was their official Canadian re-launch with new host, Ron Tite. The show has been on hiatus from Toronto after their successful seven-year run when creator and former host David Shore moved to the UK and took the show with him. There are definitely a lot of fans who were awaiting this comeback as opening night was a full house.

I had never heard of Monkey Toast before so I had nothing to compare it to but what I saw I thoroughly enjoyed. I walked in expecting more of a stand-up comedy routine, even though the show is billed as an improvised talk show, I thought it would follow more of a comedy club format. Instead we got a smart and funny show with Canadian celebrities and even some politically charged conversation.

The three talk show guests were all very interesting and  surprisingly diverse. The conversation ranged from delicious food to Toronto public transit to Olympic rowing training and everything in between. The first guest of the night was former Doo Wops and current Food Network host, John Catucci. He was the only guest who is a comedian. This was the perfect beginning and helped everyone get in the mood for things to come. After a few interview type questions the host would turn to the improv troupe, consisting of six comedians, who sit in the background and have them act out a completely improvised scene pertaining to the conversation that just took place between the host and the guest.

The second and probably my favourite guest of the night was Councillor Mike Layton. He talked about the complaints he receives from residents as a city councillor, there were some good Ford brothers jokes and some much needed tips on how to be considerate while riding the TTC. After the interview Tite thanked Layton for attending the show and presented him with a DVD of clips when Jack Layton was on the show as he was a big supporter of the show and had been on it many times over the years.

The third and final guest was three-time Olympic medal winner Marnie McBean who was extremely personable and articulate and surprisingly quite funny. My show partner that night found her fascinating and said she was her favourite part of the show.

The improvisers that night were Lisa Merchant, Jan Caruana, Paul Bates, Sandy Jobin-Bevans, Kerry Griffin and the adorable and super funny Naomi Snieckus. While most of it was quite funny there were definitely some misses, I guess that’s to be expected with improv but I have a feeling as the weeks progress this show is going to get stronger and funnier.

All in all this is a fun way to spend an evening with some friends and for me a huge change from the theatre I’m used to covering. There’s talking in the audience, food and drinks all around and just a plain old good time. I would suggest if you’re looking for casual night out, this would be a great show to watch. It only takes place the second Saturday of every month and if opening night is any indication you’ll have to line up early for this sold out show.


Monkey Toast is playing at The Comedy Bar (945 Bloor St West) until June 9, 2012
–  Shows run on the following Saturdays: March 10, April 14, May 12 and June 9
– Tickets are $10 at the door or in advance
– Tickets can be purchased by calling 416-551-6540 or online