Preview: Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival

Toronto Sketchfest PosterThe Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival – AKA “Comedy Christmas” – is on from March 3 – 13, 2016. It’s the “main event” in a group of other festivals: The Best of the Fest Encore Show (June); and Sketch ComAgeddon (October).

This year’s lineup includes over 70 troupes from across North America, promising to make audiences laugh at three Toronto venues: The Theatre Centre, Comedy Bar and Randolph Theatre. Twitter users can follow the action using the #TOSketchFest16 hashtag.

We spoke to Julianne Snepsts, co-founder and managing producer of the The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival a few questions about the festival, and what audiences can expect to experience.

1. Can you talk a bit about Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival? Explain what it is for someone who may be totally new to Toronto, or more specifically the Toronto comedy scene?

The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival is a ten-day smorgasbord of the best live, scripted comedy in North America. There are a few stand-up and improv surprises peppered throughout the fest, but at the core, this is a festival dedicated to scripted, ensemble comedy – like Saturday Night Live or SCTV or Key and Peele – but way better because it’s live and in the flesh! Toronto’s sketch comedy scene is big and bountiful – at TOsketchfest, you’ll see a juried selection of 60+ great acts all doing their best 30 minutes.

2. Any tips for patrons who may be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of shows and acts during “Comedy Christmas”, and are having a hard time deciding what to see? Any crowd favourites or “best for beginners” type acts?

Of course everything in the festival is fantastic, but you can’t go wrong with shows that include a troupe in the Featured Series. These are rock solid troupes who are really at the top of their game and there’s lots of variety in that series, too. From the musical comedy of the Doo Wops to dark humour of Tony Ho…you’ll find something that will make you laugh.

3. What can audiences expect to experience (if anything)?

For the most part, each show includes two troupes performing a 30-minute set of their best material. On stage you can expect anything, really. Big funny characters, goofy songs, political satire, absurdity, highly theatrical shows and intimate solo and duo performances… anything goes. We hope that everyone will enjoy the TOsketchfest vibe which feels like a big ol’ party. It’s a great time.

4. If the ten days of the festival unfolded according to your wildest, most successful dreams, what would that look like?

Every seat would be full. Audiences would be cheering for sketch comedians like they are rock stars. Comedians would learn from each other, network, and make international connections. Someone will meet the love of their life. A troupe would be offered a movie deal. An audience member finds a $100 bill under their seat. All of this would be excellent.

5. Where is the festival headed? Any exciting plans for the future?

We have plans to move into some new artistic areas – we’d love to present more video sketch, site specific comedy, more troupes from other parts of Canada and we’d love to present our first act from overseas. We’re also investing in giving back to the comedy community through a troupe-in-residence program and funding and support for special comedy projects. Last year we launched a sister festival in Prince Edward County called Comedy Country – we’ll continue with this and other comedy schemes!


Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival poster provided by the company