|Jonny and me with Abigail Vol 1|
Jonny Harris, Fraser Young and Graham Chittenden, from the CBC show Still Standing, supported by a cast of producers, directors, camera, sound and lighting folk, strolled into McAdam, New Brunswick a week ago and, over the course of just those several days, researched, wrote, rehearsed and staged a truly remarkable set of stand-up comedy that focused entirely, and affectionately, on the Village and its people.
I was aware of the concept of the show going in: host Jonny Harris arrives in a small Canadian community that has managed to survive all the challenges of our modern world, talks to a representative cross-section of its citizens, then takes the material collected through those visits/interviews and turns it into stand up comedy to entertain the townspeople.
The show's own promotional material calls it "an entertaining and affectionate love letter to small-town Canada" but the worries of those of us who were interviewed for the McAdam episode (called "contributors") still surfaced:
- were we being suckered into participating in a show that would mock and insult us for our efforts?
- would the final stand-up routine be simply a rehash of canned "how ridiculous are small town people" jokes with a couple of mean-spirited shots at the people who opened their hearts, their homes and their community?
To be honest, it took only a brief chat with the show's advanced rep to assuage any fears I might have had on that first count. It became clear very quickly that there exists a genuine interest, respect and affection among the show's crew for the people with whom they were interacting.
The second concern remained with me right up until show time. As a writer (and one who has tried and failed to write "funny" on several occasions) I simply could not believe that Jonny, Fraser and Graham could turn around an extended, detailed, specific and genuinely funny set of comedy about McAdam and its people in so short a time.
I thought for sure that the show Saturday night would be rife with retread material about small-town life and that the local content would take the form of a shot here and there at the people who participated as contributors. And I think my concerns were echoed throughout McAdam.
How else could they possible turn things around so quickly?
|Me, acting calm before the show|
And, I think it's safe to say, we were all blown away.
The show was exactly what Still Standing's promotional material promised and more.
Fraser opened things up with a very funny review of the rules of the evening, followed by a hilarious set from Graham that covered everything from the joys of being old to the challenges of loving a dog. Then it was back to Fraser again, with a very funny set that seemed oddly fixated on eating meat, and finally the introduction of Jonny as the headliner and McAdam comedian.
As hard as we were all laughing at that point, I think those of us who had contributed to the show drew a collective intake of breath in anticipation of what Jonny Harris was going to say about us.
Now, I have been asked/directed not to discuss the details of Jonny's set nor of the information and material that will be covered in the Still Standing episode when it airs this summer and I will respect that restriction. I won't go into any details here.
I will say, however, that I was impressed in the extreme by the quality of the stand-up set that Jonny delivered and that Jonny, Graham and Fraser had written. It was smart, it was funny, it was creative, it was respectful and it was affectionate. The audience was in stitches and the contributors walked away feeling tickled rather than attacked.
The set was also of extremely high quality from a comedy standpoint, with strong internal structure and jokes that built off each other and referred back to each other over the course of the 45-minutes during which Jonny delivered it.
I love stand up that isn't just a series of jokes but that actually has movement and development throughout and this set delivered all of that.
I take my hat off to these three writers and comedians. Well done. What you accomplished this week, I didn't think was possible. And the fact that you will do it over and over again over the course of the show's season just blows me away.
We may have to re-subscribe to cable TV, just to watch Still Standing this season.