Young Geoffrey (ed_rex) wrote,
Young Geoffrey

Frantic Time

Back in 1981, around start of the decline of SCTV and before the rise of the Kids In the Hall, a dreary Canadian comedy scene was revived by Frantic Times, which started airing as a summer-replacement for the already over-the-hill Royal Canadian Air Farce. (Yes, they used to be on radio; and they weren't much funnier then than they are now.)

The show was a deserved hit and was a high-point of my Saturday mornings until they went off the air in 1985, after which they bombed in a single-season television show called Four on the Floor. The latter had its moments but, like a really good live band unable to translate its sound to the studio floor, the television series was a pale shadow of its radio incarnation.

The Frantics were a revelation to me - fresh, witty and sometimes quite dark, they were also clearly of my generation, or close enough to it as to make no difference. Clever rather than topical, though they referenced politics and current events from time to time, not to mention Plato and Karl Marx; they also skewered super-heroes, ancient history, suicide hot-lines and old men in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius who wanted to be remembered as going out dancing - only to be foiled 2000 years later, by an archeologist who wasn't fooled - "It's just an old man with his finger up his bum."

Which may or may not go towards convincing any of you that this was a Series for the Ages.

What the hell. I, at least, was thrilled when I came across an article in the Eye, and more so when I called and found out that, yes, tickets were still available. I ordered a pair and excitedly asked Laura to come with me.

Come the day (last Tuesday, I believe), Laura was sick and I was left with a ticket to unload.

Easier said than done, for a man with as few friends as I have come to be.

Heath was working late, missnegativity off somewhere giving a speech (or so she claimed) and Vern just wasn't interested. ("Yes, I remember The Frantics," he said coldly. "No, I don't think I want to go.") His partner, however, was more amenable, and met me at Gorilla Monsoon's with just enough time for a drink before it was show-time.

Time to find out whether (nearly) 20 years would find them a greatest-hits band resting on their laurels or a renewed band exploring new ground.

The theatre was on the third floor of the Old Firehall, home of Toronto's Second City. A small room that felt like a bar - my favourite (go figure) kind of venue. The stage was wide but not deep; the set, four chairs near the edge, with a couple further back against the curtain. An old-fashioned looking mikecrophone stood sentinel before each chair.

Helen and I ordered drinks (which never came, but which I did not miss) and very shortly thereafter, the lights went down.

And came up, to reveal 4 men, all clearly on the down-side of 50 - "Older and wider" as their website puts it.

But the voices were unchanged and I found myself applauding (almost) wildly, hope winning out against trepidation.

It turned out the show was being taped for a CD and they were working with printed scripts, which at times added to the comedy - like a musician missing a note during a live concert, they more than once flubbed a line and had to go back to try again. All four were clearly having fun, mocking whoever had made the most recent mistake.

Rick Green, the troupe's most distinctive voice, introduced the show as a mixture of old material and new, but I recognized at most only 1 or 2 of the skits. I laughed a lot and found myself applauding along with the rest of what was a very enthusiastic crowd.

But were they as good as I remembered? Probably not - the formula of build-up to punch-line sometimes seemed to obvious.

Were they as bad as I feared they might be? Very far from it.

Will I buy the CD? Maybe.

The punclines weren't stale (were not talking Air Farce or Saturday Night Live here, but neither were they fresh from the oven. Still clever, if not quite brilliant, very funny but not hilarious, I nevertheless walked out of the theatre feeling very glad I had come out for it.

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