Despite having no male performers, Pick of the Fringe manages to be supremely ballsy. The sketch revue written and performed by Second City alumnae Ashley Botting, Karen Parker and Leslie Seiler is a brash and bawdy babefest where no topic is safe from ridicule. Botting, who will be juggling Pick of the Fringe and Stephen Harper: the Musical at Second City for the first week of July, talked to us about poop jokes, the creative process and how the trio of hilarious ladies put together their shameless show.
How does this revue differ from what you were doing at Second City?
There you’re constrained by your director and you have to consider what the mainstream public is comfortable with, what’s palatable to them. We’re kind of untethered now—we can say what we want, how we want and that’s kind of the joy of it.
How would you describe this show—a play? A series of sketches? Is this ‘chick comedy’?
It’s a sketch revue, I guess you could call it women-centric but we don’t want to get up there and just talk about men and our periods, or body image stuff—we have a skewed perspective on all that stuff and we hope it comes out. We really wanted a male director for the show because he can offer the other perspective, and we didn’t want to be doing things that were only funny to women or because we’re all women. We want everyone to leave the show having laughed, we don’t want women in the audience telling men that they couldn’t get it.
One of the things that often bugs me about female comedy is that it’s just about ‘being a woman’ and that makes the public think that we’re only funny when we’re talking about what it means to be our sex. We want people to see that women can be funny just being themselves.
Do you think men and women do different kinds of comedy?
I think men can get away with a lot more goofiness. Women have more to get over, I think, because especially if you are remotely attractive in any way, that’ll be the first thing people dissect, and then they’ll look at your comedy. We have to be that much more ahead of the joke, that much more intelligent so that it has nothing to do with what we look like. This Canadian comic followed a female sketch troupe once and said to the audience, “Female sketch groups: you just pick the one you wanna fuck the most and laugh at that one the hardest.” That’s just outright offensive. On the other hand, we know that sex sells, and so we are being a little cheeky with our promotion of the show, tapping into that a bit.
How did you go about writing the show? What was your process like?
Sometimes we would just sit and riff together, or people would bring in scripts and we would break them down together. We’ve been going hard now for about three months. To be honest with you, in the beginning the first 60% of our rehearsal process was probably just spent gossiping and talking and hanging out, but what was interesting about that is that we were never so far removed from the process that we forgot we were writing. We used it. We have a few sketches in the show that literally came from us just lying around and talking about things, realizing we had them in common.
Have you ever been involved with the Fringe Festival before?
I did a show for Fringe three years ago, an improvised musical called Show Stopping Number, and another musical two years ago called It’s Just a Phase where I played this total bull dyke lesbian, which was great. I love the Fringe. It’s so inclusive, it’s so accessible… anyone can be a part of it. And there’s that risk factor, you could go see things that could be total garbage, or see something that next year is plonked onto a Mirvish stage.
Who do you think will come out to the show? Is there something for everyone in it?
I think the audience will be pretty varied. The comedy community is so supportive in this city so I think they’ll come out, and then hopefully word will spread. I think people like to laugh, but audiences can be cautious… there is so much garbage sketch out there, and a lot of times it’s just laziness. I really appreciate people putting in the effort—you know, know your lines, dress like you care about the show, please don’t hold beer onstage… just care a little. That’s what the audience wants to see. There are moments in the show that are pretty blue… some ‘mature’ moments, certainly. But we’re not just swearing for the sake of swearing or being filthy for the sake of being filthy.
Is there anything in the show that you’re worried about, things you think people might be uncomfortable at, or maybe a laugh that might be tricky?
We’ve all been part of the Second City process, and they do improv to test out their material, so we’ve done a few nights at the Rivoli where we’ve tried out some stuff that’s gone over pretty well. I can’t lie, there are some blatant fart and shit jokes in this show, and we didn’t tend to get away with that kind of stuff at Second City so much… we’ll see how that lands. There’s nothing in the show where I’m wondering if we crossed a line… I think sometimes lines need to be crossed, and if you cross them intelligently you can shed light on something that exists in society. You can illuminate things by overstepping those boundaries in the right way. I hope that any line that we cross will do just that, except for the fart jokes, which are just plain funny.
Check out the ladies and their fart jokes at the Factory Studio Theatre (125 Bathurst Street at Adelaide) on the following dates:
Friday July 2, 5:30 PM
Saturday July 3, 12:15 PM
Sunday July 4, 9:15 PM
Tuesday July 6, 6:45 PM
Wednesday July 7, 8 PM
Friday July 9, 11:15 PM
Saturday July 10, 1:45 PM
Tickets are $10 at the door. For more information go to www.fringetoronto.com