An Interview with Amy Shoshtak


Vancouver, watch out, because Gossamer Obsessions are coming to town with sketch comedy unlike any you’ve ever seen before. The Mumble managed a wee blether with the lady member of that most fearless duo…

Hello Amy, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Amy: I was born and raised in Edmonton, and now I am based in Vancouver.

When did you first develop a passion for performing?
Amy: As a kid, I was always putting on “plays” and “magic shows” for my family. I loved being in front of people! But then, the self-consciousness of being a teen crept in, and I became shy, and forgot about that passion. During high school, my very encouraging drama teacher suggested I join the improv team, and the rest is history!

So, Amy, your improv skills are much sought after, you’re like the Don. How did your teaching of improv come about & where are you with it today?
Amy: Well, I don’t know how much I am like a mob boss, but I certainly do love teaching! I started teaching years ago through Rapid Fire Theatre, coaching in their tournament for high school students, and also running classes for adults and children. In Vancouver, I teach with Blind Tiger Comedy.


Can you tell us about CHiMPROV?
Amy: It is Rapid Fire Theatre’s weekly long form improv show. It’s really excellent. Every Saturday you can catch different troupes doing very interesting improv. The troupes will experiment with editing, genre, and character in a long form setting.

Can you tell us about your trip to Monkeyfest in Bogota?
Amy: I visited Colombia several years ago to see my friends at Picnic Improv. They run a very cool improv school, as well as circus classes. Bogota was beautiful – I’d love to see more of South America one day!

What does Amy Shoshtak like to do when she’s not being funny?
Amy: I love going to metal concerts, and hiking in the mountains. I also love nachos.

Can you tell us about Gossamer Obsessions?
Amy: Paul and I started working together over a decade ago, doing improv at Rapid Fire Theatre. I really admired his approach to comedy. He always plays smart, while still sharing the joy he’s experiencing on stage. We got together to write a list of “Gossamer Obsessions”. Then we turned that into a performance. And then we wrote more, and started performing regularly. And so Gossamer Obsessions was born.
The show is framed by two curious narrators (The Vicar, and his Petulant Ward), who share parables and cautionary tales with the audience (these are the sketches). The tone of the show is purposefully whimsical, jarring, and still hilarious.

You & Paul live in separate cities. Do your creative processes involve a lot of skyping?
Amy: You nailed it! We skype every couple weeks and work on writing in google docs.

What are the secrets to a good sketch?
Amy: I think if it makes you laugh, then you are on the right track. Finding your own voice in creative work is one of the biggest challenges. Try not to worry about doing it right – just do it, and try it out in front of an audience!

Can you describe your working relationship with Paul Blinov in a single word?
Amy: Depraved.

You’ll be bringing The Morality Puns to the Vancouver Fringe, can you tell us about it?
Amy: The Morality Puns is our third full-length Gossamer Obsessions sketch show.

Where have the sketches come from?
Amy: The ether.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the street…?
Amy: Saturday Night Live meets a fever dream. A critic once called Gossamer Obsessions “19th century stoner humour”.

What will Amy Shoshtak & Gossamer Obsessions be doing after the Vancouver Fringe?
Amy: After Vancouver Fringe, I’ll be working on my Dialogue and Civic Engagement Certificate at Simon Fraser here in Vancouver, and helping produce The 20th Vancouver International Improv Festival. Also, Halloween!


The Morality Puns

Revue Stage, 1601 Johnston St.

Friday Sept 7: 8:45pm – 9:45pm
Saturday Sept 8: 10pm – 11pm
Sunday Sept 9: 1:45pm – 2:45pm
Tuesday Sept 11: 9:30pm – 10:30pm
Friday Sept 14: 5pm – 6pm
Saturday Sept 15: 4pm – 5pm


An Interview with Rob Gee


The Vancouver Fringe is rising rapidly on the horizon, & impeccable wordsmith Rob Gee is, well, geeing himself up for his gigs, big time…

Hello Rob, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Rob: Raised in Derby, Living in Leicester, currently in Calgary.

Why comedy, what is it about being funny in front of other people that makes you tick?
Rob: I’ve always liked entertaining folk since I was king Herod in the school nativity. And the sound of a bunch of people laughing is lovely. Also, I sometimes talk about some pretty rough subjects in my shows, so it comes down to that thing George Bernard Shaw said about how if you’re going to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh or they’ll kill you.

You’re also a dab hand with a quill. Can you tell us about your poetry?
Rob: Anyway, basically I do stand up poetry, which is a bit like stand up comedy, but it rhymes and there’s no jokes in it. I used to do loads of poetry slams too. One of the reasons I’m looking forward to returning to Vancouver is its fantastic slam scene.

You’ve shared stages with numerous personalities & luminaries; who have been your top 3 & why?
Rob: Sue Townsend, who wrote the Adrian Mole diaries. She was a really interesting speaker and her books are hilarious. Tony Benn, old school Labour MP. He was a delight. Dick Fish, who sings for punk band the Subhumans. I grew up on punk rock, particularly the anarcho stuff, so Dick was a childhood hero. I gigged with his band, Citizen Fish, once or twice in the 90s, and then he started doing spoken word, so I gigged with him a bit more. He’s lovely and he always spoke to me like we were mates. I was all awestruck and dithery, but it didn’t seem to phase him.

You’ve got three famous figures from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starter, mains & dessert?
Rob: It would have to be the three wise men, surely? They’d be pretty interesting conversation with a few beers in them. Actually, maybe two wise men and a translator. I’m not a very cook, but I live in Leicester and there’s a lovely South Indian place near me. We’d go there.

You’re bringing a show to this year’s Vancouver Fringe, can you tell us about it?
Rob: It’s a murder mystery set on an Alzheimer’s ward. I was a psych nurse for a number of years and I also love murder mysteries. There was also a lot I wanted to say about dementia. So it’s funny, with the occasional moving bit.

What’s the difference between a Canadian audience & a British?
Rob: I can only speak in terms of Fringe festivals, because they’re the only Canadian audiences I tend to do. Generally speaking, Canadian audiences tend to be a lot bigger, because their Fringes are better – the whole model is different. This leads to more questions than answers, I know. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Also, Canadian Fringe audiences are orientated more towards theatre, whereas UK Fringe audiences (particularly in Edinburgh) tend to be more focused towards comedy. In terms of what they laugh at though, it’s actually very similar.

What is the creative process behind writing your comedic material?
Rob: It starts with the idea that makes you giggle, or at least ignites something happy in the old grey matter. Once that happens, I then I like to write many pages of drivel which, several drafts later, I then use to I bore the people around me. Then it’ll do a scratch performance in a pub near where I live, and then it’ll do a tiny Fringe festival somewhere I lick the beast into shape. And then it’s ready!

What are the key ingredients to your style?
Rob: I like lots of light and lots of dark. And it goes in and out of rhyme. And it’s both kinds of funny.

You have twenty seconds to sell the show to someone you are flyering in the streets of Vancouver – what would you say?
Rob: It’s like Clue meets Memento. (That allows a few seconds in case they’ve not heard of Memento, then I can refer them to Google…)


Forget Me Not

The Alzheimer’s Whodunnit

Revue Stage

Sept 6, 9, 11, 12, 15, 15 (times vary)

Rob Gee image by Nick Rawle (6).JPG

Sam Nicoresti: The Bedtime Funtime Go To Bed Right Now Show


Bob’s Blundabus
August 24th (one-off show)

Material: five-stars  Delivery: four-stars.png  Laughs: five-stars  


Bob’s Blundabus is a rickety wee venue, but before every show there’s always a hub-hub bubbling up in bohemian defiance of the conventional Fringe. Chatting to a comedienne in the queue called Rosie, I asked why she was coming to this one-off, late night show by fiery young upstart, Sam Nicoresti. Her reply was that she had seen a version of it down Leicester & thought Sam had smashed it. Maybe it was gonna be worth staying up note-taking until 01.30 AM, after all…

Sam’s 80 minute show sees us all essentially invited to his sleepover; a royally ridiculous, dangerously deranged, cleverly victuallated masterwork-in-progress. Our curly-hair’d boy wonder commences proceedings by bursting from the womb of a tri-breasted Holy Madonna puppet, Monty Python style, with the audience-strings forming fallopian tubes for the ‘Ceremony of the Egg.’


From this showbizzy opening it all gets wilder & weirder & more & more bizarre. Along the way I loved the naturality of a football-terrace audience delightedly bursting out into spontaneous drunk-o-clock chants. ‘Dad-dy! Dad-dy! Dad-dy!‘ we all cry as Sam’s disfigured Bahometean father turns up to the sounds of the Stygian swamp, wondering what the bloody hell all these people were doing in his house! Into the mix, & up to the sleepover, came an assortment of Sam’s pals; a sumptuous banquet of floorspots for folk like Dr Jellywoz, Jimmy Slim (AKA Mr Vesuvius), & Sam’s old school bully, Andy, who ends up in a duel with our host funnier than the one at the end of Blackadder III.

Then we reached the hour-mark. It was 01.10 AM, my mind had just started to wander to the thirty mile drive home & doing the maths on the alcohol-consumed thro a day’s reviewing, time spent for it to pass out of my system & whether I was safe to drive. It was only natural, 50-60 minute shows are the proven, boredom defying norm & we’d just broken thro’ the threshold. But Sam is no kowtowwer to convention, & he was ready to give us twenty minutes more. ‘Am I gonna enjoy this,’ I asked myself, ‘well Mr Nicoresti, over to you…’


I needn’t have worried, for at that very moment he pipes up, ‘we have come to a very important part of the show – lets play pass the orange.’ And so we did, starting another time-blurring rush of fun, sketches, chanting & – most importantly of all – lots & lots of laughs. Seeing Sam’s sleepover loftily upstairs at the Blundabus felt morphingly like being on a shortish flight, with the characters coming on stage as if they were air hostesses bringing different stuff like food, drinks, magazines, gifts… you get the idea. All praise to the pilot, then, who is pulling off something so undeniably phantastic, & so thoroughly enjoyable, that a new Knowing Me, Knowing You could be on our hands.



Rob Oldham: The Worm’s Lament


Pleasance That
Aug 25-27 (21:30)

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The shipping-container-cum-21st-century-comedy-space, Pleasance That, was brimful with Friday night revellers, all waiting for our comedian to land inside & let laughter splash into the air. With the audience spread out in a feminine delta, our alpha male strutted inside the womb-room beaming confidence. Who was this fine fellow? Well, he was just about to embark upon an hour answering that very question. For a start, the nimble-witted joke-wizard that is Rob Holland is only 23, but he’s already sounding professionally articulate. Born in the Nineties, nurtured in the Naughties, & blossoming in his debut Now, Rob is a philosopher-poet who postulates like the banner-bearer of a new wave of comedy about to erupt from the Millennial fountain.

The highest summits of Rob’s range were his spirited dalliances with tonal prose poetry, chaunted over tracks like David Gray’s Babylon. He is a natural poet, & they are soooo good, that when he reverts to his, albeit pretty decent, comedy patter; a part of you is anticipating the next ‘performance’ as if we were queuing up at Disneyworld or summat. Still, that’s not really a criticism, its just an observation that to experience Rob doing his performance poetry is like seeing a rainbow-coloured balloon rapidly inflated, so totally brilliant are his room-warming pieces.

Overall, Rob is an erudite phraseologist with a sabre-rattling dash. He does have a couple of flaws, however, like dissing my fuckin’ home town of Burnley for one. Perhaps it was unintentional, but when doing comedy in Scotland, it is better etiquette to dis either Edinburgh or Glasgow depending on your location at the time. An Englishman reinforcing the Daily Mail Tory mindset this far north by mocking underprivilege through the medium of attempted humour is best left out of the set.

But Rob is definitely getting there, there’s a lot of good stuff swirling about, & as he opens up his life the guy we’re getting to know seems a sassy addition to the circuit. I did observe a marked hypersensitivity to room temperature & the mood-sways of the audience, which does need to be eradicated for him to progress. The show is all & he is our glorious juggernaut. For me, the 23-year old Rob feels like a talented lieutenant in the Light Horse Artillery – he knows he should be in the Heavy Cavalry proper, but he hasn’t quite earned his spurs. Time & a couple more arduous Fringe campaigns will earn him a change of regiments, I am sure.



UCL Graters: Panopticon


Underbelly Bristo Sq
Aug 25-27 (14:30)

Material: four-stars.png  Delivery: four-stars.png  Laughs: two-stars.png

UCL Graters are a sketch group that have emerged from the lecture rooms of University College London & thrust themselves into the brutally ruthless Napoleonic battlefield that is the Edinburgh Comedy Fringe. Their very seaworthy vessel is manned by 3 lads – Joe, Luke & Sam – & two lassies – Izzy & Felicity -, whose varicoloured sweaters give them the appearance of children’s television show presenters. With hair & figures unflummoxed by age, they together showcase with extreme ebullience an hour of rather eccentric ideas – but was it comedy? Elongated sketches concluding with a dodgy pun/punchline are interesting to watch – like surreal theatre – but ultimately just timorous humour at best.


37517986_926858777504997_8132390716639805440_o.jpgThere are clearly five highly intelligent minds at work here, & at the piemaking factory of their brainstormings it can easily be observed how the details have been pored over & poured in. Indeed, the endearing qualities of Panopticon are the variety, the rapidity & the originality of the scenes – I still can’t quite call them sketches as they lacked, like I said, the killer comedy blow. There were some entertaining moments, granted, the Brooklyn Community Theatre’s production of Aladdin leaps to mind, but again it was more of an interesting spectacle than laugh-out loudness. But, the artform is constantly evolving, & I am 42 years old, & these guys are barely in their 20s – therein lies the rub. Are they actually hilarious & I just don’t get it? The truth lies, of course, somewhere in between, but the UCL Graters’ sauce definitely needs thickening with some funnier flour.



The Crooners


Pleasance Courtyard
August 24-26 (23.00)

Material: four-stars.png  Delivery: four-stars.png  Laughs: four-stars.png

The BBC’s BattleActs! boys, Brendan Murphy and Kiell Smith-Bynoe, are bringing something rather special to this year’s Fringe. Playing Frankie Paradise and Louie Valentine, they are your classic singer-banter double-act, expert light entertainers in a field where light entertainment is what we punters are really all after. Their playhouse is a nice & comfy little quadrant that is the Pleasance’s Bunker One. Their pianist is shit hot, & their routine as swinging comedy kings is a see-thro,’ flower-stuff’d vase of invigorating & variegated variety. In laymans’ terms we have Murphy’s hyperactive Jim Carey bouncing off & into Smith-Bynoe‘s Sammy Davis Junior. The latter, especially, did what it said on the tin, a smooth-tongued posture prince with an instinctive manifestation of the ghosts of crooners past. As for Murphy, he seemed as if a brick had been wedged into his performance pedal, so relentless – but never annoying – was his train.


Experiencing The Crooners is like being up on the deck of a gust-sailed caravel, wave-skimming to Cathay, sipping comedy cocktails thro’ a sustained rush of controlled pursuance. The boys sing us a selection of classic croons, shortened & adapted for their comedy needs of course, & on well-timed occasions get the audience willingly involved. Their show has a proper trig-point too, for the beat account of when Smith-Bynoe ‘Kicked the Devil in the Face’ is of optimum entertainment. To summarize, The Crooners is a very well-crafted party, quite niche, but quite beautiful, as if it were one of the École de Barbizon in a quiet corner of the Louvre.



Ian Smith: Craft


Underbelly Bristo Square
August 1-26 (17.15)

Material: five-stars  Delivery: four-stars.png  Laughs: four-stars.png

Ian Smith is man on the rise. Last year, at the fourth time of asking,  he won the ‘People’s Champion’ Amused Moose Comedy Award, & its dead easy to see why. He’s a good ol’ laid back northern lad, y’see, which makes him naturally salt-of-the-earthy, & he’s a proper funny un’, n’all! Goole’s own comedy gyrfalcon welcomes us all into his nest of familial friendliness. He’s the kinda guy you want to get blasted with & play Risk; he’s like an ubernerd, but the one who gets all the fit chicks & the best drugs. Three weeks into the Fringe, & five minutes into watching this refreshingly funny comedian, I felt like I was back at the beginning of August, highly excited that all these talented people had come to my city to perform, & up for a reyt laugh.


Spending an hour with Smith allows us to penetrate our world via the distorted mirror of his imagination as he powerpoints & gabbles his way thro’ Craft. Like an industrious waterfall he rarely pauses for air, while his material is of the obscurer, kitschy type – the War of the Worlds brass band segment for example – & the stuff he gets up to near to, & at the, end is off the scale.


About half-way through Craft we reach the raison d’etre of his 2018 show – the ancient Japanese art of origami, which Smith very shrewdly tell us, via wikipedia, ‘followed on from the invention of paper.’ This is a really welcome & integral part of the adventure – it never feels contrived – as are the hilarious subliminal messages which Smith slips in from time to time.

Sticking with the Japanese theme, Smith even found comedy in haiku, which reminded me of one of Basho’s classics, ‘Furu ike yakawa / zu tobikomumizu no oto,’ which translates something like, ‘Old pond — frog jumps in — sound of water.‘ Thus, in this instance, Ian Smith is the frog who has – like a comedy cannonball blasted out from the origami boom – leapt into the antique pond that is the world of Fringe comedy, where he is definitely making a noisy splash.



Anna Nicholson: Woman of the Year


Just the Tonic at the Caves
August 23-26 (15:00)

Material: three-stars.png Delivery: four-stars.png Laughs: three-stars.png

There is definitely room in the comedy world for lightheartedness. What with all the Brexit and Trump and whatnot. Not every comedian can be Stewart Lee and nor should they be. Then, it is into that cozy, inoffensive niche of cheeky asides and respectful bawdiness that Ms Nicholson comfortably fits. Her show is built around four central characters all bidding for the title of ‘Woman of the Year.’ They are certainly no grotesque caricatures, but rather familiar & well-observed female tropes from British society; one could say this show is a celebration of female stereotypes across the nation. Feminism for the WI brigade if you will. Each character is distinct, properly developed and performed with confidence and verve. The question of who deserves the eponymous title, or rather who doesn’t deserve it is a difficult one to resolve.

The hour flew by, and despite the room being far too hot the frequent laughter from the audience cooled my senses & kept me enthused. Along the ride I took wonder with Anna’s chameleon; a simple change of top or hairstyle made each of the four characters unrecognizable from the next. Praise must also be given to the superb keyboardist who kept the show bouncing along at a merry pace and the sound design which was as imaginative as it was amusing. The room was packed almost to the hilt and, at this late stage in the fringe and on a Wednesday night, that is quite an achievement. I see a bright future for Ms Nicholson. Having said all this I do tend to prefer my comedy a little more on the edgy side, but in a world of sharp edges and treacherous thorns, a fluff-ball comes as a welcome breath of fresh air.

Victor Pope




Underbelly, George Square – The Wee Coo
Aug 22-27 (20:00)

Material: four-stars.png  Delivery: four-stars.png  Laughs: four-stars.png

clip_image002 (1).pngFreya Slipper is one slick & classy lassie. With a black sweater, blue jeans & scruffy trainers, at first she seems not quite the person to deliver the argument of her tale, that of a multi-persona romp through the backstory of fifty-seven year old Linda Pritchard’s journey into space. Then, as soon as she plunges into her vast array of voices & faces, waving her hands like an enchantress, she proceeds to succeed in her task with incredible aptitude.

We never actually meet Linda, the concept being that the tale of her imminent trip through the stratosphere is told through the people she left behind; such as her horny co-worker at the village library & her graspingly annoying family members. We are given, then, sketch comedy with a very thick thread, & I’m happy to say that as set pieces, the sketches run rampant with laughs & daftness.


The audience is heavily involved, fleshing out the Freyan dreamworld, a gamble which upon this occasion rarely stemmed the flow. Unfortunately a couple of non-British impersonations bounced a little awkwardly for 2018, but I guess this lends to an overall picture of cosmopolitan inclusion which was Linda’s world on Earth. To weave such a complex tale through the medium of sketch is high-brow stuff, but Freya pulls it off without flaw & makes damn sure we’re having a good time as she does so. With a warm, human message at the conclusion of the tale, this is an intriguing & ultimately happiness-inducing hour.



Jacob Hawley: Howl

Just The Tonic at the Mash House
Aug 22-26 (15:40)

Material: four-stars.png  Delivery: four-stars.png  Laughs: three-stars.png

There is a brief story in the New Testament which records how the twelve-year-old Jesus, ruminating on Jewish scripture, compelled the complete attention of the elder rabbis in the temple at Jerusalem. Now, I’m not saying Jacob Hawley is the messiah or anything, but his 26 years were definitely among the youngest in the room where he was holding his comedy court, when his maturity of delivery & subject held us all in an unsnapping thrall.

Hawley revels in his dichotomous existence as a working-class cultural artist. It is soon evident that he possesses an ever-expanding intelligence, a keen analytical mind, & the talent to turn it all to comedy. The fact that he was playing The Streets on entrance didn’t pass me by – Mike Skinner was a middle-class boy masquerading as a ghetto rapper. In 2018 class boundaries are dissolving, & anyone can be who they want to be if they just set their minds to it. With Jacob Hawley, he is who he is, a passionate young man with lots to say about all aspects of society through his genuine & sharp sense of humour.

As the show progresses, every now & again Hawley turns on the jet engine boosts & shows the mastery of his craft – that of the pure, in-your-face stand-up fashioned in the smoky back rooms of New York. Overall this is a brave attempt at intellectual comedy, the self-titled Ginsburgean ‘Howl’ of the educated proletariat against the forces that be. This is also an extremely honest show, & as a record of where the 26-year old Hawley is in life it was cool to compare my own experiences with his. With more living under his belt I am totally convinced that when experience is allied to Hawley’s technique & control, some great, great comedy is yet to come.