Something awesome is coming to Ottawa tomorrow night (Thursday May 24th, for the record)…our very own live talk/variety show, at the Mercury Lounge stage. This is a unique event in our wee city…so naturally, it took a pretty unique pair to bring it to fruition. Which is where Crush Improv mainstay Brad MacNeil, and MiCasa Theatre‘s Nick DiGaetano come along, the unstoppable force behind tomorrow’s debut of THE BRAD MACNEIL, a live event that looks to be a bit of a game-changer in Ottawa…or that will at least, hopefully, make some folks sit up and take notice.
“Most of the people we have on the show aren’t people we’d have at Crush shows,” show host and new Daddy Brad MacNeil said with a touch of pride, when I got to sit down with him and his hetero-show partner Nick DiGaetano at a coffeeshop today to talk about their live labour of love. And their lineup for tomorrow’s quite frankly ummissable one-night-only event certainly should pique anyone’s interest. Featuring live backing from local rockers the Steve Adamyk Band, Brad and Nick will also be introducing audiences to: slam poet Jenna Tenn-Yuk; journalist Polly Leger (whom Brad has challenged to bring the 3-minute story of her choice, that she feels people need to know the most); artist Sue Bailie, whom Brad seemed especially excited about having on, as they went to high school together, a number of years ago I will kindly not divulge; and Koston Kreme of Capital Tease burlesque, of whom MacNeil would simply say, “…I’m not gonna talk her up…I don’t need to talk her up. She will take this show from semi-sweet Baker’s chocolate to delicious, rich milk chocolate, and that’s what we want.”
“Fudge, Brad,” Nick corrected, “…triple-sweet fudge”, which got them off onto a whole other tangent it took some time to come down from. When we recovered (‘interviewing’ Brad and Nick is a curious process…it mostly involves hitting ‘record’ and sitting back quietly, which I rather enjoyed), they explained a few of the thoughts that brought them to this project, which apparently arose during a walk in the woods one night . “We make a LOT of important decisions during walks in the woods,” Nick told me…a veteran of theatre, he seemed excited at the chance provided by The Brad MacNeil, to “get out of that comfort zone, and be in a position where it could just fall apart”, as with a recent team-up he and Brad had at a Crush Improv show at the Elmdale Tavern (note: I saw that show, and they rocked it out, FYI. No falling apart there.)
Brad especially sounded hopeful about the ideas behind the show, and that this was a departure from his previous improv appearances. “More often than not the process is what fascinates me more than anything,” he said, a self-admitted huge fan of podcasts and behind the scenes documentaries. He’s hoping to get inside the process of a variety of different creators, the kind he doesn’t normally get to talk with at his late-night duties at the Ottawa Fringe Festivals (where he co-hosts ‘Chats With Cat’ with Catriona Leger in the Courtyard after hours). “I don’t want this to be just a variety show.”
Tapping into the huge Ottawa market for live entertainment is another driving force…people will pack their respective niche markets (Burlesque, music, art, Fringe, etc…), but is there any possibility of crossover? And how about our actual physical remoteness?
“If we get three people to come to the show from Barrhaven, Orleans, or Kanata, I think it’s pretty much a victory.” Having just made the round-trip to and from Kanata for a show the other day, I can attest to the truth of this statement. But getting Ottawa people out of their OWN comfort zones and into an experience they might not even realize they’ll enjoy is one of The Brad MacNeils’ lofty goals…although they admit they have by no means cracked the conundrum. No harm trying, right?
And how does newborn daughter Violet affect Brad’s take on his comedy career? “It’s made me take things a lot more seriously,” he said, showing the huge heart that lurks behind his blustery improv exterior…in the end, he strikes me as a proud papa who wants his kid to be proud of him. Personally, I like to think he’s got nothing to worry about in that regard.
THE BRAD MACNEIL hits the stage at 9pm tomorrow night…doors open at 8, and a mere ten dollars to get in. Stage managed by Fringe legend Kevin Waghorn, the lads are planning on clocking in at a cool 75 minutes, and making every one of those minutes count. “Twenty-five dollars worth of show for Ten bucks” is Brad’s promise, and I for one believe him. Pretty much the best start to your May 2-4 weekend you could hope for.
Oh, by the way..? Nick wanted me to tell you all in advance that the ‘refrain’ for the evening is “That’s The Brad MacNeil“. Remember it…it may come in handy. Peace, love and soul, and I’ll see you at the Mercury,
The Visitor (and Winston)