Posts Tagged ‘richard hemphill’


In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 26, 2014 at 8:48 am

Still trucking along at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, and managing to keep up. I’m somewhere in the 20’s as far as show viewings go, which is respectable I feel. But there’s always room for one more, and having just come from a pretty dark drama, it was time to lighten things up with some laffs. And I had a pretty good idea where the best place was to go an find me some of those.

Off to Academic Hall, then, for Punchbag Playhouse’s WUNDERJAMMER, a brand new sketch comedy show written by Richard Hemphill, who also penned last years ultra-mega-boffo hit DIE ZOMBIE DIE. Dragging that show’s director Stewart Matthews kicking and screaming along, they’ve assembled the ace comedy squad of Richard Gelinas, Victoria Luloff, Jordan Hancey and Allison Harris to knock about the stage as 60 characters in 20 odd back-to-back sketches. Featuring bits ranging from the very silly (ask Mr.Science!) to the very, very silly (Flatulent Cat Farm!), this is clearly a show with something for everyone. Well, everyone who thinks farting cats are funny. That’s everyone, right?


Matthews eye for physical theatre is put to excellent effect here, and this whole wacky show runs like a well-lubed machine, from the imaginative opening glow-in-the-dark sequence through every goofy moment to follow. The cast is brilliant, and have multiple standout moments. From Jordan Hancey’s first skit as an increasingly flustered shopkeep, he gets effortless laughs with just some perfectly timed glares. Richard Gelinas as a grumpy flower pretty much made my year. Alli Harris is a clowning comic goldmine, delightfully hamming it up as a dubious scientist, oddball duchess, and once operating in seamless tandem with Victoria Luloff as little girls unwisely interrupting a Monster at work. Luloff scores huge as a brilliantly dim supermodel (of the world!), working to eradicate children’s literability, in a sketch that highlights Hemphill’s clever comedic wordsmithery, something at work throughout. This is smartly silly and very hilarious show, and I was grinning like a little kid on his first trip to Bunny Town the whole time. See it and make with the laughing, already. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

2014 Ottawa Fringe – 5 Questions with RICHARD HEMPHILL

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 18, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Richard Hemphill is probably the only guy I know who’s even more nuts about Fringe theatre than I am. Aside from being a continuing contributor to the long-running radio sketch comedy show REMOTE PLANET, he’s an avid playwright who has been in Fringe multiple times, most recently with the boffo hit comedy DID ZOMBIE DIE in 2013.  He and his company Punchbag Playhouse are back again this year with their latest, WUNDERJAMMER, and I’m just excited enough about it that I had to ask Richard a few questions about what’s coming.

– How many times is this for you in the Fringe Festival?

Wunderjammer will be our seventh play in the Ottawa Fringe Festival. We started with Murder Most Stinky – a play originally written for the radio show, Remote Planet – in 2002, and put on Die, Zombie! Die! in 2013. Both shows were Best in Fest winners. Every eleven years, we win a prize.

One of the 3 sweet posters for WUNDERJAMMER, from designer Jared Barter.

– Last year, it was zombies.  What has Punchbag Playhouse got for us this time around?

Wunderjammer is a sketch comedy show. I’ve been writing sketch comedy for Remote Planet since 2000, and wanted to showcase some of that material on stage. Director Stewart Matthews was on the exact same page. I sent him 90 scripts to read, and he narrowed those down to 45 he wanted to work with. The cast read the 45 sketches, and we selected the ones that made the actors laugh the most.
The subject material is all over the place – no zombies – but that’s the nature of sketch. The humour is what you’d expect from a Punchbag Playhouse show: silly, saucy stuff with brains. Brains! Brains!!

Who’s in the cast, and how silly are they?

The show stars Richard Gélinas, Jordan Hancey, Allison Harris, and Victoria Luloff. Yes, we only have the four actors this year, plus Gabbie Lazarovitz doing voices. How silly are they? These are very serious actors. They are dedicated to their craft, and bringing their best to this material. That means they are exceptionally silly. They are also being directed by Stewart Matthews, who values silliness as highly as I do.
– You seem pretty prolific, between Fringe shows and REMOTE PLANET. What’s your advice to aspiring writers?

Hummus is really easy to make. It just takes time. A few ounces of bean paste shouldn’t cost that much.
My writing advice is to read. Read as much as possible. Also eavesdrop.
– Two of your stars from last year, Ray Besharah and Dave Benedict Brown, are going head to head with you this year with a sketch comedy show of their own, DICKY DICKY.  Do you welcome the healthy sketch competition, or swear revenge?
Swear revenge.
We love those guys. Dave and Ray have brilliant chemistry, and they’ve been wanting to do a duo show for years. Plus, Mel is directing! I’m going to be there on opening night, Thursday, June 19 at 10:30. I’ll be in the front row, throwing tacks on the stage. Mwahaha. Sweet revenge.
It’s great seeing sketch comedy taking greater root in Ottawa. Bring it on. The more the merrier. This is not a competition; it is a movement.
If you want a real treat, on Friday, June 20, you can see the premiere of Wunderjammer at 9:00 at Academic Hall, and then take in a performance of Dicky Dicky at 10:30 in the Arts Court Courtroom. Sketch comedy double-header. That’s the only night you can do that, so you owe it to yourself to do that.
– Bonus Question: What does WUNDERJAMMER mean?
The show was originally called Wunderkammer, a legitimate German word that means a cabinet of curiosities or room of wonders. Stewart thought Wunderjammer was sillier, and sillier always trumps. We all thought it was a gibberish word until I realized that Jammer was also a legitimate German word meaning a pitiful complaint. Wunderjammer literally translates to “wonder wail”. Wunderbar!
WUNDERJAMMER plays at Academic Hall as part of the 2014 Ottawa Fringe Festival, from June 19th to 29th.  All showtimes and ticket info can be found HERE.

Fringe-Coma 2013 – DIE ZOMBIE DIE

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm

This is the fourth year in a row of Zombie shows at the Fringe, by my count, after previous years’ NIGHT OF THE LIVING IMPAIRED, PLAYING DEAD and LEFTOVERS.  This time around, Fringe legend Punchbag Playhouse takes a swing at the undead with their hilarious return to the Fringe, DIE ZOMBIE DIE.

Written by Richard Hemphill, the ambitious show takes a fast and funny look at an alternate reality of sorts, where humans and zombies live together in a tenuously peaceful coexistence.  The undead in this tale won some civil rights after eating more nazis than allies in WWII, and now exist as a sort of politely tolerated cheap labour force.

This doesn’t sit well with some, like hard-boiled Zane Slade (Ray Besharah), who loathes zombies with open disdain (understandable, after what they do to his office).  Likewise legendary zombie slayer Zelda (Diana Franz), who is forced to take out-of-country jaunts to get her undead murderlust filled.  But when a killer starts taking out zombies in similar fashion to Zelda’s old adventures, her daughter Zoey (Allison Harris) comes to Slade to help clear her Mother’s name.


…and that’s the plot, which is pretty cool but kind of secondary to the hourlong assault of one-liners, clever wordplay, terrible puns and wonderfully hammy acting from the gang (and especially Dave Benedict Brown, filling a variety of roles).  Assisting ably on stage is a veritable army of the living dead, shuffling about and becoming the walls, countertops, tables, and somehow wringing huge laughs out of selling popcorn.  Director Stewart Matthews makes a merry romp of this show, juggling over a dozen performers at a time into a smoothly-moving unit of kitchsy comedy goodness.  Several zombie-themed advertisements play out in front of us, a very funny touch and making for a nice scene changing gimmick.  And the Who’s-on-first-inspired bit between Ray and Dave has to be seen to be believed.  It’s a terrifically entertaining show, and I can understand why it’s getting the buzz it has.  Catch it while you can…zombies don’t come much funnier.  And yes, there is a dachsund.  You’ll love it.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

5 Fringe Questions with RICHARD HEMPHILL

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Richard Hemphill is one of the funniest writers in the Ottawa scene, not only scoring a direct hit with his Fringe hit ENTER SCREAMING a few years back, but also being one of the twisted minds behind the long-running REMOTE PLANET radio sketch comedy show on CKCU.  He’s also one of the few people in town I can honestly say is just as, if not more nuts about watching theatre than I am.  He’s back this year with the hot-ticket DIE ZOMBIE DIE! at the Ottawa Fringe Festival.



– How great is it to be back in Fringe after a few years away?
It’s more than great. It should have its own category of greatness. It should be great+ or great++. Or just grea+. Yeah, it’s grea+.
It’s as if the show had its own guardian zombie angel. Everything is going right for the play. After years on the waiting list, Punchbag Playhouse’s name was the first one pulled out of the hat (bowl) at the Fringe lottery. I already had a nearly finished script in my hand, so I didn’t have to write a new play from scratch. Extremely talented people agreed to work on the show. The schedule of performances is candy. The poster is a thing of beauty. And, we’re already selling advance tickets with no marketing whatsoever. It doesn’t get better than this.

– Talk a bit about your amazing cast.
What a leading question. Well, it would be if they weren’t, in fact, amazing. We’ve got Ray Besharah, David Benedict Brown, Diana Franz, and Allison Harris as the lead characters. David plays four roles. Candice Lidstone and Sebastian Samur are talking zombies – they do some really funny zombie shtick. And we’ve got Jordan Hancey doing some voiceover work.
And, if that weren’t amazing enough, a dozen zombies will form the set. That’s right: Die, Zombie. Die! has a living set of the living dead. You and the rest of your pitchfork-wielding villagers don’t stand a chance.

Was it in your plan all along to have Stewart Matthews direct?
Ray suggested Stewart direct – the two of them had worked on Lonely Bear at the 2012 Fringe. I had no idea who we would approach to direct the show. Stewart came to the play with a fully-realized idea of how it would unfold from beginning to end. He’s responsible for the living set of the living dead. He’s responsible for all the crazy action at the end of the show. The writer never thought of all that.

What’s the ratio of fart jokes to zombie kills in this show?
There are no fart jokes in the show. I know this will come as a huge shock, but there are no fart jokes in the show. Not a single silent-but-undeadly pun. Nary a queef. This show is squeaky clean.
The ratio of poop jokes to zombie kills, however, is one to one. And there are a lot of poop jokes.

This is the 4th year in a row the Fringe has had a zombie show.  What sets yours apart?

We might not have zombie puppets with exploding brains or zombie clowns with exploding brains, but we do have a living set of the living dead.

This isn’t your standard zombie show. Humans aren’t on the run from zombies in this play; the zombies are on the run from humans. The show is set some time after the end of World War II, and the zombies are a protected but lower class with civil rights, including the right not to get rounded up and annihilated. Into that, we’ve thrown a murder mystery a ton of ridiculous tomfoolery, and the most bizarre use of a Dachshund you have ever witnessed.

DIE, ZOMBIE. DIE! from Punchbag Playhouse plays this year at the Ottawa Fringe Festival at Academic Hall.  Showtimes are:

Thursday June 20th 10:30pm
Friday June 21st 9:30pm
Saturday June 22nd 6:00pm
Monday June 24th 6:30pm
Friday June 28th 8:30pm
Saturday June 29th 9:30pm

Advance tickets available HERE at the Fringe website. $10 at the door with a Fringe pin!