Comedy troupe The Boom are taking their cult following to a new venue and assaulting the Internet while dressed as schoolboys.
The end of 2011 was a tumultuous time for The Boom.
The veteran Toronto sketch troupe had parted ways with their producer, who was also a cast member (the split resulted from what the cast diplomatically refers to as a “personality clash”) and was on the verge of leaving their long-time home at Supermarket after the club asked them to change nights from Tuesdays to Thursdays, a move that they say they resisted out of respect for their fan base.
“We’re the type of sketch troupe that’s very loyal to our fans, and they like us on Thursdays,” said The Boom’s Deborah Etta Robinson.
“Our fans like to get really drunk at our shows, and it’s harder to do that on Tuesday,” added castmate Tim Dorsch.
A few months later, The Boom has re-emerged with a new home at the Drake Hotel, and what they describe as a new sense of purpose. They’ve dealt with the change by becoming a sort of multi-headed comedic hydra. They tend to choose sketches for the show by consensus. While this could be an ego-minefield, The Boom’s Eytan Millstone says that it’s actually remarkably easy.
“We’re usually pretty much in agreement on what’s funny, and then we’ll just have conversations like ‘Oh, we have a sketch like that this month—let’s add another and make it a theme, or let’s save it for next time.’”
“We all have certain skills; we’re all good at things that no one else in the troupe has any inkling toward,” said Dorsch. “We kind of took on those roles. It might implode one day, but right now it’s working pretty well.”
“You know how when communists come to power, and it’s really good in the beginning, then people get shot?” added cast member Bryn Pottie. “We’re in that beginning part.”
Since moving to the Drake, The Boom’s cast members have re-dedicated themselves to the cause of absurdist raunch. According to Pottie, the difference between the late–Supermarket-era Boom and the troupe’s current incarnation is obvious.
“There’s a childlike excitement for our first show [at the Drake] that I haven’t seen for any of our other shows,” he said.
Dorsch, Robinson, and Pottie say that the move to the Drake started strictly out of necessity, but ended up causing the troupe to re-examine its goals, both short- and long-term. In the immediate term, Robinson says, The Boom is looking to increase its profile in the local press, especially blogs. (Print media, they say, has been unkind.)
“The Boom has always been—and I don’t know any other way to say this—like the Howard Stern of sketch troupes,” she said. “We have very loyal fans, but the establishment doesn’t like us very much. We’ve never been recognized in terms of awards or anything like that.”
“We want to hit the Internet,” said Pottie. “It’s something we haven’t really done. We’ve been so focused on live.”
Their secret weapon for web domination comes in the form of Rick and Chuck, a pair of characters created by Millstone and castmate Jay Wells L’Ecuyer. Rick and Chuck are grade-eight students at a fictional Catholic elementary school who decide to form a rap group for their school’s talent show. The joke is, of course, that the two schoolboys’ lyrics would make Necro mildly uncomfortable. The inaugural show at the Drake was the debut screening of Rick and Chuck’s first video, “We’s Hawd.” The video had more than 18,000 views in its first 48 hours on YouTube, thanks in part to Kenny vs. Spenny’s Kenny Hotz, who posted the video to his Facebook wall along with the caption “Wow, finally someone else in Canada made something funny? That only took a few years… Good job, boys!”
Millstone says that the Rick and Chuck characters, already a mainstay of The Boom’s repertoire, are starting to evolve. No longer will he and L’Ecuyer just wander on stage in uniforms, repeat the Rick and Chuck backstory, and launch into a remarkably well-executed series of rhymes about group sex and slit throats. Instead, the duo will spend more time at the centre of sketches. A two-song Rick and Chuck EP has already been released by Comedy Records.
“If we do Rick and Chuck live now, it’s going to be if we have something new, or if there’s a sketch around it,” said Millstone. “We’re not just going to keep coming out and doing the standard Rick and Chuck introduction that we do.”
In the longer term, Robinson says that The Boom cast members have the same goal as almost every other artist: they want to quit their day jobs.
“I’d love it if we could make a living touring and having a great Internet presence,” she said. “I don’t think we’re going to get a show on network television, but a sassy Adult Swim–type show we could definitely get.”
The Boom’s next show is March 1 at the Drake Underground.