For the past three years, the Rivoli has been host to the Sketch Comedy Lounge, a showcase for emerging and established Toronto sketch troupes. Starting out as a twice-monthly kid sister event to Monday night’s longer-running ALTdot stand-up gig (going for 10+ years), SketchCOM, now held weekly, has been branching out lately, first establishing a monthly NSFW video night (wherein resident and guest hosts do a show-and-tell of their favourite viral videos), and this past Tuesday, debuting Showgame (see what they did there?), a live game show with comedians, audience participation, and prizes. Looks like Tuesday nights aren’t just for House anymore.
Showgame creator and host Mike “Nug” Nahrgang is no stranger to the Toronto comedy theatre scene; he played Jake in Evil Dead: The Musical, has toured the country as a member of the Second City Touring Company, and performs with his own award-winning sketch troupe, The Minnesota Wrecking Crew. (And that’s just the live stuff, have a look at his healthy and active film and television resume for extra wowage.) His latest project is a labour of self-admitted, unabashed game show love (if you’ve ever wondered why a game show channel needs to exist and who in the world would ever subscribe to it, we’ve found him). Showgame—fresh off a six-week run at the very recently defunct Diesel Playhouse—injects a refreshing dose of interaction and variety into the usual Tuesday night Rivoli shenanigans, while still utilizing the otherwise static structure of the weekly standard (sketch troupes still perform, Ron Sparks still does his news, the sweet sounds of semi-obscure indie rock still grace the PA, etc.). Nahrgang’s cable package (we’ll call it ‘research’) has proved its worth, providing him with the data to form a successful game show equation:
I’ve always loved the way the hosts are funny, personable, and never get in the way of the contestants being the stars of the show. You can’t have a game show without contestants. People love to win stuff no matter what it is, and people love to show off what they know. There are tons of nods to [other game] shows, but it’s the audience that makes it unique every time. That’s what makes it fun for me. When I was in Evil Dead, it was the same show every night but the audience changed and that’s what made it so much fun.
Toronto actor Dale Boyer co-hosts the show as a hilariously surly Vanna White to Nahrgang’s Sajak and agrees, “It’s such an adaptable show with such a fun spirit and great audience participation; I really enjoy getting into the audience in my questionable dresses to chat with people.” And questionable it was: homemade and plastic and shiny, Boyer’s dress on Tuesday was the subject of most of her co-host banter for the night, rivalled only by the “bullshit snow-rain,” on which she polled the audience for the show’s first segment. Other segments included a variety of rapidfire Q&A rounds (i.e. songs with colours in the title), whiteboard-drawing responses to news headline quizzes, and, as an audience warm-up, awarding prizes (not your average dollar store treasures either—most of the prizes are donated by Silver Snail) to the first person to show a specific item to the announcer. Bruised chins mean nothing when you’re first to the front of the room with your red and white health card for a Rocky 3 action figure.
Even though it’s just settling into its new home, Nahrgang isn’t setting his Showgame sights too small. “I’d love to work it to a point [where] we can take it on the road. I’d also like to bring some home-grown entertainment to TV if possible. People might think it’s low-brow entertainment, but Wheel Of Fortune is just televised Hangman.”
Showgame runs the first Tuesday of every month at 9 p.m. at the Rivoli, PWYC (suggested $5, so worth it!). Check the Sketch Comedy Lounge site in advance for the night’s full line up.
Photo by Squeakyrat from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.