Saturday, January 12, 2008

OBNH KICKS ASS!

...at the 24 Hour Play Creation event hosted by Ground Zero at this year's High Performance Rodeo. This is OBNH's NINTH AWESOME SEASON creating a ten minute piece based on a prop and a line of dialogue handed out by the organizers. This year's theme was Sylvia Plath --- inspired by One Yellow Rabbit's current show, Sylvia Plath Must Not Die. As for OBNH, we decided it was time for Sylvia to join the digital age, so we gave her her very own Facebook page... carved out of styrofoam.

Great fun was had by all, including fantasimous host Doug MacKeag.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Obscene Crew Swabs the Deck

...and you'll never guess who's got the biggest swab...

Questionable taste

Here we are at our Vancouver fringe venue at the beautiful Firehall Theatre Arts Centre in cosmopolitan East Hastings, known as "the worst corner in North America!" I'd show you a picture but I was afraid to take my camera out. As I'm thinking about writing this some guy is trying to sell Peter half a bottle of juice and a chewed piece of gum.

The crowd on Thursday night's 11:30 pm show was enthusiastic but thin, consisting of 5 volunteers and our friend Michael. We've had to adapt to being in a new location and a new space: we've now added a portion to our show where we let our audience go out and check if their cars are still there. We've also had to do some quickie advertising. Check out our new slogans:

"Pimps get in FREE when you bring 3 or mo' ho's!"
and
"Come for the crack. Stay for the hookers. Pay $10 bucks to have a nice quiet spot in the back row for a quick blow job."
or
"You'll laugh so hard you'll choke your ho'!"

Oookay. This could be why the Winnipeg Free Press raved "questionable taste."
Sorry, Tony.

- Nicole
Obscene But Not Heard

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

We're in the Globe and Mail - We Must Be Mainstream Now

Scroll down to "Funny Fringe" to find our mention. [NZ]

A strategy for surviving the Fringe

Special to the Globe and Mail

The word, ladies and gentlemen, is "crapshoot." Fringe festivals around the globe are sites of experiment and that means every ticket you purchase is, in fact, a kind of lottery ticket. There are gems and there are cringe-inducing turkeys on display. The 23rd annual Vancouver Fringe Festival crams 550 performances by 80 groups into 11 days - you'll need a strategy to catch the work you care about. To that end, we'd like to propose a series of mini-fringes:

Mosaic Fringe: Assaulted Fish, Vancouver's premier Asian comedy troupe, returns with Assaulted Fish For You 2. They're a smart, sexy and brave team of sketch artists that consistently skewers the foibles of Asian-Canadian life. Deep Fried Curried Perogies, meanwhile, mashes a Jamaican Filipino and a Ukrainian Brit into a typically CBC-friendly identity-politics-driven comedy. For a more sombre take on culture-jam issues, though, you'll want to check out Bye Bye Bombay, a multimedia exploration of India through the eyes of a young woman.

Funny Fringe: The pyrotechnic poetry in Jem Rolls Up will be eagerly devoured by those who recall last year's display of Jem's penchant for spoonerisms. Then there's Jihad Me at Hello, which wins the prize for best name, in which the Obscene But Not Heard company takes on Hitler, al-Qaeda and Leonard Cohen, in a sketch-comedy spree where nothing is sacred. If straight-on improv is more to your taste (sans terrorism references), take in a showing of Scratch, by Edmonton's lauded improv team Rapid Fire Theatre.

Gay Fringe: The Fringe Fest always has a healthy dose of puppet theatre, but gay puppet theatre is even better: Get Off the Cross, Mary involves a once-famous gay puppet who plans to make his comeback by staging a queer disco revision of The Passion. Yikes. Then there's I Thee Wed, which traces the story of two brides in love (with each other) in three time periods. And The Timekeepers is the acclaimed Holocaust drama that places a flamboyant gay man and an elderly, conservative Jew in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Prejudice gives way to friendship under the pressure of mutual hardship and a touch of humour.

Kinky Fringe: It wouldn't be a Fringe festival if someone wasn't taking their clothes off. While we can't guarantee that you'll see any birthday suits in Hot Pink Bits, the 60-minute burlesque romp does tackle something called "pizza sex," so it's worth a gander just to see what they use for toppings. Things get markedly more serious in Bondage, which is an S&M exploration of racial identity written by the brilliant David Henry Hwang, of M. Butterfly fame. Finally, Fluffy 10th Street (from the creators of last year's gorgeous puppet show Down the Drain) is the confession of a naughty, stripping, down-and-out puppet named Fluffy.

Tried & True Fringe: One-man Star Wars Trilogy is the little Fringe show that could. Canadian actor Charles Ross has performed his manic recitation of the Star Wars saga in London, New York and Edinburgh to rave reviews. If sci-fi geeks don't turn your crank, but you still want a surefire hit, Monster Theatre (best known for Jesus Christ: The Lost Years) is back with Napoleon's Secret Diary - an exercise in exposing empire builders as bumbling fools.

For the BlackBerry set with no time for experimentation at all, there's the Pick of the Fringe. The festival's hottest shows, as selected by a committee drawn from the theatre community, are announced online Sept. 13 and run Sept. 20 to 23 at the Waterfront Theatre. New this year, the Pick plays will run a last-chance tour to Burnaby's Shadbolt Centre (Sept. 26-29) and the Jericho Arts Centre (Oct. 6-9).

The Vancouver Fringe Festival happens on Granville Island and various other venues tomorrow night through Sept. 16. Tickets cost $10-$12, plus a one-off $5 Fringe membership. 604-981-3764 or http://www.vancouverfringe.com.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Four and a Half Stars in the Calgary Herald

Jihad Me at Hello

- reviewed by Stephen Hunt (Calgary Herald)

What's Hell like? In Jihad Me at Hello, Obscene But Not Heard's
uproarious sketch comedy show, Hell is not only hot, it's humid. The
waiting room is filled with trashy Hollywood gossip rags that only
write stories about Paris Hilton. Every radio station plays the same
song over and over and over--The Macarena, that regrettably
unforgettable dance hit of a few years back. Sitting on a chair,
looking somewhat forlorn, as audiences file in, is none other than
Hitler (Trevor Campbell), a little balder, a little older and lacking some of that old
Zeig Heil he used to have--but that's what sixty years of sweating it
out in the underworld will do to a despotic mass murderer.

Hell in Jihad Me at Hello is less like the Hell you see in the movies,
all molten lava and fireballs erupting out of volcanoes and more like
a dentist's waiting room, which, when you come to think, is probably
the closest thing to Hell on earth--and at the same time not entirely
unpleasant, if they have a subscription to Vanity Fair.

Jihad Me at Hello, which was written by Tony Binns, z(who's getting married August 25th) doesn't confine itself to Hell, however. Soon
enough, it travels to one of those theme restaurants that are also a
kind of Hell on Earth, where a creepy waiter serves Zombies to a pair
of girlfriends, (Nicole Zylstra and Peter Strand Rumel), who are
trying to work out Zylstra's tendency to date the biggest losers alive.
It's a show filled with indelible comic images you will be waking up screaming to for months to come: Campbell, in a black wig, doing a perfect Christopher Walken imitation of him reading from a book of sausage recipes; Rumpel, clad head to toe in black leather and wraparound shades, as the sadmachistic circus ringmaster in Circus of Pain, verbally abusing the audience (to its great delight); and Zylstra, as a consumptive clown, coughing her lungs up onstage.
You'll laugh. You'll feel bad for laughing. You'll hate them for making you laugh at things that make you feel bad later. You'll laugh some more.

Campbell, Rumpel and Zylstra have been playing the fringe circuit all
summer and it's resulted in a hilarious show that's expertly executed
by a bunch of comedy pros. The three of them seem as relaxed as a
posse of potsmoking slackers after a Beavis and Butthead marathon in
the parents basement, as they effortlessly (and crisply) segue from
one sketch to another. Think of them as the Western Canadian version
of Monty Python's Flying Circus, the granddaddy of contemporary sketch
comedy groups--outrageous, occasionally over-the-top, quite rude--but
all of it delivered with the dignified aplomb of a great waiter.

Four and a half stars

Thursday, August 9, 2007

FRINGE HIGHWAY - CALGARY HERALD

Stephen Hunt
Calgary Herald

Spotlight

The Calgary Fringe Festival starts Friday and runs until Aug. 19 at various venues downtown. Check CalgaryFringe.ca to buy tickets.

- - -

West End Winnipeg. Saturday. 9 a.m. Late July.

There are four cots lined side by side in the bare, concrete basement of a bungalow on Lipton Street in Winnipeg. This is where Obscene But Not Heard, the longtime Calgary-based sketch comedy troupe, has called home -- courtesy of local billets -- for the past 10 days, where they performed their show Jihad Me at Hello to Winnipeg Fringe Festival audiences of varying degrees of enthusiasm. If it resembles anything down here, it's that basement in Silence of the Lambs.

Nicole Zylstra drags a duffle bag out of the basement, ahead of fellow cast members Peter Strand Rumpel and Trevor Campbell, as well as their tour technician, Gina Marin. It's the end of the most recent leg of a road trip that started in June, when the group took Jihad Me at Hello to Montreal's Fringe and started a long, slow trek across the country that included Fringe festivals in Montreal (good parties, bad attendance), Toronto (lots of buzz, not such a hot sense of humour), Winnipeg (good money, steaming hot weather), and continues through the Calgary Fringe (starting tomorrow) and on to Vancouver.

"We're not used to being up at this hour," Zylstra says, a little solemnly. "There wasn't a night in Winnipeg that we got to bed before three in the morning."

Last night, the group performed not only their final show of the Fringe to a solid full house, but also performed some new material at a late night show in the living room of an apartment on Arthur Street -- a show that included complimentary shots of tequila and peppermint schnapps.

Today, we are driving from Winnipeg to Calgary in an air-conditioning-free minivan with 192,000 kilometres on the odometer. That's the bad news. The good news is, it's a much easier drive than the one the group made from Toronto to Winnipeg, which is about 22 hours of northern Ontario bleakness.

Welcome to the fringe festival circuit. It starts out in June, in Montreal (or mid-May, if you choose to travel to the Orlando, Florida Fringe Festival.)

For many theatre artists, the fringe circuit that has sprouted across Canada has become a kind of 21st century vaudeville circuit, the gen X equivalent to the carnival lifestyle.

From Montreal, they go on to Ottawa, Toronto, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria and finally Vancouver, which ends late in September.

Some of the most popular fringe acts, such as British spoken word performer Jem Rolls, or TJ Dawe (star and author of Maxim and Cosmo and director of Local Celebrity, which is playing Calgary), can earn upwards of $35,000 over the summer fringe circuit, affording them a winter off to create a new show.

For others, who struggle to differentiate their shows from more than 100 that play many of these festivals, it's strictly a break-even proposition.

"Stars are everything at fringe festivals," says Zylstra, referring to the reviews every local paper runs. "A lot of people just photocopy the four and five star shows, and see them." (One Winnipeg paper gives Jihad Me at Hello four stars. Another gives them an A-plus, declaring them one of the Best of the Fest, both of which compensate for the Winnipeg Free Press's critic, who is less enthusiastic about the show).

10 A.M. Breakfast.

Peter Strand Rumpel used to come to this Perkins in west Winnipeg at four in the morning in the early '90s, when he worked a dinner theatre by the Winnipeg Airport called Celebrations, so it's a nostalgia trip in addition to the most important meal of the day.

Jihad Me at Hello is a collection of sketches and monologues created by the group, written mainly by founding member Tony Binns, and performed on this tour by Zylstra, Campbell and Rumpel. (Members Tammy Roberts and Tom Sarsons didn't do the 2007 fringe tour).

They push the envelope in their sketches. The show opens with Campbell playing Hitler, stuck in a waiting room in Hell, waiting for a meeting with Satan. There's another sketch featuring an inappropriate weatherman. There's Campbell doing Christopher Walken, reading from a book of sausage recipes, and Campbell again, as Leonard Cohen. The finale is something called the Circus of Pain, featuring Rumpel as the host, dressed in black leather who verbally abuses the audience as he introduces characters such as the Armless Juggler, a mentally challenged Elvis and a consumptive Clown, who coughs herself to death onstage.

They're a bit like that dinner party guest in the corner who always says the most outrageous thing he can think of to get a little attention -- although Obscene But Not Heard are the easygoing, western Canadian version of that dinner party guest. They're amiable even as they offend. During last year's Calgary Fringe, the show played at the Big Secret Theatre in Epcor Centre, which is near a Muslim prayer centre. Despite the walls being lined with posters advertising the show, the group didn't receive a single complaint.

When Rumpel tells the story, he almost sounds bummed out that no one was upset by the title.

According to Binns, playing the fringe circuit is a way to introduce the group to audiences out east in a way that's affordable: between being billeted in each city, collecting 100 per cent of the box-office receipts for all of their shows, and driving between cities, the group can almost manage to pay its way across the country.

"We're hoping to get our name out there, and as far as that goes, mission accomplished," Binns says, over the phone from Calgary, where he's getting married Aug. 25. "There's been a lot of reviews where people loved us, and a lot where people hated us. But people were talking and that's the important thing, so now when we go up to people and say, 'Obscene But Not Heard,' people go, 'Oh, coughing-up-blood-clown, retarded-Elvis. I know you guys.' "

Noon. Somewhere West of Brandon, Man.

It's 29 degrees outside and mid-summer clear. Campbell is driving and telling stories about life on the circuit.

The last Thursday of the Winnipeg Fringe, he found himself in the King's Head Pub at two in the morning, talking to an actor who plays a character called Dishpig in a one-man show called Dishpig.

Dishpig is about 25-years-old, brown-haired, a likeable, Matt Damon type of guy. Earlier in the night, upstairs at the pub, which had been transformed into a fringe festival venue holding about 130, Dishpig killed: another sellout house that loved Dishpig's tale of 20-something woe, about being a smart, funny guy trying to find meaning in a life dominated by a meaningless, brainless job. It was a big-bucks night for Dishpig, even after 10 or 11 earlier performances in Winnipeg.

Then, at 2:15 a.m. in a pub filled with wired fringe performers and fans, Dishpig was plastered.

"You know what I like about you?" he asked Campbell.

"What?" responded Campbell, who performs standup when not performing sketch comedy that pushes the boundaries of popular taste.

"You're so average-looking," Dishpig said. "Bald guys. Just average-looking people. I love that about you guys," Dishpig slurred. "You can do anything, and get away with it."

Campbell laughs at the story while, on the dashboard, an iPod plays an animated show called Strongbad. Road trip entertainment has come a long way.

It's easier to laugh at such moments when you're not flat broke. That doesn't always happen, but things are looking good for Obscene But Not Heard on this year's circuit.

"I don't think we expected big numbers at all out this way. They've (eastern audiences) never heard of Obscene But Not Heard. . . . For an absolutely unknown commodity, an unknown show to get labelled offensive that early, I think we did OK, actually. Hopefully we're returning to friendly stomping grounds, back home to Calgary.

"(The final show in Winnipeg) was actually pretty full. There seemed to be less hate in the room than usual. I think we only had a couple of arms folded, in disgust."

4 P.M. Boston Pizza. Regina.

It's 34 C outside. It's gorgeously chilly inside, where we sit at a banquette and gaze over at the Roughriders' paraphernalia hanging on the walls. After six hours in a hot minivan driving across the flat, barren prairies, Roughrider paraphernalia is practically erotic art.

"I've never been in a Boston Pizza," Zylstra says, gazing around at the generically decorated walls. "It's so popular. Why?"

6 P.M. Tim Hortons.

The old motel signs rising into the prairie sky look cool, like lost Vegas nightspots that got blown across the desert onto the prairies. You drive past each one of them and feel the tired eyes of everyone who ever drove across this stretch of blacktop, doing their best not to doze off at 110 kilometers per hour. We drive and listen to a podcast of Ricky Gervais of The Office.

For all the members of the troupe, the fringe circuit is far from a financial windfall. It's a crazy, unpredictable, economically dubious life.

Zylstra, who also toured a one-woman show on the fringe circuit in 2006, works on a casual basis at the Glenbow Museum when she's back in town, where she lives with her boyfriend Ben Rose, a popular busker on Stephen Avenue.

Rumpel has worked the festival crews for eight years now. He owns a home and has tenants who cover his mortgage.

"I remember being told, when I was in college, doing a summer fun tour, (I met) some children's festival performers," Rumpel says. "We got along really well, and we got chatting, and they told me, 'Ahh, you're a lifer.' I said 'What?' There are certain people who will do this their whole lives.

"You hate to be the cliche, but when you talk to students, one of the first things you say is, 'Is there anything you can do that will make you happy?' If there is, you should, because your chances of having what most people consider a fulfilling life doing this are pretty minimal. But if you're happy without all the material possessions, without the security, and are willing to put up with the roller coaster ride that it is, then it's fun. I'm not saying it's bad. It's just not for everybody."

10 P.M. Gas Station. Medicine Hat.

The neon lights of the gas station cast a weirdly surreal light across the parking lot and beyond, where cars zoom down the highway. We've been grinding it since 9 a.m. It's time to crack open a six pack and a bag of Old Dutch chips and watch some DVDs of old Monty Python and the Flying Circus (OBNH's comedy heroes) on the TV set in one of those sketchy Trans-Canada Highway motels -- at least it would be, except we still have 3 1/2 hours of driving to do.

All of which leads one to ask: why keep doing it?

For Binns, (who stayed behind in Calgary), there's a big difference between standup and sketch.

"In sketch comedy, the audience is more willing to go with you," he adds. "They're more patient. They're more willing to take flights of fancy and they don't need that laugh every 30 seconds, which is a big deal.

"They don't need that structure. They can actually follow a piece even as it gets weirder and weirder and weirder, even just for a payoff at the end."

1:30 A.M. Northwest Calgary

For Zylstra, it's something else. "It doesn't really pay off financially, when you're splitting it four ways," she says. "Even though we draw more than I did when I did the one-person show last summer, I made more then. But I also remember that there wasn't a day, last summer, when I was out on tour, that I didn't burst into tears.

"You do meet other performers and make friends, but it's nice just to have a gang," she adds as the van pulls up in front of tour technician Marin's house in the northwest part of town.

It's still hot out as the group says so long to Marin, who leaves the tour here. She's got another trip ahead of her, this time to Halifax, where she has a new gig as that theatre's assistant technical director. It's nice to see that fringing has paid off in a legitimate theatre job for someone.

For the others, this is just the end of another leg on their long trip. They'll be back on the road soon, collecting more anecdotes from their life on the fringe.

One More From the Road . . .

There's a bandstand in a Winnipeg park that musicians play during the fringe. Atop it, a dozen performers stand in a semicircle, guitars poised. They're mostly theatre people in their 20s, circuit people. They might have started out in Montreal with some notion that this was a training ground, which it may or may not prove to be. But, it turns out, the fringe circuit is just as much a way of life.

One through 12, the dozen deadly six-string guitar players and their bits and pieces of beards face off. It's not easy trying to think up a song that 12 guitar players can play.

Then, as if on cue, they break into a 12-part guitar symphony of Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues.

Not everyone knows all the words, but everyone knows the line about shooting a man in Reno, just to watch him die.

"It's nice," Zylstra says, remembering why she asked her sketch guys to go on tour, "to have someone to have breakfast with."

shunt@theherald.canwest.com

© The Calgary Herald 2007

Friday, August 3, 2007

FOUR STARS shine in the Winnipeg SUN

Delving deep into the recesses of offensive comedy, Fringe group Obscene But Not Heard truly live up to their name. From the remarketing of Hitler for the 21st century to a cast of sideshow freaks that would make Jim Rose cringe, Jihad Me at Hello sets no boundaries for pushing the limits. This play doesn't just poke fun at nearly every race and religion imaginable -- it decimates them with a rusty sword and dances gleefully amongst the remains. Falling squarely in the love it or hate it column, this is a show you'll definitely be talking about afterwards -- whether you ran in horror or laughed guiltily throughout the absurdity.

Sun Rating: 4 out of 5

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Best of the Fringe - Uptown (Winnipeg)

A-
Jihad Me At Hello
Obscene But Not Heard --- Venue 4
If you offend easily, this is not the Fringe play for you. Jihad Me At Hello is no-holds barred sketch comedy, as the Calgary-based Obscene But Not Heard trio of Tony Binns, [sic] Trevor Campbell and Nicole Zylstra play Hitler and the Holocaust for laughs, dress up like "retarded Elvis," discuss ball-licking at great length and make Lysol-drinking comments about Winnipeg. Oh yeah - they go there. They're also damn funny. The sketches are short - a smart move that works well. The premises stay fresh, the audience stays entertained, and while the humour might cross the line at times, you're never left squirming for too long. Extra points for ridiculous costumes and overall audacity. - MC

A- ? That's pretty okay with me. Hey, I was an A- student all the way through high school and University and look where it got me! ....oh, right. Here. Hm. Well, it's still pretty good. Oh, and for the record, Peter Strand Rumpel does a damn good Tony Binns impression. NZ

Monday, July 23, 2007

SEE THIS SHOW!

The fringe is also your opportunity as a performer and writer and what have you to meet others of your ilk from all over North America. Here is a partial list of some people we really like:
PAUL HUTCHESON of "On Second Thought."
This is one of the funniest shows you will EVER see. WARNING: you will have Chantal Kreviazuk stuck in your head for weeks afterwards. Annnnnd NOT in the way you think.
SEE THIS SHOW!

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (OF THE PRAIRIES).
This is LAURA from "Mothers of Invention"
She is a spectacularly talented NYC writer and performer who is so animated she can't even stop for a moment to have her picture taken.
SEE THIS SHOW!

THIS IS BARRY SMITH, another American
who is touring two very intelligent and appealing shows:
JESUS IN MONTANA and AMERICAN SQUATTER
He was in a cult so....SEE HIS SHOW!
(Here Barry and Nicole pretend that they don't know that Nicole is actually holding the camera, trying to make it look all casual...)

JON PATERSON and RIBBIT Productions' "Water."
SEE IT!

NIALL SEGUIN and PENNY ASHTON
of "History: Deleted Scenes" and "Hot Pink Bits" respectively.
He is a very funny smarty pants (he writes for CBC's THE HOUR! That makes him Canadian Famous!) and she has really hot pink bits. ...Really hot KIWI bits. Annnd does a very clever show about the history of sex while wearing a spectacular corset that can only be described as a marvel of modern mechanical engineering.
SEE THEM!

MARK SCOTT aka "The Kiwi Joker"
...discovers that self-promotion is as easy as taking candy coloured chalk from a baby...
SEE HIM! HE'S FUNNY!

OTTAWA'S DAVE DAWSON
...directs two show simultaneously this year - Trashcan Duet and Tangelico.
(Here he pretends that I can't see him with the camera...but I can.)
SO SEE THEM!



Winnipeg: Fringe Along With Us

This is OBNH in Winnipeg. Winnipeg is about 1000 degrees Celcius and humid this time of year. If you took away the cars it could still be 1936. In other words, Winnipeg is the Cuba of the Prairies.
The first thing you do in Winnipeg is take your six double rolls of packing tape and poster everything in the city that doesn't move. Pete is aiming high with his ideals and with his postering - after all, all the eye-level spots have already been postered.
Trev balances on some iron spikes in order to get the job done. He also tries not to fall over onto those lovely patrons below, who are enjoying the 10000 degree heat on the patio of the landmark King's Head Pub. This is a pub AND a venue! It is also host to an annual late night fringe cabaret later on in the week. It is also the Overflow Venue for when the beer tent closes at 1 am.
Things that don't move that have been absorbed by fringe postering:

1. Benches.
2. Tables.
3. The sidewalk. Ummmm...I don't have a picture of that so you'll have to close your eyes and IMAGINE it. C'maaaaahn. Do it. DO IT NOW! ....okay thanks.


NEXT: Make friends with the Production Manager of the Festival by arriving 3 hours late for your tech (but one hour early for your festival in Vancouver...three months from now). Um... on second thought, DON'T arrive late for your tech EVER. Nonetheless, we still managed to beg mercy from THIS MAN, who's name is Geoff, and who saved our asses. Thanks, Geoff!

NEXT: Check out your venue. This is ours. It's in the loading dock by the dumpster behind the theatre. I'm only half kidding. This is the ENTRANCE to our venue, which is actually on the stage of the Playhouse Theatre. This is a monitor on the inside of the theatre keeping an eye on a separate dumpster out in the same alley.

PEGGER TIP #1: Always leave your van locked, and try to load it with so much garbage that even the crack heads that will inevitably break in and rifle through everything will be disappointed. "What the ---? 6 empty Tim Horton's cups, an old bag of chips, 4 magazines, and a TOP HAT? I can't buy crack with that!" Joke will be on them.

NEXT: Here is backstage at the Playhouse (on stage). Our venue is LITERALLY on stage. The Playhouse looks like the set for Phantom of the Opera, and since most fringe shows won't be able to pack a thousand seats or have use for a giant chandelier, they block off the house and put audience seats on the stage. We can still seat 110 in our venue --- however the stage is so wide that the seats are only three rows deep...and 100 feet across. This is me posing with a ladder that also looks like a prop from Phantom...

NEXT: Take advantage of EVERY opportunity you have for self-promotion. This is the FREE-FOR-ALL, where each group that signs up gets 2 minutes to wow the family friendly audience laying on the grass in front of this gazebo by the beer tent. Heinrich is here establishing that our show is NOT what you were expecting.


NEXT: FLYER! FLYER! FLYER!

I don't have any pics of this because we were TOO BUSY FLYERING! Flyering includes:

  • Chasing lineups at hit shows and handing people little colourful photocopies to add to their ever expanding piles.
  • Hitting up people at the beer tent or buying tickets at the box office or wandering around carrying fringe programs with sticky notes already earmarking the shows they want to see.
  • Meeting as many other fringe performers as possible in order to get their password to go see their show, and make sure they see you in the audience so that they pitch your show at the curtain speech at end of theirs.
  • Meeting as many other fringe performers as possible in order to give them your password to get them to see your show so that they can be wowed by your brilliance and hopefully pitch your show of their own free will at the curtain speech at the end of theirs.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Voice of the People!

Once again, The People have come to our side in defending us against the professional arbiters of taste: Behold! Our review from the CBC, followed by the real responses of real fans, who have opened their minds and hearts to us.

CBC Review:
Reviewed at the Toronto Fringe (July 4-15)Okay, call me a prude if you will, but to the best of my knowledge, “naughty words” and “rudeness” are not synonyms for “comedy.” Yes, comedy can be rude, and sometimes it uses naughty words... but not all that is naughty/rude is comedy. This is simple math, people. That seems to be the math class Calgary sketch comedians Obscene But Not Heard skipped out on, since they too often fall back on the crutch of political incorrectness in their sporadically-funny show. There are points where this works out, like Peter Strand Rumpel’s very rude, but very funny “Inappropriate Weather Forecast” (the only line I can possibly repeat here: “Over in the Maritimes - poor, stupid, and dirty as usual”). But too often the sketches just don’t go anywhere. Trevor Campbell’s fine Christopher Walken impression fizzles out, a sketch about the disciples trying to “spin” the crucifixion and make book deals never really delivers big laughs, and on it goes. The potential’s there - if OBNH spent a little more time on the jokes and a bit less trying to shock us, they could be on to something.

CBC Rating: Two Bars
Reviewed by: Joff Schmidt


Your Reviews
2 bars? I heartily disagree! I could see maybe if you were a stong PC (meaning politically correct), but if you're not...
You will laugh and LAUGH at the things you know you should not!! I almost fell off my chair at one point. I am not kidding.
Fresh takes on...
The circus!Sausage!Kick-boxing! (you'll understand that one if you see the show)
A must-see for anyone with an open mind!
Posted by: Brad W July 21, 2007 10:30 AM

I can't believe It got such a trash review! Yes, it is a bit politically incorrect, but if you saw the three minute sample on the Main Stage, you knew it would be a bit "out there". I loved the show - felt it was fantastic!! I felt that the actors were involved with the audience and it added to the show!
The audience I was with "bust a gut" laughing at the Christopher Walkin bit. The show had a theme and they kept with it! An amazing beginning and an overall great show! (I have to add, the scene changes were quick and Humourous, too!)
Posted by: D. Woodfine July 21, 2007 10:25 AM

Winnipeg - The Jenny Revue

"I can't believe they just said that!" followed by roaring laughter is what the three members of this assuredly politically incorrect sketch comedy trio illicit from the audience.

They make light of many subjects that are often considered taboo for comedy. They build up your tolerance for their edgy comedy until they floor you with their finale, which I am certain some would find truly objectionable. It stunned most of the crowd, but I am sure, even as everyone was laughing, they were thinking, "Should I really be laughing at this?"

If you enjoyed "The Aristocrats" you will enjoy this show immensely, if you are a thin-skinned, lily-livered, milquetoast that complains to the Free Press about cartoon cats being "abused" go rent some old Red Skelton videos instead, because you WILL be offended.
-Murray Hunter.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Winnipeg is for Swingers

Now that I have your attention...
Welcome to Winnipeg Beach!

The gang went off for a day of sun and fun in the surf and we got it.

Let's start with this pic of our friend Paul "Wildly Funny" Hutcheson (of "On Second Thought"). You may be looking in the background and thinking, "Whuuuuuuuaht?"

Is there more going on here than meets the eye?
Is Small Town Manitoba a hot bed of salacious and scintillating activity?

Are these Desperate Housewives up to more than taking a few family snapshots?

How "friendly" are these neighbours?
Well, wash your dirty minds in the lake water, people! We had a chat with these neighbourly folks and they explained that every year they take photos to print in a calendar for their husbands.
"How sweet!" I think.
Or, as my boyfriend would say, "What? Photos of your OWN wife? What's the point?"
Here are some pics that didn't make it in the calendar. Look at these frolicking funsters! Are they doing their best Baywatch run, or is it just really frikkin' cold in the water?

And what is THAT running out of the lake? Is it a pair of albino salmanders dredged up from the slimy deep to behold sunlight for the very first time? Or is it - Pete and Nicole? Oh my God!
My eyes! I'm blinded! Get some sun, people.

Let's end on a high note: I call this "Beauties and the Beach (and Peter)"

The lovely bronzed ladies were nice enough to ask for a picture of us pasty party goers, so we thought it was only fair to get a picture of them with Peter. Peter is flexing as hard as he can, but I still suspect these two hardbodies could take him down in under 2 seconds. Today's Winnipeg Free Press led with the title: "Why Aren't You at the Beach?"

Why, indeed.

Soooo good. I gave it ten dollars. You should check it out.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Must Be Over 18 to View Pete's New Job

Pete Takes on Some Part Time Work to Support the Troupe in an Independent Porn Video Store in Parkdale.

A Stampede in the Big Smoke?

From Toronto... yes, you're not imagining things, it is OBNH in front of the CN Tower giving a big Stampede Yahoo to the folks back home in Cowtown. This is the Annual Calgary Ex-Pat Stampede Breakfast held at The Ranch right in the heart of Hogtown.
A somewhat restrained yeehaw from two former Calgarians and current funny people, Bruce Horak and Rebecca Northan.
A more excited shout from our hostess with the mostest, Katharine aka Katie Sanders. Giddy-up!

A brief but important entry in our Dear Fringe Diary. More to come soon.



Thursday, July 19, 2007

Coming Soon!

We are getting our crap in a heap, so until we do, stay tuned for more Fringe-a-rific updates, like:

1. Why "Sooooo, good! I gave it $10!" is the new catchphrase everyone is talking about!

2. 101 Reasons Why Toronto Is Culturally Disappointing

3. Explicit video of Peter making extra money for the gang by working in an independent porn video store. To read this blog you must be over 18 and be a "Straight Guy Who Likes Tranny Cock."

4. Life in The Peg! Advice on getting by:
a) Don't join a gang.
b) Be careful who you buy crack from
c) Try not to sell your body for crack from the crazy whore-murdering guy down the street.
d) Keep the van stocked with garbage like old potato chip bags, empty pop bottles, magazines, and weird costumes - ha ha! Gotcha you crazy crack kids who rifled through our van looking for change to buy crack with! Joke's on you.

Pics and videos coming soon!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Review: The Toronto Star

Jihad Me at Hello
What can you say about a show that opens with a balding Adolf Hitler impersonator, sitting stock still and resolutely expressionless on stage for 10 solid minutes as the audience files in?
It tells you that this odd trio out of Calgary calling themselves Obscene But Not Heard has an even odder sense of humour and no shortage of comic edge.
The opening sketch, involving a radio that plays nothing but the Macarena, gossip magazines full of Paris Hilton articles and the aforementioned F├╝hrer, has a punchline too good to spoil and is worth the price of admission alone.
As for the rest, it’s a mixed bag of highs – a spoof of actor Christopher Walken, the Inappropriate Weather Forecast – and lows – a Circus of Pain featuring an armless juggler and a clown barfing blood.
Funny, offensive, gut-wrenching and not easily forgettable.
- Bruce DeMara

Thursday, July 12, 2007

We Didn't Start the Fire (of Controversy) but We'll Post it Anyway

OUR STORY THUS FAR:
"Jim" and others have posted various viewer rave reviews about Jihad Me at Hello that seem to contradict the initial Eye Weekly Review that we received. The following picks up the story with "Gillespi," who inadvertently starts an internet brushfire with his cynical suspicions...
  1. Gillespi Says:

    “Stunning”? “Pick of the Fringe”? “Breath of fresh air”?

    Hmmm…anyone else smell the cast posting rave reviews under assumed names up here?

  2. (insert generic name here) Says:

    I see what you mean Gillespi…But can you blame them?

  3. Gillespi Says:

    Heck no, man! Do what you gotta do.

    But guys…next year, try a bit of subtlety, eh? We’ve all been there, and it sucks to get a bad review, but you gotta slip your faux reviews in under the radar.

    For example…

  4. Paula Says:

    First off, this show isn’t for everyone. A lot of the content would be considered rude or offensive to the squeamish. But there’s a lot of really funny material in this show! I went on opening night, and the cast was doing a great job of selling gags and jokes that I would normally gasp in shock at.

    The Fringe is often a gamble, but I would say that Obscene but not heard is a pretty safe bet for those who like their theatre edgy.

    Highly recommended, but not to the faint of heart.

    Four stars.

  5. Gillespi Says:

    See?

    A very positive review that is very believable to the viewer.

    Anyway, best of luck to the group.

  6. not good Says:

    There sketches were sub par.

    I would liken the show to the way a teenager swears to get attention.

    Don’t go if you enjoy smart comedy.

  7. Obscene Writer Says:

    Dear Mr. and or Mrs. possibly Ms. Gillespie

    I was the head writer on the show “Jihad me at Hello”. Unfortunately, I was too tied down with commitments to tour with them, but I have been keeping a close eye on reviews and so on. While I have no objection to negative reviews and opinions about the show itself, to denegrate the positive reviews and imply that they were written by company members is a bit unfair. I suppose the wide gap between the “Official” review and some of the “raves” might cause suspicion, but I think we can chalk it up to varying tastes rather than sneaky publicity stunts. Your demonstration showed that it could be done, that doesn’t mean that it was.

    Thanks for seeing the show, and taking the time to give us some feedback.

  8. Gillespi Says:

    Dear Mr. Head Writer,

    Greetings. It’s a pleasure to make the aquaintence of one who so earnestly composes “pontifications on ball-licking”.

    Thank you for your thoughts regarding the above reviews. Of course, you’re absolutely correct in your assessment. There is no way to prove that the positive reviews were counterfeit in any way, shape, or form. It is completely conceivable that there are, indeed, real people named Matt, Marsha, and Sam, and that they were legitimately stunned, amazed, and enjoying clean oxygen, due to you and the cast’s efforts. After all, Toronto is a very large city, filled with patrons of the theatre, all of whom have varying tastes, and who also have the incontestable right to have (and voice) their own opinions.

    But I’m afraid that I, too, have the right to have and voice my own opinion. And my opinion is this.

    That “gap” that exists between the “official” review and some of the raves does, in fact, cause a great deal of suspicion, as well as speculation, consternation, et al.

    I don’t say these things to cast your group in a disparaging light. The truth of the matter is that I made my remarks out of sheer amusement, even warmth and the slightest bit of affection. The practice is certainly not an uncommon one, nor (I feel) one that is particularly villainous. As artists, we are all entrepreneurs, and as such, we sometimes must use subterfuge to get ahead. I assure you that, if I were in a show, I wouldn’t hesitate to create a few positive patrons to improve the buzz of my show.

    I did see your show, Mr. Obsene Writer. And while I cannot say that your material spoke to me, I did enjoy the efforts of the cast, and their dedication to their art. I point out that I use the word “art” without irony or apology. Your group set out with this show to do something that, while I didn’t enjoy, I must admit I found…interesting. Interesting enough to comment on, anyway. This means you got a reaction out of me…which means that (as much as I hate to admit it) your art succeeded. Congratulations.

    But I digress…

    Upon logging onto this website, I did observe the above reviews, and was a bit suspicious of padding. I commented on my suspisicion, and the posting(s) escalated. I do see how this speculation could damage your groups reputation, as well as potential ticket sales. The damage may have been done, but I apologize nonetheless.

    I will not, however, change my opinion. The “gap” that you mentioned is just a little too wide for this old gaffer to buy. But, since I have no proof that anything untoward has occured, I will cease my prattling, tip my hat, and wish you and the rest of Obscene But Not Heard the best of luck in your future endeavors.

    While my tounge remains firmly in my cheek, my respect remains for your efforts.

    I remain, your most humble and obedient servant,

    Mr. Walt Gillespi

    P.S: Seriously, next year, don’t lay it on with a trowel.

  9. Obscene Writer Says:

    I think there is an apology in there somewhere, so I’ll take it and say apology accepted. I will also point out that Nicole is responsible for the majority of the “Ball licking” dialogue. Must give credit where it’s due.

    Cheers,
    O.W.

  10. starkist Says:

    I enjoyed this show much more than I thought I would, given the bummer review. The cast has an appealing sense of their own place in the theatrical universe: they don’t take themselves too seriously. They take some real risks too (Circus of Pain) and mostly it pays off.

  11. Kathleen Says:

    This is a tough one. While I have tons of respect for those who take artistic risks, there was one too many risks in this production for me. Certainly, there were very clever moments, but I found the violence too frank. Some who’ve seen this show may say ‘violence? what violence?’. I’m writing of the sketch where Nicole is ‘kicked in the box’– before our eyes, after the audience allegedly voted in favour of witnessing this act. I believe that the warnings for this show should include ‘violence’. I’m not squeamish—I worked in a trauma unit for 10 years, but I don’t want to witness this sort of violence when I go to see a fringe show, and avoid anything that mentions violence. (That said, I do appreciate the humour of the likes of Mump and Smoot). I’m also a feminist, and in a show that spends what seemed like forever discussing licking men’s balls, this scene (where Nicole is kicked) seems even more out of place.

    It may just be that I’m too old, or the wrong gender to have truly embraced this show. The 18-ish year old young man sitting next to me laughed so hard I thought he might fall to the ground.

    While I thank the writers and the cast for pushing out the sides of the envelope, and for making the effort to include Toronto references (I hope that the Mayor sees the show), I think that potential patrons should be warned.

  12. Nicole aka Consumpto Says:

    Hi, this is Nicole of Obscene But Not Heard, and I’d like to review some of these reviews.

    1. Although I understand that there is no way to prove objectively that we didn’t pad our reviews, I will swear under oath in a court of law that we didn’t. I - who vomit blood for 2 and a half minutes every night on stage - am shocked at the dust this thing has kicked up and I will admit that my somewhat naive artist’s feelings are more than a wee bit hurt at the insinuation. You’re right though - if I was to pad my own review I think I would be more balanced about it, which in itself argues for the authenticity of the above writers.

    2. I did write most of the ball-licking lines; and in fact, most of them come from an email I sent to our head writer, arguing for more frankness in the women’s lines, which more accurately reflects how I (and my female friends) speak.

    3. I strongly feel that we will finally have true equality when an audience full of people will unanimously vote to see a woman kicked in the box for her stupidity. If it had been the other way around - no one would have voted against watching a man get kicked in the balls, which is apparently the funniest thing ever, if you trust popular culture.

    Respectfully,
    Nicole Z
    Obscene But Not Heard

  13. Walt Poddubny Says:

    Hey Nicole I wouldn’t worry too much about the opinions of a couple of people, I definitely enjoyed the show and my feminist friend who was with me thought it was the funniest show she’s seen this Fringe (and take it from me she is one step below radical feminist, hi V!!). Sketch shows are always hit and miss, that’s their nature; every sketch won’t resonate with 100% of the public. I don’t think there’s anything in the world that would get a 100% approval rating.

    Oh and we both voted against you getting kicked in the box.

  14. scott D Says:

    I know the cast. I have slept with all the cast (at different times and including member 4 who did not make the trip), they all owe me money, and I feel that in many ways the show was based on me.

    That out of the way, this is a thinking persons comedy show and while not for everybody (few Fringe shows are) it is worth checking out. I, like many who have seen the show (I also saw it at the 7th annual 1st Fringe of Calgary last year) was a bit surprised by the “official” review. I feel the same way about “Yabu No Naka Distruthted” a show that got a bad review but 100% great public posts. Sometimes reviewers just don’t get it.

    To the cast, a very sexy and smart cast I might add, I say dont sweat it, at least that reviewer won’t be in the Peg.

  15. Mark Says:

    I thought the show was funny, with some hilarious bits and cool performances. I’m a tough comedy audence member. I looked around me and other people were fair wetting themselves in parts. I, too had moments of sheer glee.

    I cant believe folk like “Gillespi” above who calls himself a fellow artist yet finds it okay, even good natured to go online and slag off audience reviews just because he doesnt have proof (sorry gillispy or however you spell it, do I need a passport to log in). If you’ve ever put a show out there or even seen a movie you’ll realise that many formal reviews aren;t even reflective of audience opinion. Sometimes some a tired hack reviewer turns up after seeing fifteen shows, or maybe a good reviewer - that is, good at reviewing a ballet show or a poignant story of family angst with a bit of death and a story arc but completely intolerant or ignorant of what makes good comedy and what comedy is actually for. Maybe the reviewer themself is just locked in a personal struggle with death and angst, or maybe there were so many shows to review they sent the neighbour along to review one show, the retarded kid that stacks the trolleys at the supermarket to review another and to another a stray dog with the ability to push a computer key. My point is, reviewers are often massively at odds with public opinion. So why, when someone gets a break, would you take it upon youself to go online and screw it up? (Not really interested in an answer)

    In conclusion, WELL DONE “JIHAD ME AT HELLO!” - ONE HUNDRED STARS!

  16. Bev Says:

    Ok, I was a bit skeptical when I was first invited to go to the show when it was at the Calgary Fringe Festival. There were 5 of us that went that night, including my best friend’s 64 year old dad. We all enjoyed it immensely! Take the show for what it is. Yes, it’s offensive, but all in good humor. It is skillfully written and brilliantly executed. I love the shock value!

  17. Ashley Says:

    look this show as the most fantastic show of the fringe. for those of you who are so obsessed with being politically correct and have no time for fun then maybe you should not have enough time to sit in a theater then go home and bad mouth hard working and talented actors. I personally have never laughed so hard at a live performance in longer than i can think of. this show is well written, witty and fantastically performed, yes there is a few parts that may make a person say oh gawd did you see what just happened, did that really just happen? but thats what good performances do they make you think they make you laugh and good or bad they make you go home and talk about it! after seeing this show i laughed the entire way home and then spent all week telling every person i ran into to go and see this show! so do it right no this second go and see the show.. well what are you still reading this for go now!!
    and for those of you reviewers who seemed to be very negatively biased i have nothing to do with the troupe that puts on this wonderful show and i do not see why if some one has something good to say that they are assumed to be members of said group, find something better to do ..like maybe go see this show again only don’t be such a jerk! those of you who did make the show good job and keep on keepin on! thanks for the laughs!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

OBNH OPENS IN TORONTO
We thought we'd stop showing people how much fun we are having on the road, and actually discuss the SHOW for a change. So we went to Canada's Wonderland for a script meeting, and here's what happened:

The People Have Spoken: Jihad Me At "Fringe Hit!"
...from Eye Weekly online...
  1. Jim Says:

    Definitely gives a new meaning to shock and awe. This show is screamingly funny and parts of it will offend everyone. It’s way over the edge and exactly what the Fringe needs. It’s the kind of show that puts your prejudices right in front of you and makes you think about who you are and what your values are. That’s what theatre is supposed to do. It’s what this one does. It starts slow and needs some work in the first few minutes but once it gets going, wow! The last sketch will offend pretty much everyone but that’s why they call it the ‘fringe’. A must see. Just don’t take your parents.

  2. Walt Poddubny Says:

    Started off slow, slightly predictable, but got funnier as it went on. The circus of pain was one of the funniest/most disturbing things I’ve seen at the Fringe.

  3. Matt Says:

    Stunning!. An absolutely amazing cast, writing and performance that deserves to be a ‘Pick of the Fringe.’

  4. Marsha Says:

    Not to be missed! Totally inappropriate, politically incorrect, irreverant and delectable. As in, I found myself snort-laughing one moment, analysing my own prejudices, examining my values the next. This one takes you right to the edge of spectator-actor relationship. Deserves to be PICK OF THE FRINGE!

  5. Sam Says:

    Finally! A breath of fresh air, “out-there” as a frisbee flying, but ends up right on target. This is smart sketch comedy, and it knocks you over with the funniness of it, and then the outrageousness. Bravo, Obscene but Not Heard!!!

Friday, July 6, 2007

NOW and EYE reviews

From NOW magazine: NNN

Reviewed by: Debbie Fein-Goldbach

Equally physical and cerebral, the clever sketch trio Obscene But Not Heard explores many unusual concepts with high energy and tight thematic writing. Make it through the boring rip-off of Saturday Night Live’s intro for rewards like Hitler’s Return From Hell, U of
T students joining a campus terrorist group and the gothic and gory Circus of Pain.

From EYE Weekly:

Jihad Me at Hello Two Stars

EYE WEEKLY's Review

Laughs are sparse during this show from Calgary sketch troupe Obscene But Not Heard, which brashly tries to go where Borat much more successfully went before. Material that’s intended as over-the-top, I-can’t-believe-I’m-laughing-at-this humour comes out awkwardly. There are some funny moments and lively performances here, but the show suffers from tired jokes and loose writing that tries too earnestly to offend. Nicole Cohen