Happy Wackin’ Jim McCrackin’

What do you think you’re doing this Saturday?

Wrong.  You’re going to Happy Wackin’ Jim McCrackin

A sword and a briefcase? Now you know you're interested.

 It’s at the John Dutton Theatre in the Calgary Public Library, at 8 pm.  Tickets are $15, $10 for CPL members, and you can preorder at www.pumphousetheatre.ca.  So, why are you going?

Well, it’s awesome.  If I can see through the vodka fueled haze, back to the halcyon days when the comedic playwright genius Amos Altman was reading me snippets of the play in the bohemian apartment we shared over a bakery in Nazi Occupied France, struggling to protect refugees as part of the resistance, well, it’s brilliant.  Is is possible I’m misremembering some of it, but I know the play is funny, even if Cliff insisted on removing all the best/gayest parts.

It’s a story of mistaken identity and a hitman, and Accidental Humour does amazing stuff where they use multi-media to enhance the show.  It’ll flip seamlessly between pre-recorded segments and live action, so it’s like a play and a movie.  It’s exciting, and intense, and hilarious, and other words that generate excitement and make you realize you really want to see this show.

If you think you can’t get there, shut up.  There’s busses.  All busses lead to the Calgary library.  And I’m not just talking about Calgarians.  You can take a bus from Edmonton or Lethbridge, or (shudder) even Red Deer, and then from the Grey Hound station it’s easy to get to the library.  Come on, no one’s getting a head chopped off over this.

And here’s why you should put in the effort.

I shouldn't have to put pictures like this on my computer.

Even if you’ve never watched Jersey Shore, you probably know who the Situation is.  If not … it’s that guy, obviously.  See, too much of our money is going to him.  Jersey Shore makes more than Greece each year.  As consumers, the people who make entertainment only listen to your money.  So you need to take your fifteen dollars, pull yourself away from the TV and come see this play.

Some of you are thinking, “What’s the harm?  It’s just one guy, and he has a sort of charm, like if you mixed John Travolta from Grease with Lenny from of Mice and Men.  It can be fun to watch Jersey Shore with ironic hipster detachment, and we can control it.  There’s only one.”

Well, friends, step into The Wayback Machine, to a year 2001, when a band showed up.  Sure, they were rather repetitive, and derivative, but they weren’t hurting anyone.  People liked their music, and they sold a gillion dollars in CDs. 

CDs are a prehistoric medium for storing music, before iPods.  You bought them with money, because pirating was hard back then.

We all thought “It’s just one band” and we were smart.  Too smart for our own good.  We had Napster, so we didn’t pay for our music.  So everyone thought that only this band was awesome, because they got all the money.  That band was…

...and they're calling from inside your house!

So basically, if you don’t go to this show, we’re going to end up with Theory of a Situation, Situationseeether, and a flood of Situation clones.  So stop it, before it’s too much, and go watch this instead.

Otherwise, it’ll be your fault.  We’ll be running around in a post-apocolyptic douchebag wasteland, fighting for gas, Mad Max style, because you were too lazy or cheap to go see a great play.

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Happy Wackin’ Jim McCrackin

This time, I’m not even going to pretend this is a review.  This is a straight out plug for Happy Wackin’ Jim McCrackin, a show being put on by a theatre company my sister Kim is involved in called Accidental Humour.  Remember, kids, humour has two “u”s.  

Kim is, as I understand it, one of the founding members.  Based on a long phone conversation we had in January, their basic mandate seems to be to question what is currently considered Canadian theatre.  Basically, to carry the label, a play generally needs to be about what it means to be different in Canada, and how individuals suffer for it.  It’s about what it’s like to be a hyphen Canadian, like an Asian-Canadian, or a First Nations-Canadian, or a Fill in the Blank-Canadian.  Our theatre is about guilt for how the European-Canadians have treated all the other hyphens, and how we should feel guilty about it.  

Which isn’t necessarily untrue.  I love Sharon Pollock’s  plays, which are very specifically exposures of the revisionist tendencies in Canadian history to match our perceived national identity.  If you want that translated out of “Joey is a prick with a degree”, it means she shows us we aren’t who we think we are, and Canadians have really been jerks.  Sometimes that needs brought up, but if you are a European-Canadian, and not one of the oppressed ones from Eastern European or Ireland, Canadian plays are telling you about how badly your people treated the other hyphens.

As the descendants of the British and the Swiss, it can get to be a heavy load of guilt, and it’s easier to go to Shakespeare or Improv where no one expects an apology because of something our ancestors may have been involved in.  There’s nothing wrong with telling these stories, but maybe, every once in a while, we could have a Canadian play that’s main theme isn’t about what makes us different. 

Maybe it should be about things we enjoy.  We’re Canadians, and the things we like should entertain other Canadians.  It shouldn’t be about some bigger cultural mosaic issue.  Sometimes, Canadian plays can be about Canada today, not what someone’s grandpa did to your grandpa or how it was hard to look different from the other kids growing up.  I’m as white as they come, but no one wants to watch my play about how hard it was growing up as a Geek-Canadian, with pants that were too short and an interest in science fiction and fantasy.

Accidental Humours other mandate is to include multi media in their productions.  This isn’t used in a Brechtian sense, to remind the audience that what they’re seeing isn’t real.  It’s used to show parts of the story that are difficult to put on stage or to cover up the time it takes to change sets or costumes, or other … theatre things.  I saw it in their last play, For Love of a Zombie.

It’s more like watching a movie.  Normally, when the technical demands of theatre would put a pause in the action, you’re watching more story on the screen.  It shortens the run time, packs in more of a punch, and often has really interesting transitions.

And unless you were involved in zombie romance, you weren’t asked to feel guilty.  If you were involved in a zombie romance, you should feel guilty, and ewwwww.

While I haven’t seen Happy Wackin’ Jim McCrackin, I heard a lot of the early stages.  Amos wrote it in our apartment, and it was good when the workshopping started.  It’s the story of a professional hitman on his last job, and some of the problems that arise out of it.  There was a gay cat at one point, but I think that might be gone now.  Still, it was really funny when I heard the start, and had some awesome action sequences.  It’ll be even better now, as it’ll be further down the line, with more minds increasing its brilliance.  It’s theatre for the masses, and you don’t need to know words like Brechtian to enjoy it.  If you do, you’ll enjoy it too.  It’s a smart action play. 

As opposed to all those mindless action plays….

I wish I had a chance to see it when it all came together, but I’ll be in England, and I can’t say that I’m really feeling the European guilt that leads to an apology on that.  If I wasn’t travelling intercontinentally, I’d definitely be seeing this show, and if you’re going to be at the Edmonton Fringe you should definitely check it out. 

If you’re not going to the Edmonton Fringe you should reconsider, because it’s awesome.

Unless you’re in England.  Then you get a pass.

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“Happy Whackin’ Jim McCrackin,” at the Fringe!  Venue #5 – King Edward School, 8530 101 Street
Show times:
August 13 @ 12:15 pm
August 14 @ 6:30 pm
August 15 @ 9:15 pm
August 20 @ 2:15 pm
August 21 @ 11:00 pm
August 22 @ 4:00 pm

If you’re there, be sure to check out to check out An Informative Guide on How to Climb the Corporate Ladder as well.