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.

Miniblog: Inception

Amos might be a bit of a movie snob.  He doesn’t think D.E.B.S. is a good movie.  Sure, the box art doesn’t lead you to expect much:

Is this porn?

And sure, it might look like porn.  In fact, the first time I watched it, about 5 minutes in, I was disappointed that it wasn’t.  But then it turned out to be good, and everyone but Amos agrees.

Amos is the sort of individual who can tell you who won what Oscar in which year.  Off the top of his head.  Movie snob…

When he was excited about Inception, I was worried.  Maybe the movie was too much for my pop culture riddled brain.  But then again, it looks so cool:

YES!

If you haven’t seen a trailer for this movie, go watch one.  Trust me, it won’t give away anything.  The basic concept of the movie is hard to explain in a trailer, so you won’t end up spoiling the best parts.

Basically, the film is about people who steal from dreams using some kind of briefcase macguffin they never really explain, but for once they’re planting an idea instead of taking one.  There’s more to it, and all the ideas are pretty solid, as long as you accept that for this movie, you can go into other people’s dreams.  As it goes on, it get’s cooler and cooler.  Leonardo Dicaprio is the lead, and characterwise is probably the least interesting, but his plot makes up for his dullness.

The kid from Third Rock From the Sun (you’d have to ask Amos his name) does a great job.

But castwise, my favourite part was Ellen Page playing an adult:

Not a minor!

That is a beautiful woman, and even though she’s of age in say, Juno, there’s still a level of creepy when you’re attracted to her and she’s pretending to be 16.  So, as a college student, I don’t need to feel bad about the fact that she’s hot.

But the strength of this movie lies in the plot and its perfect execution.  The ideas are really interesting, and they show them in a visually stunning manner.  I don’t want to give this movie away.  You have to see it.  Imagine the Matrix was actually deep, or if Donnie Darko had zero gravity kung fu fights.

Go see this movie.

Late Late Breakfast Show

For the sake of honesty, I should admit this is more of an advertisement than a review.  I have something of a relationship with the Late Late Breakfast Show. 

Late Late Breakfast Show

A few years back, Lina came up to Calgary because some friends of ours from university were doing sketch comedy in The Late Late Breakfast Show.  I wanted to hang out with Lina, so I agreed to come along.  I didn’t have high expectations, but I figured I could at least support my friends. 

But there’s the key; my friends were heavily involved in the show.  These people made me laugh in conversation, so give them some practice and some props and they were killing me.  With laughter, not props. 

Lina came up for the next couple of shows, and I went with her each time.  We tried to hang out with Amos and Gavin, but when you do a show, the cast bonds.  If you go for drinks with a group of actors after a performance, prepare to be left out of conversations and inside jokes.  They’ve worked their asses off together, and they’ve bonded in ways your lazy ass can’t be expected to understand.  Lina and I were often talking in the corner when we headed out with the cast. 

As time went on, I started really becoming a fan of the show, to the point where if all my friends quit, and the show went on, I would still go see it.  Some of the sketches, like “Cheese,” “Jacked,” “Sad Hearts,” and “Pat Quinn’s Dracula” really grew on me.  As is the way of life, eventually there came a show Lina was unable to attend.  So I brought Kodie.  I kept bringing people, and the show was fine with expanding the audience. 

I had reached official hanger-on status when I went drinking with some of the performers, and it wasn’t because they were going out after the show and I was tagging along.  I was just invited.  They were brainstorming, and I kept throwing in my two cents.  I made them laugh, and advanced some of the ideas.  When I went to the next show, about a month later, a couple of my ideas and lines had survived through the writing and rehearsal process and were there in the show. 

I fucking loved it. 

A little while later, Amos became my roommate.  Living with an actor, you’re going to run lines, and if you live with a writer, you’re bound to read over their work.  It’s just a fact.  They will make you.  By default, I was more involved in the shows, just by virtue of who I lived with. 

One day, Amos told me “Oh, you’ve got comp tickets to the next show.” 

“What?  Why?” 

“Contributors get comps.  We’re doing A.I.D.-sy” 

A.I.D.-sy was a sketch that came out of a conversation Amos and I had a month earlier.  We joked around about what would happen if someone told you they had A.I.D.S. and you had trouble distinguishing it from the hiccups. 

I’m a classy guy.  A classy guy who loves free tickets! 

By the next show, I submitted scripts and collected comp tickets.  I believe in working collectively, and that the actors know their craft.  After I submit the written work, they are free to alter it.  The cast found a much better ending for “Action Boner” than I could. 

There’s a show this week, from Wednesday to Saturday (more info here).  I wrote three things for this one; “Bigfoots,” “Capes,” and “Behind the Couch.”  If you’re reading this, you’re probably been tricked into thinking I’m funny.  If you want to see what real professionals can do with my words, come and check it out.  Or, if you’re like me, and enjoy things that are funnier than the shit that asshole Joey writes, enjoy all of the show but these three bits.  I’ll be at the 8 p.m. show on Friday. 

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  Performance is at the Bird and Stone Theatre, located in the basement of the church at 204, 16th Ave NW Calgary.  Shows run from Wednesday April 28th to Saturday May 1st, at 8pm nightly, with additional 10 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday.