Humber troupe hits ‘big leagues’ at Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival

(Left to right) Matt Dale, Ben Stager, Tyler Morgan and Sam Burns. Not shown: Tiegh Fitzgerald. The Crooners have performed across Toronto prior to the Sketch Comedy Festival | Photo by Adam Stroud (Left to right) Matt Dale, Ben Stager, Tyler Morgan and Sam Burns. Not shown: Tiegh Fitzgerald. The Crooners have performed across Toronto prior to the Sketch Comedy Festival | Photo by Adam Stroud

Adam Stroud
A&E Reporter

They came, they joked, they conquered.

One Humber sketch comedy troupe had the good fortune of performing at the annual Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival.

This year’s festival, focused on the short comic scenes called sketches, ran March 6 to16 at various venues over the city and featured such notable comedy acts as Gavin Crawford from This Hour Has 22 Minutes and The Kids in the Hall.

The Birch Street Crooners performed two sets at Comedy Bar near Bloor St. and Ossignton Ave. last Thursday evening. The group consists of Matt Dale of the Humber Comedy Writing and Performance Program, Tyler Morgan, Ben Stager, Sam Burns and Tiegh Fitzgerald.

“It’s the premier sketch event in Toronto, so it’s really exciting to be put up there with some of the best troupes,” said Dale, 24.

“We’re out there in the big leagues now. These are people who make their living off sketch and now we’re with them,” said Morgan, 23.

The Crooners have only been a group for about one-and-a-half years. Member Ben Stager, 21, said their sketches have an irreverent tone influenced by other sketch groups like Kids in the Hall.

“Our sketches are high production, sometimes absurd with good storytelling and strong characters. Sometimes there’s emotion in there,” he said.

The troupe said some of their material also comes from a mixture of real life and pop culture.

For example, a sketch called Rave Dad is about a middle-aged man who won’t give up on the hard partying days of his youth.

“My girlfriend’s brother is a lot older and she was telling me stories about how in the 90s he’d go to raves, but he has kids now,” said Burns, 20.

The Crooner’s writing process is not as collaborative as in some other comedy troupes. Each member writes their own sketches and then workshops them with the other members. Stager said most sketches go through three or four drafts.

“Sometimes they change from their inception to what they end up being,” he said.

Now that the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival is over, the Crooners have already started thinking beyond Toronto. They’re planning on applying for the Montreal Sketch Comedy Festival and possibly going on tour.

“My dream would be to do Ontario…Winnipeg, Calgary or Edmonton,” said Morgan.

The Crooner’s are also considering filming sketches for an online audience or making a short film.

“We have a lot of sketches that we’ve proved work pretty well on stage and it’d be nice to put those on another platform and see how it translates,” said Dale.

Despite recent good fortune and big dreams, members of the Crooners say they still have dues to pay.

“We haven’t done our 10,000 hours yet, but we’re getting there,” said Morgan.

 

You can watch the Birch Street Crooners in action below.

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