The Best of the Fest Encore Show is a live performance, sketch comedy showcase featuring three award-winning sketch troupes from the most recent Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival. 2013 features an all-Toronto crop of the festival’s best including The Rocket Scientists, Deadpan Powerpoint and She Said What. We sat down with each troupe in advance of this year’s Best of the Fest Encore Show to see if we could get inside the mind of the successful sketch comedian. This is the first in our three-part series, so settle in and enjoy the ride!
As winners of the Steamwhistle Producer’s Pick at the 2013 Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival, The Rocket Scientists will be appearing at NXNE June 14th as part of The Best of The Fest Encore show. We Spoke with Brandon Hacket and Ephraim Ellis of The Rocket Scientists to talk about NXNE, Their Sketchfest Experience, and to figure out once and for all who is the smartest Rocket Scientist really is.
Tell us about your win at Sketchfest.
BRANDON: I didn’t expect it at all, but it was a very pleasant surprise. I think I said, “WHAT?” aloud when it was announced. We were really surprised and honoured.
EPHRAIM: Neither did I! I actually wasn’t at the Sketch-U-Bator when it happened – Chris called me up saying “WE WON. YOU’RE NOT HEEEERE.” It was hilarious. I was so honoured.
You were present at almost every show and event during Sketchfest – what were your favorite moments/experiences during the festival?
BRANDON: I really loved the community-building events. Sketch-U-Bator was a huge highlight for me. No sense of competition or intimidation (not that there was any at all in the first place); just sketch groups having fun doing whatever silly stuff they wanted to do in front of a receptive group of like-minded comedians/drunk people.
EPHRAIM: The first Saturday’s edition of Rap Battlez (featuring Professor Ex-Husband) was one of my favourite shows – and Deadpan Powerpoint. I had no idea what I was getting into when they went on stage. Such a good set. Also, getting to watch Primo’s set after our LOT show had wrapped was great – it was nice to unwind and not worry after such an exciting show!
You’re the youngest troupe on the best of the fest bill. What do you hope to learn working next to Deadpan Powerpoint and She Said What?
BRANDON: So much! I was so blown away by both of these groups during the festival. Deadpan PowerPoint had such a brilliant, creative format that completely was outside of traditional sketch. And She Said WHAT frankly put on the best sketch set I have ever seen. I’m always looking for ways to improve my writing and performance—I sometimes rely too much on tried-and-true structures—but these two groups clearly were writing from personal, thoughtful places and had exceptional stagecraft to boot. What I write next for the group will try to play with structures, transitions and theatricality.
EPHRAIM: Definitely what Brandon said about structure. I think we could stand to do a more fun stuff with our set-lists, breaking stuff up thematically and incorporating more callbacks.
NXNE has brought back Comdey Programming for a 2nd year, and has expanded the stream to include over 75 comics and troupes. What does this mean for Comedy Culture in Toronto?
BRANDON: More opportunities for exposure! More ways to celebrate the community! It means that people who don’t really go to see comedy shows will have a chance to see a whole bunch of different troupes at their best rather than one or two that they’ve maybe heard about on an off night.
EPHRAIM: I think it means a lot of great opportunities for Toronto comedians of all stripes. The NXNE name and brand is very high profile and I think it’s great they want to attach themselves to local comedy.
What shows are you looking forward to seeing at NXNE?
BRANDON: I’m really excited about the Laugh Sabbath Film Festival. I’m already a huge admirer of the collective. So many of the people have been huge influences on me and the way I approached comedy writing and performance when I was starting out. Not only will I get a chance to see work by people in the group, but also other comedians and filmmakers in and around the city who submitted.
EPHRAIM: I just went to look up whose playing and I can honestly say I HAVE NO IDEA. It’s an absolutely epic list of bands and comedians and film stuff and… it’s very exciting. Too much stuff to pick from! Awesome!
Is Rocket Scientists an ironic name? I guess what I’m asking is which one of you is the smartest?
BRANDON: In re: the name, it’s maybe a tad ironic, but we certainly weren’t trying to be funny when we settled on it. We’re all obviously not rocket scientists, but I do think it has kind of taken on a metaphorical meaning—silly and self-deprecating comedy from brainy guys? I’m glad that’s our name—when we formed, I just kept suggesting stupid ones like “The Donald Sutherland Follies.”
Also, Ephraim’s the smartest. A lot of his sketches use technical or scientific language in a virtuosic and kind of poetic way. Also, he bought a house and owns a car!!
EPHRAIM: I’m not sure buying a house makes me the smartest. I mean, not with the impending 2nd Pan-Global Economic collapse that’s imminent. BUY GOLD!
I wouldn’t ascribe any deeper meaning to our name. I think we also considering “FutureSketch LaughSounds.” Which, to be fair, should be the name of a revue of ours at some point.
There will be a crossover of audiences at NXNE. What should somebody who’s never seen sketch comedy be prepared for?
BRANDON: Prepare to be baffled as to why you’re seeing a bunch of loud, weird short plays.
EPHRAIM: When the lights cut out in the middle of the show, don’t worry, that’s what’s supposed to happen.
Describe your comedy to somebody who’s never seen you before.
BRANDON: Smart, silly, nerdy, needy. Sexy?
EPHRAIM: Deep, shallow, bold, subtle. Okay, I guess?
You’re playing the Best of The Fest show. Declaring anything “The Best” is a bold claim – What is something the Rocket Scientists do better than anybody else?
BRANDON: Quote The Simpsons to the dismay of all.
EPHRAIM: Blade Runner references.
In the span of 3 months you’ll have played 2 great festivals – Sketchfest and NXNE – What’s next for The Rocket Scientists?
BRANDON: I’d like to tour, actually. We’re so anchored to Comedy Bar, and while that’s an awesome venue I think we could learn a lot about how to improve our show by playing as many different rooms as possible.
EPHRAIM: I second Brandon’s sentiment entirely! I think getting into as many new rooms as possibly is key – we had such a great time at the Toronto Sketchfest – we’re really excited to apply for some more out-of-town festivals!
Don’t miss your opportunity to catch an encore performance by 3 award-winning troupes from the 2013 festival in:
The Best of the Fest Encore Show
Friday, June 14th – 8pm
Measure (296 Brunswick Ave. – Formerly The Poor Alex)
Tickets: $15 (+HST)
NOTE: A limited number of NXNE Wristbands will be honoured at the door, and will be given priority seating. Get your tickets in advance!