A year ago this week…
A year ago, we were gathered for TOsketchfest 2020, one of the last live events that many comedians and comedy lovers did together in the “before times.” A pandemic was declared in the middle of our festival and our world was turned upside down.
Our minds and hearts and social feeds are full of memories of last year’s festival, at the same time we are planning this year’s festival: The Screen Time Edition, an entirely online TOsketchfest. (Announcement coming soon!)
If it weren’t for COVID, this week we’d be laughing together in a dark room somewhere in downtown Toronto. Instead, we’ll celebrate the stories of our TOsketchfest community in our #SketchfestThrowback series. We’ll ask what they remember from TOsketchfest 2020, what they’ve been doing in the past year, and what to expect from their 2021 TOsketchfest digital appearance.
First up, we’ll chat with Paul Snepsts, the Festival’s Executive Director and Producer. As the Festival’s co-Founder, he’s been with TOsketchfest in the good times, bad times, the before times and pandemic times.
Q: Can you share a memory from the 2020 festival?
A: My favourite memory from the 2020 festival is a tossup between watching Carson and Taylor Promise to do a Bunch of Flips with my 9 year-old son, and hanging out during the last Sketch Train performer party. There was a real sense that night that this would be the last thing we do together for a while… a long while.
Paul in the final days of TOsketchfest 2020. About to enter the Sketch Train performer party and looking quite fed up with the pandemic… already. It was only March 14th.
Q: What do you remember about those final days of the festival, as the reality of the pandemic was sinking in?
A: For the producing team, that back week of the Festival was immensely stressful. Daytimes we’d “ready room” the Theatre Centre Gallery space: struggling with the ethics of proceeding with shows or not; grappling with insurance; sitting on hold for hours with Toronto Public Health; scouring the city for rubbing alcohol and wipes; spacing out our theatre seating; and contemplating what might be financial ruin and the end of TOsketchfest. Then take refuge with the team at Death & Taxes before regrouping for a night of shows (sleep, wake, repeat).
Q: What have you been up to in the last year, creatively or otherwise?
A: I’ve been working on ways to keep comedy happening – between joining the Board of CASC to advocate for comedy creators with funders and government, producing the 2020 TOsketchfest Award Show, bringing Comedy on the River to The County, and of course working on our “Screen Time” Edition of TOsketchfest I’ve kept busy. Creative highlights for me were doing a few duo-prov gigs with my fav dance partner, my lovely wife Julianne, and some online improv with my troupe, broadcast from my kids’ play room surrounded by their toys.
Comedians worldwide can identify with the challenge of finding the best Zoom performance stage at home. For Paul, it’s in the basement among the kids’ toys.
Q: What do you miss most about performing, festivals, and/or the community?
A: I miss our comedy PEOPLE – fans, volunteers, staff and artists. I miss laughing with you, reuniting with you, sharing drinks and chats with you. Most of all I miss all the HUGS!
Q: What can we expect from the 2021 TOsketchfest: The Screen Time Edition?
A: I’m very excited to share with the TOsketchfest audience all the good work our comedy creators have been making this year. It won’t be the same as being together, but the “Screen Time” edition of TOsketchfest will be the next best thing. Cool packages to bring the flavours of the festival home, late-night social gatherings to interact with one another, in-show chats for our audiences, all the amazing panels and workshops… and of course, so many familiar faces, and lots of laughs. You will love what our Producers Ivan, Damien and the rest of our team have built for you comedy nerds.
Busy days right now getting all of the tech set up for a fully digital TOsketchfest 2021. Good thing Paul has two screens and a can-do attitude!
Paul Snepsts is the Executive Director and Festival Producer at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival. He performs comedy with Taste That! and Silver + Gold in Prince Edward County. He is the host of “The Sneptic Tank” on 99.3 County FM, and teaches improv for radio in the Broadcast Radio program at Loyalist College.