Going out on a high…
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.
This week, we’re flooded with memories of last year’s festival. At the same time, we are planning TOsketchfest 2021: The Screen Time Edition, an entirely online festival running March 24-28.
To mark this one year anniversary, we asked comedians 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.
Solo performer Laura Ramoso triumphed at last year’s festival with her Best of the Fest winning show. We asked her about that experience and what she’s been up to since.
Q: Can you share a memory from the 2020 festival?
A: During my solo sketch show diane on opening night of the festival, my biggest fear came true. Something happened with the tech board and the sound stopped working in the middle of my performance. The sketch? Oh, just a fully mimed piece that relies solely on its accompanying sound. This had always been a worry of mine and I long debated whether to bring in the sketch or not, but it was also my favourite piece to do, and I felt it really showcased who I am as a performer. So, when the sound stopped working, I think my heart went with it. There was no covering it up or improvising my way out of it, and there was also no scene partner to lean on. I had to call it out in the moment to make sure the audience knew they didn’t have to feel sorry for me, and it ended up being an incredible moment of connection with the crowd. It really was a lesson in honesty and “failure”, because the audience was right there with me through it all. I consider it to be one of the best nights of my career. Who knew?
Laura takes a traditional mirror selfie in the Theatre Centre dressing room before taking to the stage in her solo show “diane”
Q: What do you remember about those final days of the festival, as the reality of the pandemic was really sinking in?
A: The festival really was the last “big live thing” that happened in the comedy scene. I remember my final show was on the same day Ontario announced we would be going into lockdown for the first time. The audience was newly socially distanced and we were told not to interact physically with them. You could feel a collective nervousness and uncertainty in the air. Social distancing and hand sanitizer stations are almost second nature to us now, but at the time it was all very new and strange. To be frank, it’s a bit of a blur, but I am very happy that the last live performance I did was at such an amazing festival.
Laura won the Best of the Fest Award at the 2020 TOsketchfest for her solo show, diane.
Q: What do you miss most about performing, festivals, the community?
A: There really is no replacement for live performance and the comedy community that surrounds it. I miss…everything. Can I say that? I miss warming up before shows, feeling a live audience right there with you, joking backstage with your friends, drinking and debriefing at the bar afterwards, ending up at McDonald’s at 3am…then somehow you’re at the Christie Pits benches laughing so hard you can’t breathe. The on-stage performance aspect of it represents probably 20% of the evening – there’s so much that goes on around it that shaped our collective experiences. When you’re having one of those “remember when” conversations, most of the time you’re talking about what happened on the way to a show as opposed to the show itself. Some of my happiest memories are the evenings I’ve shared with members of the comedy community in this city. When that is suddenly taken away, it becomes apparent that those moments and those people shaped a major part of your identity.
Q: What have you been up to during the pandemic? Creatively or otherwise.
A: I’ve been kind of reeling with the loss of live performance and the community at large, so I have been spending time with my family and focusing on personal development. At first, I thought this might be a good opportunity to write another show, or really dive deep into some different creative pursuits. However, it has been really hard to find inspiration without living in the normal world. I’ve decided to press pause on the creative stuff for now and spend time baking cookies, walking around the block, pretending to read books, stuff like that.
Creating sketch comedy video content at home. Laura adapted some of her live material to video for the Best of the Fest show and the 2021 TOsketchfest Screen Time Edition
Q: What can we expect from your 2021 digital appearance?
A: Oh God. Um. Inconsistency, probably. Keep your expectations low and you’ll never be disappointed. I realized throughout this pandemic that I am very much not a “digital content creator.” It’s just not what brings me joy and satisfaction. I dabbled in short-form character content for TikTok and Instagram for a bit, and while it can be fun, the whole social media “likes/views/followers” side of it really turns me off. I think these online platforms can be massively useful for anyone looking to make a living in the arts, but the negative effects they had on my mental health were too much to ignore. I got caught up in what I “should” be doing, and that pressure felt really bad. You probably won’t see much of me until we’re able to go back to live shows, and I think that’s okay.
Laura, originally from Italy and Germany, is a sketch and improv comedian based in Toronto. She is best known for her physical comedy, character work, and award-winning solo sketch show, ‘diane’. In March 2020, ‘diane’ became the first solo-show ever to win the Best of the Fest Award in the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival’s 15-year history. She can’t wait to perform live again!
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