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.
Ajahnis Charley delivered a stand-out show, THOTS AND PRAYERS, at the 2020 festival, earning the Steam Whistle Brewing Producers’ Pick Award. We asked Ajahnis to reflect on 2020 and talk about staying productive in the pandy.
Q: Can you share a memory from the 2020 festival?
A: My favourite memory of the 2020 festival, besides watching troupes like Tita Collective and Tom Hearn smash onstage, was going to the Sketch Train performer party and staying out way too late. I think it was the last post-show hang I had before the world ended and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Ajahnis performed THOTS AND PRAYERS in the 2020 festival, proving to everyone that basketball IS the gayest sport.
Q: What do you remember about those final days of the festival, as the reality of the pandemic was really sinking in?
A: I performed THOTS on two different weekends, one before all the pandy paranoia and one after. That second show definitely did have a darker energy, but everyone went hard like always and it truly was a joy to perform.
Ajahnis’ “red carpet” look at the TOsketchfest Best of the Fest Show, accepting the Producers’ Pick Award…sponsored by, you guessed it, Steam Whistle.
Q: What do you miss most about performing, festivals, the community?
A: I really miss the laughs, emojis aren’t entirely the same, but I really appreciate the digital work ethic I’ve come up with, and other people have done some impressive Corona-comedy. I’m interested in seeing where digital media can go!
Q: What have you been up to during the pandemic? Creatively or otherwise.
A: Figuring out what to do with my life! I graduated university during the pandemic, so now I have a degree in Geomatics. I still don’t really know what it is, but it’s not as fun as making up silly skits and songs. That’s my main profession right now. Oh, I guess I co-created and co-produced Canada’s first all-Black sketch ensemble. That’s something.
In addition to performing lots of digital content and working with the Untitled Black Sketch Project, Ajahnis directed a documentary for the NFB called “I’m Gay”.
Q: What can we expect from your 2021 digital appearance?
A: Did I mention silly songs yet?
Ajahnis Charley is a comedy writer and performer delivering daring works that only a young debt-ridden gay could do. He wrote and directed the short documentary I AM GAY, produced by the National Film Board of Canada. He writes for satire site The Beaverton, CBC news comedy show Because News, and the CBC podcast Tony Ho. He also is an alum of Canadian Comedy Award-winning sketch troupe The Sketchersons. He has written and performed his own solo sketch show THOTS & PRAYERS and won the Producer’s Pick award at the 2020 Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival. In 2020 he was a recipient of the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Queer Emerging Artist Award.
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