Meet a Comedy Troupe: Special Features
By Brianne Hogan
Special Features (Image: Stephanie Town Photography)
If you like your improv mixed with musical theatre — along with a splash of movie trivia — then you’ll dig the sweet sounds of Special Features, the Toronto comedy troupe that specializes in musical improv. We chatted with member Richard Comeau about singing the sequel to Star Trek, kissing on stage and the surprise factor of musical improv.
How did your troupe come about?
I had no friends to play with, so my mom encouraged me to entice some strangers at the Dufferin Mall with candy. It worked. Michael Bennett Leroux’s asking price was pretty high: three lollies and a box of Milk Duds.
What can people expect from seeing your show?
A musical sequel to a popular movie. That’s kinda what we do. We call it the “Unsung Sequel,” which is ironic, because we sing! We’ve done sequels to such movies as Fight Club, Clueless, The Princess Bride and A Nightmare on Elm Street, and so on. Oh, and kissing — there’s a lot of kissing in our shows. For some reason, though, the girls are rarely involved.
What do you love most about musical improv?
The surprise factor: those times when you’re up there singing and you happen to fall upon this incredible rhyme or this extremely catchy chorus. You can never expect it but when it happens, oh boy, does it feel good. Not to mention when those moments happen, the audience goes crazy, and you then you start thinking to yourself, “Yeah, that just effin’ happened... Oh crap, I’m still singing."
What’s the most memorable song you’ve ever come up with? Can you recite some lines for us?
Mine was probably our Star Trek sequel [2009 version]. I played Kirk, and Spock had just killed me with a rock. My “spirit” sang a solo with such lines as, “It’s a thought I cannot foster. His credo is ‘live long and prosper.’” I’m proud of that rhyme! But there are so many I could list: Dale’s “Michael Winslow” song, which was entirely sound effects, and Jenn and Hugh’s song in Clueless II where they threw in “Rollin with the homies” as a tribute, just to name a few.
What are a few of your personal favourite songs? (Again, can you recite some lines?)
“Creep” by Radiohead: “Ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu uuuuuuuuuu uuuuuuuuuunnnn!!”
“Back of Your Car” by Ryan Starr: “It’s the perfect time of night, to be losing your clothes NOW.”
“Informer” by Snow: “Informer, yanosabadleadicky agoblam, a likkey boom boom meow.”
Who would be your dream musical guest?
Oh, the possibilities are endless. Reggie Watts would be amazing. That guy is awesome and the things he does with his piano/synth machine is incredible. And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want Wayne Brady? That guy can make up lyrics like nobody’s business.
Biggest achievement so far?
We made money once! Seriously!
What’s next on the horizon?
“Special Features presents: The Unsung Sequel” is a monthly show, taking place every last Saturday of the month at the Black Swan Tavern. We always have killer hosts and musical guests. Not to mention a completely improvised movie sequel that the audience gets to choose for us. On June 30, we’re having our first-anniversary show. It’s going to be a big event for us. Returning musical acts, some fresh faces too. We’ll be remounting some of our favourite improv songs. And maybe some prizes.
Year established: 2011
Cast members: Hugh Cameron, Richard Comeau, Jaclyn Fleming, Jennifer Hoffman, Michael Bennett Leroux and Dale Wells. With Chris New on piano and Paul Aihoshi on guitar. (Robin Hatch also plays keys but she’s on hiatus right now, being all famous stuff, touring with a popular band!)
Influences: Aside from all the other comedy troupes you’ve already covered (seriously, they’re all incredible) I’d have to say Natasha Boomer has had a large influence on us. She’s an incredible teacher and mentor, so very talented and her passion for musical improv is a big reason why Special Features is around today.
Catch them at: Black Swan Tavern, 154 Danforth Ave., 416-469-0537. April 28, 8 p.m.