Meet a Comedy Troupe: Jape
By Brianne Hogan
These guys tell good Japes: (l to r) Simon Pond, Adam McNamara, Aaron Hagey-MacKay, Eric Turk
Described as "high reference, low brow comedy at its finest," Jape is an award-winning comedy sketch troupe that's been around for almost ten years. If you haven't heard of it already, you will: with a Canadian Comedy Award nom for Best Sketch Troupe under its belt, along with being a fixture on the comedy festival circuit, Jape is destined for bigger things - or, at least, will make you laugh.
We chatted with member Adam McNamara about the origins of its funny-sounding name, dead dream performers and winning the Bag of Beer Award.
How did you guys come together?
We met as teenagers while studying improv at the Second City. We clicked while performing and thought we’d do improv on our own. At one point we were six people, with Jamie O’Connor eventually moving to Chicago and then back to Toronto for a career in stand up, and Evany Rosen upgrading to the troupe Picnicface when she moved to Halifax for university. Since 2008 we have focused exclusively on sketch comedy.
How did you come to name your troupe "Jape"? What does it mean?
Jape means joke (especially one of a practical nature of verbal jab) in English. It’s used more in England, and it’s kind of archaic in North America. Until about a year-and-a-half ago, we were known as Statutory Jape. But after so many reviews that started with, “Questionable name aside, these guys are pretty good,” we decided to switch to the more pithy troupe name.
How would you describe the style of your show?
Our style has been described as high reference, low-brow. For example, one of our sketches involves Alexander Graham Bell making obscene phone calls to his assistant, the only other person in the world with a telephone. We do deviate from that, though. We love to play the premise of a scene and end with a satisfying blow line. Writing is our strong suit and it’s bit of a mix of stupid, funny and smart.
What's the most outrageous sketch you've ever performed?
We are certainly not the most outrageous out there. We’ve never done nudity in a sketch before, which, given our bodies, is probably for the best. But we have done some pretty dumb material.
You've been to a few comedy festivals (Chicago Sketch Fest, Toronto Sketch Fest, Toronto Fringe). What's a wild story from one of those experiences?
This year at the Montreal Sketch Comedy Festival, we won the “Bag of Beer Award," which is basically a plastic bag filled with liquid beer that we each have to drink from. Aaron [Hagey-Mackay] ended up stripping naked and intentionally kept missing the beer as it flooded the stage. We hope they invite us back!
If you could describe yourselves (individually) in one word, what would it be?
Who would be your dream guest performer?
To be honest, all of our dream performers are dead.
You've been nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award for Best Sketch Troupe. How does that feel?
We feel honoured! It’s especially flattering to be placed next to Falcon Powder and Uncalled For, since they put on amazing shows last year. Frankly it would be a complete surprise if we won. We're just happy to be there for the first time.
Now that you're in the big leagues, what's next on the horizon?
The next show is always the horizon. Barring any unforeseen television or radio deals, we will keep plugging away at live comedy in a rote, monotonous grind. You can also catch us on Rogers TV on Late Night with Matty D.
So, in a perfect world, where do you see Jape in two years?
That’s hard to answer. We’ve always been a “let’s see what happens” kind of troupe. We try to make as many unanimous decisions as we can. The fact that any four people are still together after almost ten years is a miracle in itself. We all have our own lives, and those are always shifting. We’re just happy if people come to our shows and laugh.
The line-up: Eric Turk, Simon Pond, Adam McNamara and Aaron Hagey-Mackay
Influences: Monty Python, Mitchell and Webb, Kids in the Hall, SNL, The Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Sellers, most of the 80s and 90s.
Next show: 2012 Canadian Comedy Awards Showcase, Comedy Bar, 945 Bloor St. W., 416-551-6540. August 23, 8 p.m.