Photo: Kelvin Chan

RIOT: Ryerson family viewing

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By Graeme Smith

A disembodied voice fills the dark Eaton Lecture Theatre in Rogers.

“For those who are offended by such terms as ‘shitty face’ and ‘dog’s ass,’ we have replaced such terms with ‘dink’ and ‘hey you.’”

This is the disclaimer that introduces RIOT, Ryerson’s annual sketch comedy spectacle. The show tries to sicken, titillate and disturb — without offending small children.  A hard line to walk when skits rely on edgy humour. It is possible, for instance, to write an inoffensive skit where Hercules explores his homosexuality by asking his centaur friend Newton to be his sex puppet? That’s the kind of stuff RIOT tries to do and in this case, the result is hilarious — that is, if the thought of Herc and Newton engaging in “adult” conversation interests you.

Director and RTA student Jessica Holmes thought it possible to be both edgy and inoffensive. But she kept a rein on the humour.

“Honestly, the actors wanted to have sex anytime anyplace. I had to totally screen the skits,” she said.

Fourth-year RTA student Danny DiTata acted in RIOT last year and joined the cast against this year. He’s the sort of actor Holmes had to restrain. Even so, he slipped an impromptu mooning into Monday’s preview show. He bemoans the sketches that were censored.

“We had this amazing idea, called ‘I can’t believe it’s not the body of Christ.’ You know, ‘they’re crisped him up and spiced him up. Now you can savor the savior.’ But it wasn’t in good taste, you might say.”

Another censores skit was called “Star Tourette: to boldly fucking go where no shit-fuck has gone before.”

But DiTata understands limits are necessary “because when you’re in a university, you have to watch yourself.”

One skit which stays within the limits and is still one of the funniest features Stephen Hawking as a hostage negotiator. The Cambridge University professor is wheeled in to deal with a hostage taker and reads him “The Story of The Universe.” Naturally, he rescues the hostage.

But RIOT is not exactly tame either. Carlie Baxter, RTA second-year and another RIOT veteran, said the show is “a bit more risque this year, not as politically correct and family oriented.”

Baxter is referring to skits such as a bedroom scene with Chelsea Clinton, her boyfriend and her secret service bodyguards. There’s also a skit on an “air band” whose members play air guitar and screw imaginary groupies.

Fellow cast members and 4th-year RTA student Jay Onrait said, “Think of the spine-tingling excitement you feel when you watch a really good episode of Danger Bay. That’s RIOT.”

Adds Baxter: “If it was an episode of Danger Bay, it would be rated 18 plus. And I think Jano would be getting some action.”

Some cast members certainly seem to have a taste for exhibitionism. “I’m willing to have sex with all the female cast members on stage if that’s what it takes to get people to the show,” said Onrait.

DiTata goes further: “I’m also willing to have sex with Jay onstage and Peter (Sagn-Wiggensteing) and Jim. But not Paul (Gelashan) because he has a greasy penis.”

Not all of the cast is so bold. First-year RTA student Zoe Ludski is acting for the first time in four years. In one sketch involving Xena and Penny from Inspector Gadget she wears a Wonder Woman costume that leaves little to the imagination about her ass. She agreed to wear the spandex bathing suit before she saw it, but now she’s not so sure. “I don’t see why superheroes wear this stuff,” she said.

RIOT was first staged in 1950 to celebrate the new students’ union. It evolved from a rowdy stunt night into a massive production with 25-piece orchestra and ornate sets. It stopped in 1976, but was revived in 1981 by RTA students. This year’s production involves more than 70 students, most of them from RTA and Theatre Tech.

The shows start at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday. Watch for the wilder side of RIOT to be unleashed at the “extra crazy wacky” midnight show Saturday.

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