By Jen White
Take the funniest cartoon since The Simpsons, remove the characters from their familial TV setting and drop them onto a desert island, have the whole thing enacted on stage in a one-man show and what do you get?
Swiss Family Guy Robinson: an original Family Guy script loosely based on the Swiss Family Robinson tale. Award-winning comedy duo the Shehori Brothers, a.k.a Daniel and Steven Shehori, wrote the piece along with Brian Froud, the actor who brings the show to life.
“(Froud) is a master impressionist,” says Daniel Shehori. “He kind of got on our nerves because all he would do is voices. So we told him, ‘Dude, you gotta do something with this or stop it altogether.”
Swiss Family Guy Robinson was created about a year ago when Shehori and Froud were working at an Ontario tourist fair in Detroit. “We sat in a booth all day next to each other for eight hours, really bored, and then we started coming up with the idea for the show because we had nothing else to do,” recalls Shehori.
Although he is now wrapped up in the comedy world, Shehori once had his sights on an economics degree at Ryerson – but he claims he had no intention of pursuing a career in it. “I took economics and I stuck with it because a long time ago, a friend said to me, ‘You know, you have a big mouth, and you can’t talk about the world unless you fully understand economics.’”
He found his true calling when he started working as an usher at Second City. “I got really entrenched in the (comedy) world and all the people around me that were comedians and actors,” says Shehori. “I’ve always been a fan of comedy. And then I was all of a sudden a part of it and everything else just sort of fell to the side.”
Shehori spent his time at the comedy club observing the goings-on, while his brother was attempting to write a screenplay. One day, a friend from work asked the brothers if they were interested in joining his sketch troupe. While the two were reluctant at first, they grew to love the troupe so much that they became controlling and kicked the original member out.
The brothers have since received eight Canadian Comedy Award nominations and one win as writers, directors and producers. Their latest effort, Swiss Family Guy Robinson, which they produced and co-wrote, was one of the top shows at this year’s Fringe Festival.
The show received rave reviews for its original script that stays true to the characters without recycling old jokes from its TV counterpart. “If we were going to do what we did, you have to stay true to Family Guy. And if we were to take liberties, I think the hardcore fans would have just ripped us apart for doing that,” says Shehori.
While Froud tackles a lot of characters in the show, one is distinctly missing from the familiar mix – he refuses to do an impression of Meg.
“Brian and I were sitting, having a beer after the show one night, and I said to him, ‘Have you even tried to do Meg?’ And he’s like ‘No,’” says Shehori. “Then he sat there and he tried it, (and) it was pretty close. He can do her, he just assumed that he couldn’t and now the show’s written, so he’s not doing it.
“The reasons that she’s not talking are funnier than if we made her talk,” he says.
They decided to take the show to the stage before working out the legal side of things, following the path of other similar shows, such as MacHomer (The Simpsons characters in Macbeth) and One Man Star Wars.
“In both cases, they did the show and then went to The Simpsons or went to the Star Wars (people), and (the companies) gave them the green light,” says Shehori.
The group has recently made contact with the Family Guy people and are currently awaiting their response.
“They’re aware of the show, and we’d like to come down and do it for them,” says Shehori. “We want to do it and have them see it with an audience full of fans, so that’s our next job to make happen.”
Swiss Family Guy Robinson runs at the Diesel Playhouse from Sept. 26 to Sept. 30 and Oct. 3 to Oct. 7. Call 416-971-5656 for more information.