By Betty Wondimu
Lights came up and for the first time ever, radio and television arts (RTA) comedy group RIOT! took over The Second City Toronto’s iconic stage.
“We had complete freedom to say what we want, which works out because my humour’s pretty fucking vulgar,” RIOT! member Eddie Majnemer said. “[But] one sketch that didn’t make the show is one that Jorge wrote called Mein Kampfy Couch, just to give you an idea of how far our humour goes sometimes.”
The RTA comedy group joked about light-hearted but controversial subject matter spanning from funeral hook-ups to abortion to the Holocaust and for the first time in 10 years, RIOT! held their showcase somewhere other than the Rogers Communication Centre (RCC).
Usually The Second City – part of a leading comedy club chain with several different venues across North America – only features professional comedians, but it made an exception for RIOT! 2013: Paint the Town Fuchsia! last Friday night.
Producer Simon Paluck described the decision to change venues as “terrifying” at first.
“I had to live up to 60 years of RTA tradition and I still chose to take a risk,” he said.
The RTA student-run comedy group can be traced back to the early 1950s. RIOT! produces original comedic material and holds several performances every year.
Although the group’s final show is traditionally held at the RCC, Paluck said he knew they could go bigger this year.
“I knew the cast had the potential to live up to Second City, so I thought ‘Why not go out with a bang?’ and that’s what we did,” Paluck said.
The two-hour show featured 10 RTA student-comedians – three girls and seven guys – performing the original skits they started writing in October. Some members, like Alessandra Manieri and Majnemer, were brought back from the previous year and said that the most enjoyable part of participating in RIOT! is the liberty to joke about every subject and have a creative outlet to talk about anything.
Even Daniel Rostas, a Jewish second-year RTA student, thought it was funny when Jorge Vasconez walked on to the stage wearing his own mix of Hollister and Lacoste perfume and said, “I think I’m gonna call it Hol-acoste.”
“I wish I didn’t laugh the hardest at that joke,” Rostas said. “But I did.”
RIOT! 2013’s marketing manager Ben Morphet said the venue change was only successful because of how talented the cast was.
“The comedy was SNL quality this year,” Morphet said. “There were definitely more people there than I expected.”
The theatre reached its 200-person capacity quickly. By the time the show started, there were hardly any seats for latecomers, who were forced to stand for the duration of the show. The cabaret was booming with the laughter of Ryerson students, Second City regulars and RTA faculty – including professor Steven Ehrlick.
Ehrlick praised the group for taking a substantial risk and said their content was worthy of a venue like The Second City.
“[The venue] put the audience in the right setting for a comedy show,” Ehrlick said. “They definitely lived up to the venue, I couldn’t find a seat.”
For Paluck, this show was his goodbye to RIOT! after three years with the group as he enters his fourth year of RTA next fall.
For RIOT! 2014, Paluck has passed on the producer torch to current second-years Vasconez and Shreya Khanna. To him, the experience is bittersweet.
“It’s impossible not to get attached, it’s such a tight-knit family,” Paluck said. “But I’m excited for the future and hope upcoming casts won’t be afraid to take risks like we did.”