The Panel Show comes to the Atlantic Fringe Festival from Toronto and plays at the DanSpace. It is a game show hosted by Ned Petrie where a panel of three comedians are asked questions pulled from REAL LIFE Stupid News and then points are allotted for the chance to win a giant mock-up cheque for $1,000,000.
Our guests for the evening were Brian MacQuarrie, Rhonda Riche and Mark Little. The set up for The Panel Show is an interesting one because it doesn’t really fit into any of the categories one usually associates with the genre of comedy. The comedians show up unrehearsed and with nothing prepared, yet I wouldn’t say the show was improvised, the humour just comes naturally from their own personalities and their own interactions with one another and the material that Petrie provides them with. I would assume that certain performers thrive in this concept more than others and it generally is a lot more laid back and casual than most shows audiences are used to seeing. The subtitle of The Panel Show could be something like: Chillin’ With Funny People.
What works really well is when the comedians are able to create a sort of absurd narrative out of the material that emerges from the guesses and the (often weirder) right answers to Petrie’s strange questions so that new jokes build on the ones that came before, as Pat Thornton does all evening in his annual 24 Hour Stand Up Set, until eventually you have drunken bears and pigeons permeating the entire show.
I also loved Little’s penchant for making a self-judgemental face and leaving the stage to find a different puppet to play with and then returning with it. It was great to have that sort of running gag emerge out of the show. (All the puppets were borrowed with love and carefulness from Fringe Invocation Experiment). It was also a magical moment watching Brian discover that, according to the customs of The Day of Conception in Russia, TODAY (September 3rd) was in fact Brian MacQuarrie Day.
Every show of The Panel Show is different and the cast of comedians includes people like Merv Hartlen, Paul Warford, Amanda Bulman, Kyle Hickey, Cheryl Hann and Jay Wells. You will not only laugh at the cleverness of the guests, but you will probably also be disturbed, confused and fascinated by much of the STUPID NEWS stories that Petrie has unearthed because people really do the weirdest shit and truth really is stranger than fiction.
Reprinted with permission from The Way I See It Theatre Blog twisitheatreblog.com