Meet a Comedy Troupe: Slap Happy

The folks in the Canadian Comedy Award-winning Slap Happy don’t perform together much anymore, which is a shame because when they do, things can get, well, a little slap happy during their long-form improv sets. Luckily for us, they’ll be performing tonight as part of the Big City Improv Festival launch tonight. We chatted with member Dave Pearce about open-mouthed kissing, Xenu and getting stranded in Belgium.

How did you guys come together?
We were all students together at The Second City, looking for places to play, when Sandy [Jobin-Bevans] found out that the Peterborough Fringe Festival (now defunct) had a ridiculously low entry fee. We didn’t have to work to connect or be funny. Improv should feel easy, and we could relax onstage.  

What do each of you bring to the table?  
At the beginning, Sandy brought danger to the stage, Kerry [Griffin] grounded scenes, Tab brought character and relationships and I was physical. But after 15 years, we’re all more grounded, more emotional, more willing to risk. And I’m real old, like decrepit. So [they] just move me from spot to spot on the stage.

How would you describe your brand of comedy?  
We tried a lot of different things over the years: bigger production values, costumes, a DJ or dueling guitarists as musical directors, but we always come back to telling a story, playing at the absolute top of our intelligence, and open-mouthed kissing.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Xenu. Suck it, Tom Cruise.

What's the most outrageous thing that's ever happened on stage?  
Toronto Improv Jamboree, 2006: Sandy picked Kerry up, “ate” him, and passed him through his digestive tract. Like I said, “Top of our intelligence.”

You used to guest on CBCs Metro Morning, providing a satirical look at the news. What do you think is the funniest thing thats been in the news recently?  
Everything’s infuriating. Our job was to find the funny in it. But I really wish we’d been on the air for the Rob Ford circus. He’s our Sarah Palin.  

Youve also been in a number of festivals over the years. Any funny road trip stories? 
Coming back from a festival in Belgium, our plane had pulled from the gate, then stopped. Tab saw a mechanic climb onto the engine and hit it with a hammer a couple times. Then the pilot announced we’d be going back to the gate due to a “small fire.” That was at 9 a.m. At 5 p.m., three of us finally boarded a flight to Toronto, via the UK, which arrived the next morning, without our luggage. All except [myself]. [I] demanded the airline get [me] to Holland to meet [my] wife, and ended up taking a taxi from Brussels to Amsterdam on KLMs dime. That’s the only one we can share that won't get us arrested or sued.

Whos been a favourite guest performer of yours, and why? 
Toronto Improv Fest in 2004. We joined up with Joe Bill and Mark Sutton of Bassprov to do a midnight set at the Bad Dog: BassHappy. We didn’t worry about structure; we just trusted, let go and had a riot on stage… and beers.  

Who would you love to perform with?
Each other. We don’t get to do it much together any more.   

Youve been together for a long time. What keeps you doing it?

The details:

Year established: 1997
Cast members: Kerry Griffin, Sandy Jobin-Bevans, Tabetha Wells, Dave Pearce
Influences: The Illustrated Men, Schadenfreude
Next gig: Big City Improv Festival Launch Night, Comedy Bar, 945 Bloor St. W., 416-551-6540. Oct. 15, 10 p.m. 

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