I first saw Cam perform as part of the support ensemble of “Carson Pinch Will Die” at Toronto Sketchfest but I don’t think I actually had a conversation with him until later that year when he and Carson performed as a duo later that year at Philly Sketchfest. To say their set was one of my favorite that I’ve seen at Philly Sketchfest probably doesn’t carry the full amount of weight that such a statement deserves. To give you some context, a good number of my favorite sketch comedy performers are in the Philly area so when a show stands out to me amongst that group, I consider it high praise. Cam’s premises mine silliness, failure, and stupidity and make them all brilliantly hilarious. Both his bits about a man eating a trumpet and a Karokee DJ whose car was robbed leaving him with only his most hated CD will forever inspire jealousy and admiration in me.
His history of sketch groups includes some insanely talented groups such as Smells Like the 80s, O Dat Dum, and the Jelly Boys. Outside of live performance he can be heard on the upcoming K. Trevor Wilson Christmas album and along side Carson Pinch he helped create the content generating juggernaut known as Turbo Gulp.
Here’s one of their videos that didn’t cause a bizarre short lived feud with the profession it’s about.
But if you want to see their content that got lifeguards mad at them but then eventually flipped 180 and caused an ever-lasting bond you can find that and other videos on their various social media.
Cam is also a stellar supporter of other people’s sketch comedy and produces shows regularly in the Toronto area. Do yourself a favor and watch as much of his stuff as you can, and if you ever get a chance to see him live. Go! If you don’t enjoy yourself, I’ll eat a trumpet.
Cam was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us about his personal sketch comedy journey. Much like ourselves it’s obvious that he ties a good chunk of his personal identity to sketch comedy, and self-identified sketch comedians are pretty much the best people (other than teachers and nurses and people who make the world tangibly better yada yada yada…fart noise). Enjoy his well thought out answers (and pictures of his dog) below.
Do you have any personal favorite sketch comedy failures?
Sometimes I Play a character named Goldo, the Golden Man, and wear a 10 foot tall costume made out of gold spray painted cardboard. It’s equal parts impressive and crazy cheap looking. Since it’s all cardboard and tape, it’s fallen apart on stage every single I’ve worn it. In Montreal I couldn’t even make it onto the stage, my giant gold top hat dinged the ceiling on the way in and burst apart. It always gets a laugh, and my cast always loves improvising jokes around it, so it’s never bothered me too much. I will perfect the costume one day though!
Favorite unexpected success when performing?
Early on in my sketch Days, we have a sketch where one of us would open doing stand up, doing general crowd work like “is anybody in a relationship? Le me hear those claps”, and the joke would be derailed by the audience members (the rest of us) trying to define what a relationship really is, and if they should or should not have clapped. This eventually reveals a hidden story of love, kidnapping, and betrayal among the audience. I had never seen town hall style sketches done before, didn’t believe in the format, and I argued hard against it. But then of course it killed. It became one of our best opening sketches that we did for a good year after that. So hey, my instincts are sometimes wrong! (This is also a good lesson about surrounding yourself with people who are also funny and who you can trust to out vote you)
What other sketch groups that you’re not involved in do you wish more people knew about?
How much space will you give me for this? Edmonton, Alberta is an underappreciated hotbed of Sketch Comedy. I was there earlier in the year and was blown away by Dang Dumb. I’ve also met SO MANY amazing groups from there: Success 5000, Gossamer Obsessions, Girl Brain, Marv’N’Berry
Jon Plester and Ian Fletcher (Jon and Ian have something to tell you) are two literal comedy geniuses from Philadelphia
Locally, nobody is funnier than Jon Blair. I’d also love to shout out Uber & Klonk, and Lady Mary and The Marquis Van Shyzer. Everyone on this list should be famous if there’s any justice in this world
Do you have any favorite themes that you revisit in your sketches?
My first Solo show was called “Sad Heroes and Forgivable Losers” – that’s the type of scene and character I love. A person who means well, but who can’t see their own flaws and doom themselves to repeating their problems and getting in their own way to being happy.
Also, when I build out a set list I often have to stop myself and say “oops, too many toilet scenes,” or “I should really space out the murder scenes”
Do you have a regular writing routine?
My trick is to get booked on shows or apply to festivals, and once I have a deadline to light a fire under my butt the survival instinct kicks in and I start putting all the ideas that have been floating around my head for months onto paper. I wish I had the discipline to write regularly, but making time is tough when you’ve you’re juggling love, career, and side hustles!
What sort of stuff did you find interesting (either comedically or otherwise) growing up?
Humor was currency in my house growing up. My Dad was the funniest person in the world (All puns and dad jokes looking back but who cares!). Being able to make him laugh was the ultimate prize, so learning to put together a joke was an important skill to learn!
Media-wise, it was Conan and Mr. Show. This was weird stuff that wasn’t easy to find (you had to stay up super late to watch Conan, and find a rich friend whose parents had HBO to find Mr. Show. It was weird stuff, and being hard to watch gave it a feeling of “secret” comedy, you knew it wasn’t meant for everybody and you felt like you had discovered something “Just for You”. I still love weird, specific, outsider comedy. That’s the best stuff in the world.
Do you have friendships outside of comedy? If so, do you have any tips on maintaining adult friendships with people you aren’t specifically working on a project with?
This is a super interesting topic. Comedy has been such a huge part of my social life as an adult, and I naturally am attracted to people who can make me laugh, so the kind of friendships that I WANT mostly come from comedy. It’s super healthy to have friendships not related to your job/hustle/passion so the best advice I can give is make sure you turn those comedy friendships into real friendships. Go see a movie. Go to an Amusement Park. Ask about each other’s lives. The jokes will always be there but you’ll be surprised how much faster and better the jokes reveal themselves when you’re true pals!
I recently joined a group of Non-Comedians to play board games and that’s been wild. We hang out and do what I assume is normal friendship stuff. We spent an afternoon just baking and making cookies! How wild is that???
You’re a prolific status writer. Do you use your social media as testing ground/ generation tool? Or is it more it’s own thing?
It’s for sure it’s own thing. When I have a thought that makes me laugh, I make it into a tweet or status, post it, and move on. It’s great that a dumb idea gets to become something instead of just being a funny idea that evaporates. I will say that writing so many dumb jokes online has been great for finding my voice, and learning how to present ideas in a short, punchy way.
When I do sit down with the intent to write, I will often go back and read my tweets and see if any stand out to me as something with legs, premise-wise. 90% of what I write are jokes that live best in an online medium though, and that’s just fine with me.
In addition to your own performance you also help produce the “Double Bangers” showcase. Give us a brief run down of what inspired you to get into the production side of things.
I’ve produced shows before to give myself stage time, but this is one show where I’m happy to produce and just pay it forward to the community. (Shout out to my amazing co Producers Emma Bulpin and Julia Haist of Run V.A.G.). A problem I’ve noticed in our scene is that when Toronto Sketchfest comes around, there are always some troupes that 1) Don’t know how to build a half hour set and 2) Don’t know how to use the tools of a theatre to punch up their material. That’s because we don’t have shows that give half hour slots or that have more than basic lighting options. So we started this show so that acts could elevate their craft and have a solid half hour show ready to tour around once festival season starts.
This is also my way to stay linked to the community. I can’t get out and do as many shows as I used to so having them all come to me is *chef’s kiss*
It seems like you have a smorgasbord of collaborators rather than one group that you always perform with. What are some of the pros and cons you encounter with this type of dynamic?
It’s been super fun to create shows with impossible casts. People who don’t normally perform together. People from different cities. It’s incredible to see what happens when all these talented people get together for the first time and witness the chemistry that naturally occurs.
It’s a challenge. I recently did a show where I had cast members from 3 different cities. I was able to do readings with them over the internet, but the first time they all met was an hour before the show. Just enough time to do a quick read through and go over basic blocking. It’s stressful but it’s also exciting, and little bit dangerous!
At it’s core, this is a wonderful excuse to invite people who’s work I love to collaborate with me and spend time working with them.
In addition to live performance you’ve made a lot of video content via Turbo Gulp. How hard is it to switch back and forth between media?
They’re both separate jobs! It’s not too hard to keep them both going, but it’s much easier when you’re only doing one at a time. You only have so much creative juice to give! I try my best not to overwhelm myself with bigger shoots and projects when I know I have Festivals or Important shows coming up, but then again, sometimes you wake up with a video idea and you just have to make it right away no matter what.
Follow Up, Do you ever adapt live stuff for the screen or do you generally conceptualize things with in the format in mind?
Generally I know enough to keep them separate. There’s so much forgiveness given in live performance. You just need to say that you’re in a cave, and the audience will say “sure”. In film, you gotta be perfect. If your location looks off, people don’t buy into anything you’re saying, and check mentally check out.
I have a stack of sketches that I want to adapt for the screen, but adapting takes time and work. You have to be aware of how you can use the medium of video to add more jokes and keep things visually interesting. Ever see a single camera recording of live sketch? It always sucks! It takes a lot of thought to make stage work interesting on film!
What are a few of the things at you think really set the Toronto Sketch Comedy scene apart from some of the other major sketch comedy capitals such as Chicago or New York?
Lack of Opportunity makes Toronto the perfect storm for Sketch Comedy. It’s the arts capital of Canada, so it attracts all the best arts minded people. But there are so few opportunities for people to break into that people wind up doing live performance for YEARS until they make it. Troupes need time, years sometimes, to find out what makes them special, interesting, and unique, and in Toronto they have that time. If you’re born in the USA, it’s easy to pack up and leave to a bigger market like NY or LA and leave your troupe behind. And if you’re in a troupe in NY or LA it’s easy to leave it behind once you get your first writers room or TV opportunity. In Toronto nobody goes anywhere unless they pay for a visa and go to NY or LA.
How do you ever get any work done with Carlos around? (please include a picture of Carlos)
Carlos is the Ultimate Good Boy but not the ultimate good boy for productivity. Lots of time has been lost to this snuggle bug, and if he falls asleep in your lap, you aint going anywhere. But on the other hand, he’s the funniest dog I’ve ever met, and that pure joy he generates puts me in a great headspace for writing comedy.
Do you think there’s something else I really should have asked you?
You didn’t ask me what my favorite thing about you is!!….I like your smiles.