Admittedly, I had my doubts when I heard the name. The Furious Anger Fun Hour… What? Nonetheless, an astute cinephile will immediately recognize the ‘Pulp Fiction’ reference. But does that necessarily vouch for this cryptically-named Fringe Festival show?
This question loomed large in my mind. My conclusion: “This had better be good.”
Commercial Drive’s Havana hosted the performance. We (the dozen or so of us composing the audience) were funneled through the restaurant to the back room where, upon taking my seat up front, I witnessed an empty stage, save for a lone microphone stand and a decrepit loveseat.
These sparse props, symbols of a bygone comedic era, augured something stridently satirical. In its 80’s and 90’s heyday, Stand-Up was the benchmark of comedy. What one-liners and pointed observations awaited me? And the couch, well, beyond the obvious Freudian association, the couch conjured images of TV, of flipping channels, of cozy cereal-bowl storytelling, of the Sitcom.Even before any of them said word one, the boys (sic) of Furious Anger had much to live up to as far as I was concerned.
First out was Brian Nothling, the evening’s tall and well-coiffed MC. Blazer over a T-Shirt, he wore the garb of a comic and swore we’d enjoy the forthcoming lampoon (although it seemed obvious that he wouldn’t much care if we didn’t enjoy it). An unassuming “hey..” was the group’s refrain as they sat together creatively positioned upon and around the sofa. The four of them, who could not have coalesced into a more hilarious collage of comedic faces, played the laid-back band of best friends, so comfortable with each other’s honesty and touchy proximity that we couldn’t help but feel welcome in their imagined bachelor-quad.
The first of the many targets of their incessant spoofing was ‘The Price Is Right.’ They tackled the tough questions: Drew Carey?! (It will always be Bob Barker to me). And, why shouldn’t it count if the contestants’ guesses go over? They also took on ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ ‘Survivor’ and William Shakespeare, the latter of which saw one of the Pick of the Fringe winning Peter n’ Chris updating some of the bards most famous lines, i.e., “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them… and some turn 35 and realize they aren’t great, they’re probably just shit.”
Their show featured an ever-shifting smorgasbord of sketch comedy techniques. Though at times a bit more like ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ (especially during the British accents bit) than ‘Mr. Show,’ and at others, more like ‘Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job’ (especially during the dubstepped salting of the omelette bit) than ‘That Mitchell and Webb Look,’ The Fun Hour seemed a descendent of all four. And the casual smoothness not only in the transitions from scene to scene but also between each of the actors was studied, engaging and evolved. Although, don’t get me wrong, it was all very silly.
Sam Mullins, who also wrote Weak Sauce, another 2012 Fringe inclusion, was the consummate straight man. With a face like Andy Samberg and hair like Kramer, his deadpan delivery and spot on timing often stole the scene effortlessly. Nothling played a few quirky characters: a spirited dog named Finnegan and a guilt-laden father imploring slumber partying adolescents to “shut-‘er-down.” Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson, of Peter N’ Chris (of whom, despite much googling, I cannot seem to determine which was which) each had some good turns. The ensemble, however, was greater than any one member.
In typical 21st century fashion, Furious Anger paid attention to production. The music cues were amusing. And the style and structure of their skits often glowed of cinematic and digital influence. The slow-motion fight scene at the end seemed right out of Ang Lee or Tarantino’s Ang Lee-inspired stuff. And so many of the sketches seemed written for YouTube. They kept coming back to the couch, whence their philosophical musings would manifest as the rambling one-liners of little boys.
If there were any qualms to be had with this curious show it was the vapid self-satisfaction that frequently characterizes Vancouver theatre. But that can’t be helped. And that it was a comedy— and a pretty funny and contemporary one at that— forgives them of a show, which, despite its name, was both tame and pleasant.