Kaboom mixes standup improv and sketch comedy

Comedy is always comedy to audiences insofar as it makes us laugh. But on the ground there are a few different comedy scenes in Calgary that provide our live entertainment — standup comedians improv artists and sketch troupes — and perhaps they don’t overlap as much as they could.

Jeff Kubik is the co-founder and producer of Kaboom! a monthly comedy show that strives to present fresh material from all genres. “There are very different things happening in all of the different scenes” he says. “One of the things that I find really interesting as somebody who’s always been very interested in the arts and used to cover the arts is that I don’t get the sense that a lot of these scenes have any idea what the other one is doing.”

Not so for the performers on his bill which includes standup improv and sketches glued together with some emcee banter. Kubik likes to use a term he came across once “ecumenical comedy” to describe this inclusive approach to programming (“because I’m a pretentious academic son-of-a-bitch” he explains) although his fellow standups prefer the somewhat geekier “Starfleet of comedy.” Either way the idea’s the same.

“Each of these scenes are producing people who are building a practice they’re getting better at what they do” says Kubik. “What a great opportunity to scan all these different scenes and just pull the people who are doing the work that is the most interesting to me.

“We get to do things side by side but also hopefully have some kind of crossover and learn more about each other which is already actually started to happen.”

That said Kubik doesn’t take this holistic approach to a group-hug Kumbaya small-town crowd-pleasing extreme. “Kaboom! I think like all comedy is innately going to aim at a certain group of people and exclude a bunch of other people” he says. “That’s my belief in comedy; there is very universal broad happy comedy and I’m not a fan of it it’s never been the stuff that I enjoy.” The stuff that Kubik does enjoy and that the Kaboom! team tries to produce is material that is original and high-concept not just straight newsy satire.

And in this case “original” means brand new. “The show is different every time. It’s always different performers… they’re always doing new material and the sketches always change. That’s one of our strengths or weaknesses that we continue to do new sketches.”

At this point comedy perhaps isn’t always comedy for audiences — many of us are more acclimatized to one genre or another. Standup fans may find improv too touch-and-go; improv-goers may find standup too scripted or separated from the audience; and even within improv those who are used to the concise theatre-sport style that is prevalent in Calgary might be thrown off by the more sketch-like long-form improv. And most Calgarians haven’t much of an opportunity to experience live sketch performances as there’s only one other group in town currently doing it.

But never fear: experience with Monty Python Kids in the Hall and Saturday Night Live will help prepare you for a Kaboom! show. “We love those things and we are going to try to have fun with those and that should be fun for you to watch” says Kubik.

With new material and new audience members each month reaction to a Kaboom! show is unpredictable. So sure that means some bits might go fizzle instead of bang. But as Kubik explains “I’d rather see an ambitious failure than a mediocre success.”

Kaboom! plays at Yuk Yuk’s the first Wednesday of every month.