By Hannah Many Guns
CALGARY — Upon receiving a great audience response for their pilot episode in August 2014, Calgary-centric comedy sketch series Cowtown, produced by Nur Films, is set to hit the airwaves in the spring and summer of 2015. With their pilot episode consisting of hard-hitting, effective parodies – even a fun appearance from a Naheed Nenshi lookalike (see “Nap” sketch below) – the series aims to create a handful of comedic sketches that work to highlight the topical and historical nuances that embrace Calgary’s peculiarity.
With the help of TELUS Optik Local, whose dedication has helped develop local talent in Western Canada, the series is in the process of producing five more episodes to complete their first season.
“The stories we’ve come up with and the sketches are going to be Calgary-centric for some time to come,” says producer and director Ramin Eshraghi-Yazdi. “It’s for Calgary and the world, whether or not you live in Vancouver, Toronto, or even Madrid.”
Eshraghi-Yazdi, alongside Calgary filmmaker Chris Markowsky, sparked the idea for the show during a drive to and from Lethbridge.
“It took a year for things to get real, but when it did, we had a good idea what direction we wanted to take things in,” says Eshraghi-Yazdi. “We knew that Calgary is a city ripe with world-class talent, from a writing standpoint to an acting standpoint.”
With a cast comprised of local actors and comedians, the series showcases the faces that shape Calgary’s comedy scene. Andrew Phung, seasoned improv artist and two-time top pick (2013-2014) for Best Local Actor in Fast Forward Weekly’s Best of Calgary readers’ polls, is one of those faces Cowtown showcases.
“I’m proud that this is a Calgary project. We’re funny in Calgary, sometimes people forget that,” says Phung. “This show is such a wonderful opportunity to create comedy and highlight the hilarious people in this city.”
The entire cast is teeming with diverse perspectives from local talent including Renee Amber, Covy Holland, Christopher Clare, Mandy Stobo, Evan Wilson, Allan Stickel and Doug Muti.
“I can honestly say that each cast member brings a unique style of comedy to the table,” Phung continues. “You have the ‘current events’ funny, ‘awkward’ funny, ‘ha ha’ funny, ‘slow’ funny, ‘character’ funny and ‘what the fuck?’ funny. Because everyone is a little different, I think that viewers are going to be delightfully surprised at the content and sketches.”
Furthermore, spinning off of Calgary’s multicultural uniqueness, the show is eager to represent the diverse voices that make up Calgarian culture.
“As this work gets excessively bigger, I always want to champion minority faces on screen,” expresses Eshraghi-Yazdi. “It’s a bit of a mission of mine, promoting minority faces. Our cast is already a diverse group, and moving forward, we want that to focus on that as well.”
Updates and excerpts from Cowtown’s pilot episode are available through their Facebook page. In addition, the pilot episode is still temporarily available on TELUS Optik Local, and is free to stream if you have TELUS Optik Local on demand.
CORRECTION: It was originally said in this article that the Cowtown “Nap” sketch featured a guest appearance from Mayor Naheed Nenshi. The person, in fact, was a lookalike.#Nap4Nenshi, AB, Alberta, Andrew Phung, Chris Markowsky, comedy sketch series, Cowtown, Naheed Nenshi, Nur Films, Ramin Eshraghi-Yazdi, TELUS Optik TV