By Graeme Wiggins
VANCOUVER – Vancouver’s stand up and improv comedy scenes are thriving, with shows of each available almost every night of the week. Where the scene seems to be slightly lacking is the sketch comedy side of things. For some reason there are few avenues out there for aspiring sketch comedians. This is where Nathan Hare and Graeme Achurch, the duo known as Soda Fountain, come in with their monthly show at the Little Mountain Gallery, a show in which they perform new original sketches each month while also allowing local sketch writers an outlet to do their own original material.
Soda Fountain’s origins come from improv, oddly enough, with the two meeting through local comedy school Blind Tiger, a school formed from two classic improv groups Hip.Bang! and the Sunday Service. From there, they started with a sketch show.
“We met through Blind Tiger comedy, we wrote a full length sketch show in the spring and put it up at Little Mountain Gallery called the Big Dance,” says Hare. “We grabbed people from the Vancouver comedy scene. It was really fun so we decided to brand ourselves as Soda Fountain and do a show every month. We do a full 20 to 30 minutes of new material and the first half is a bunch of guests from around the city.”
Putting together a monthly sketch show can be a lot of work, which explains why there are so few of them compared to other comedy forms.
“We’ve put on improv shows as well, and the difference is insane how much effort it takes to write a sketch and rehearse it,” says Hare. “But it can be so much more rewarding.”
The process, however, does seem like fun. In Hare’s words, “It’s a lot of meeting up and getting coffee and brainstorming ideas and making each other laugh. The last couple of weeks are really intense rehearsing and putting everything together. We have a pretty specific format for the show, where we have an opening bit and we’ll do character stuff as we’re hosting, and then we’ll do more straight up traditional sketches in a set at the end. It’s a lot of trying to make each other laugh and putting in the hours, getting through the bad ideas.”
So what makes them laugh?
“I would say we lean towards the absurd. We were just talking about how fun it is to have characters agree and be positive. We tend to go for a more goofy, fun, absurdist style than a dark, satirical style. People can expect to come to our show and have fun and see weird stuff.”
For the other half of the show they invite guests to do original material. Sometimes this means some pretty heavy hitters in the Vancouver scene: “We book people from around the comedy scene. We meet people through the Hero Show and Blind Tiger. In the first half we get guests to do their own sets and it’s the most fun. We’ve had Aaron Read from the Sunday Service, for example.” But they also try and get newer folks involved as well: “We reach out to people just starting out to get them to write stuff. It’s kind of what the Hero Show did, just having spots available and hoping we can get people doing interesting comedy.”
This month’s guests include Cameron Macleod who hosts the Hero show, Nima Gholamipour who hosts Sidekicks, Marta Wesselhoff, Kyle Fines and Raquel Belmonte.
Catch Soda Fountain August 25 @ Little Mountain Gallery