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ARTS (APRIL 2017): Challenging the audience

April 10th, 2017 · No Comments

Brandon Hackett takes the stage in Second City revue


PHOTO COURTESY PAUL AIHOSHI/FLIP PUBLICITY: Hackett’s serious demeanour obscures a seriously silly side, say his colleagues. The Annex comedian, who got his start at Victoria College, has performed with The Sketchersons and on This Hour has 22 Minutes.

By Geremy Bordonaro

Brandon Hackett is a new breed of comedian. Fiercely funny and whip-smart, the Annex resident is one of the cast members bringing some diversity to Second City. He joined the Main Stage performers in June, and is currently appearing in Everything is Great Again.

“I’m pretty willing to go silly and just let myself play around in the moment,” Hackett said. “When I started, I was a bit more self-conscious about how I wanted to sound smart. But now I am so happy to be silly, goofy, and look stupid.”

“It’s pretty spectacular. It’s really funny. Super political but in all the right ways”—Jeremy Stephenson, audience member

He began performing sketch comedy at Victoria College in 2006, and has since been part of the award-winning sketch troupe The Sketchersons, as well as a writer/performer on CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Hackett says his willingness to let out his more outrageous side is one of his biggest strengths as a comedian, even as he balances it with sharp wit.

“One of the things that is so great is that he’s able to carry himself with a bit of gravity. It’s a little bit rare in comedy,” said Ann Pornel, fellow cast member and long-time friend and collaborator of Hackett. “The way Brandon carries himself is, on the surface, very serious. There’s a gravity to him. You think he’s very serious. And one of the most delightful things, especially in the current show right now, is because he looks a certain way people will have assumptions and he is able to flip that and bring out his sillier side.”

During the show, there’s a scene where Pornel pulls a random audience member to serve as a pilot for a plane flying above Russian airspace. This sketch has Hackett serving as a passenger, air flight controller, and Russian military announcer, within the span of minutes, even seconds. In one show, audience member “Captain Ham”, a self-proclaimed Urban Planner, flew from Toronto…to Toronto. Hackett, sharp as he is, comments that it is nice of Captain Ham to take the passengers “out for a spin around the block”.

The Main Stage room roared with laughter when Hackett and the cast erupted in fear over the world’s politics while trapped on the TTC, or when he went into the audience posing as a heckler, announcing himself as “George”, who wants to put his dog in a dress and make-up.

“It’s pretty spectacular. It’s really funny. Super political but in all the right ways,” said Jeremy Stephenson, an audience member, after the show. “I think that a lot of today’s society needs humour in politics because it’s all shitty anyway. It’s a really fun way of poking at that. It’s really enjoyable.”

Politics plays a large part in the content of the show. However, this year the focus is a bit different because of the diversity of the cast.

“Right now, rightfully so, there is a real importance placed upon diversity and different perspectives. I think Brandon brings all of that as well as talent,” Pornel said. “A lot of the time tokenism gets thrown around the idea that certain people are only there because they are a person of colour or offer a different take on life. Brandon does provide that by being both black and queer, but he’s got the talent to back it up in spades. As a co-worker and friend, you can’t ask for anything more than what you get from Brandon.”

One of the longest, and funniest, scenes in the show comes when Hackett, Pornel, and Paloma Nunez go to a spiritual retreat and drink tea that will help them purge their negativity. During this they vent about what Hackett terms their individual “versions of failing to live up to their own cultural background”.

“I think diversity is so important in every realm but certainly in Second City,” Hackett said. “You have got more stuff to talk about. [We talk] about ways to challenge the audience, to consider their own world view, and also experiences that are outside of themselves, in order to better live in this world.”

Tags: Annex · Arts