What: This is That
Where: McPherson Playhouse
When: Tonight, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $40.50 at McPherson box office (250 386 6121)
If you listen to CBC Radio, chances are you’ve been duped by This is That, a satirical current-affairs program.
The Vancouver-based comedy duo of Pat Kelly and Peter Oldring, performing their show tonight at the McPherson Playhouse, say they’re routinely approached by fans who admit to having been fooled.
This is That’s satire is so keen — and not so greatly removed from reality — that the CBC was compelled to add a disclaimer to the show’s website.
There is the student at the “University of Nanaimo” who sued her university because it failed to accommodate her allergies, which include tall people and the colour mauve. Even Harper’s magazine was fooled by that one, reporting it as fact in 2013.
There’s also the Ontario soccer league, which, in an effort to promote fairness and a lack of competition, banned soccer balls.
One of Kelly and Oldring’s greatest hits is about a Mississauga condo developer who forgot to put bathrooms in his 15-storey high-rise. The developer insisted it wasn’t his fault. And besides, people still bought them.
“To us, it was such a silly idea. But it somehow struck a chord with people. We got a lot of calls on that one,” Kelly said
Their stage show in Victoria will replicate the form and style of the radio broadcasts. A question-and-answer session follows.
Now in their eighth season, Kelly and Oldring appear to be on a career high. Tonight’s performance launches a Western Canada tour, to be followed by an eastern tour. And they’ve just published This is That: Travel Guide to Canada — a parody of such chatty guides. The book contains such suggestions as: “If you don’t want to look like a tourist, bring a fanny pack. All Canadian men wear fanny packs around their ample hips.” It also spoofs Victoria: “If tea is your passion, don’t forget to pack your favourite cup and saucer, because, per a municipal law, every second business in Victoria is a tea room.”
Technically, This is That’s stories could be classified as the so-called “ fake news” that has got a bad rap of late. However, Kelly — on the phone from his Vancouver home — was quick to note an important difference.
“We’ve never created the show with the intention of tricking people, especially now with this fake news being so prevalent,” he said. “But, I think, as satirists, we play an important role. And it’s always important to apply some critical thinking. That’s a good thing.”
Each This is That episode includes phone messages from irate listeners who believe Grade 4 is being cancelled in Nova Scotia or that the Calgary Aquarium is shutting down and grilling its fish for a public barbecue. Kelly said the clips are real — the only time they made up listener responses was (by necessity) for their first show.
While Kelly and Oldring predetermine the key points for each radio skit and write an introduction, they improvise all the dialogue. They also improvise Good Morning World, their satirical TV show for the Comedy Network. This ability harkens back to their days doing theatre improvisation at Loose Moose Theatre in their hometown of Calgary. Kelly and Oldring are also former members of Toronto’s Second City improv troupe.
At its core, Kelly said, This is That is an affectionate parody of CBC Radio shows, especially call-in programs, such as Cross Country Checkup.
“We like this idea of characters who take something quite simple and are maybe ill-informed about it. And they have bombastic points of view about something which is pretty inane. They kind of make a big deal about everything,” he said.