Kathleen Phillips, Katie Crown reunite at Comedy Bar
This Friday, longtime Toronto comedy vets Kathleen Phillips and Katie Crown relaunch their acclaimed musical showpiece Phillips & Crown: Our Lives Work! at the new Comedy Bar cabaret space (9:30 p.m., $12). In the year since the Comedy Award-nominated show premiered at the Bread & Circus, there has been significant changes for the friends. Crown has moved to Los Angeles, where she frequently performs at the Upright Citizen's Brigade and does voice work for animated cartoons. Phillips, arguably Toronto's most gifted character comedian, has spent a year opening for the likes of Rob Delaney and perfecting her highly hilarious and emotionally gripping character monologues. Having first performed together in children's theatre company Cow Over Moon, Crown describes Our Lives Work! by saying, "It's like if the Little Rascals were two ladies in their 30s constantly laughing at each other."
In an interview conducted at The Ossington after both comedians killed it, they explain the nature of their musical comedy, why Toronto's alternative comedy scene will never die and the time Kathleen got bedbugs.
Please explain your show.
Katie Crown: Well the show itself is a series of different non sequitur musicals that Kathleen and I have come up with. I don't want to call it a variety show, but we've pieced it all together with videos interstitials in between.
Kathleen Phillips: It started with a first sketch about Rudy, a mannequin and a night watchman. And we found it was just easier to do sketches that were songs. Really, it just started out as playing. We were just two adults playing around and basically doing the same stuff that we were doing for Cow Over Moon...
Katie Crown: But adding words like, "bum!"
What is your favourite moment of the show?
Katie Crown: There are some parts where I have a really hard time not laughing.
Kathleen Phillips: If anything we'll just fly by the seat of our pants and it will be great. But Friday's show will be different because we have some different costumes and probably props. Because my apartment got attacked by bed bugs.
Oh my god, really?!
Kathleen Phillips: So I had to throw all that stuff out. I wouldn't be able to forgive myself otherwise!
Katie Crown: Could you imagine? I'd much rather have different costumes... then...
Kathleen Phillips: Could you imagine singing a song and then a thing skitters across your face and then into your nose and the rest is just pandemonium?
Katie Crown: Ugh, and we had to keep doing the show anyway? That would be the worst! And we'd forget what we were saying and just speak gibberish for the rest of the show!
(Kathleen speaks in gibberish for a moment.)
Kathleen Phillips: But that won't happen.
So you've both been friends for a long time... What do you think it is about your creative chemistry that works?
Katie Crown: We both like doing weird stuff. We have a real respect for each other's talent.
Kathleen Phillips: I don't know, we just make each other laugh a lot.
Katie Crown: And she lets me bum cigarettes off her. Can I have a cigarette off you?
Kathleen Phillips: Do you still smoke?
Katie now that you've moved to Los Angeles, do you have a different perspective on Toronto's comedy scene?
Katie Crown: I've noticed how much stronger everyone is since I've been away. The show tonight was like a powerhouse of local comedy! Everyone did amazing.
Kathleen Phillips: I think that we were really fortunate that we all started off in a similar scene. Because people have branched off and started doing different things, and some of those comedians started doing the thing that they said they were never going to do--which was Yuk Yuk's. But that doesn't mean, as they've gotten older, that those innate sensibilities have changed.
It's pretty special when you go somewhere else and whatever notions you have of how far advanced they are, because they're a bigger city or a more established scene, I always wind up thinking everybody I know is way funnier. And they've worked way harder at it and have gone unnoticed for so much longer, but they've stuck with it. I've known most of the people that were on this show tonight for years and years, and almost everybody has gone in a different direction. But we can still can come back and do these shows.
Katie Crown: And it's totally spreading out. 'Cuz I know people feel that people are leaving Toronto and going to various areas for work, but it's just expanding. No one's leaving. We're just growing and branching out.
Why did you call your show "Our Lives Work!"?
Katie Crown: It's uh, "our life's work." It's a funny pun.
Kathleen Phillips: But in hindsight it makes sense. Any standup comedian usually works alone, unless they're in a sketch troupe or something. I work in sketch alone for the most part, but if I was ever to work with somebody else, this is the perfect scenario, the perfect chemistry. It took a lot of years of establishing who we are and what we think is funny before we were able to work with each other, and find like a really good partnership.
Katie Crown: That's sweet! This is a good inventory of our friendship.
Kathleen Phillips: There's rarely any tension. There was one time when we were writing something that was for a dad and a daughter. And as we were writing it, I could see Katie getting frustrated. And I was like, "This is the part where they all dance, and you'll dance sexy and I'll have a sheet over my head...and I'll be the ghost." And Katie was like, "I don't know if this is working." I was like, "You wanna just switch places? 'Cuz I feel great!"