Variety show spirit alive (and Spookey) in Toronto
Spookey Ruben, born in Ottawa and raised in Germany among other locales, has become a fixture of the Toronto music scene. Well known for his hit "These Days Are Old," Ruben's continued making music while venturing into the realm of experimental film-making. This led to his current venture, Dizzy Playground Live!, a monthly music-focused variety show involving live bands, semi-improvised skits, and short videos.
Dizzy Playground is a unique event in Toronto - even among other variety shows. "It seems like when people say 'variety show', the comedy is usually the main attraction and the musical elements are the side dish," Ruben explains. "In Dizzy Playground Live! it's the other way round: music is the main dish, and the comedy sections and weird videos are the side dishes."
Dizzy Playground is known for eclectic guests such as Ariel Pink, and some well-known Toronto personalities including Feist and The Bicycles. "In most cases all the special guests on my show are musicians/artists I've become friends with over the years... I remember seeing Ariel [Pink] live on stage mumbling by himself into a microphone when I lived in L.A. almost ten years ago - there were like two other people in the audience. I started collecting his tapes, a few weeks later we started collaborating on some instrumentals at my house."
Spookey's skits and videos are highly creative, with an improvised and anarchic energy. Skits begin with a "heavily art-directed" set location, then come "the costumes, the make-up and the names of the characters - the actual content of the story's action and dialogue is not so much a concern. Once the camera's rolling we just start walking and talking. It's not necessarily supposed to be 'funny,' just 'fun to watch' - I called it absurdist improvisational dance."
Ruben's monthly shows will continue on as he works on his upcoming LP Modes III, slated for 2015 - though he hints at some changes coming. "I'm trying to keep the monthly variety show going, even though it probably will be jumping between different venues (different international cities!)." He advises us to keep our eyelids "scotch-taped to our foreheads" in the meantime.
Writing by Dorian Barton. Photo via Spookey Ruben.