britanick just for laughs

Fall-down funny duo BriTANicK are at Just for Laughs nightly through July 27

“A quadruplet of olds at BriTANicK’s show declared that it was the worst bloody thing they had ever seen. They are wrong — not only in their assessment of the show, but perhaps about life and how they’ve lived it up until this point.”

A quadruplet of olds marched their way out of BriTANicK’s first Just for Laughs show, the first time the sketch comedy duo have performed the show in Canada, and said, loud enough for everyone waiting in line outside Théâtre Sainte-Catherine for the unrelated Lucas Brothers show, that it was the worst bloody thing they had ever seen.

I can say this as a matter of simple scientific fact: They are wrong — not only in their assessment of BriTANicK as a show, but perhaps about life and how they’ve lived it up until this point.

At least one of the party had a British accent, and my brother hypothesized that perhaps they had been expecting Mitchell and Webb, Armstrong and Miller or that nice lady who does the maths for Jimmy Carr. But if that was the case, I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t have liked the material, much of which seemed genuinely inspired by the titans of British comedy, particularly the absurdist stuff. The pair’s “memory clinic” but was inspired, fall-down funny, a logical progression and remix of Monty Python’s
“argument clinic,” “dead parrot” and “climbing the twin peaks of Kilimanjaro” routines.

I don’t know what our troglodytic cousins from across the pond were expecting, but I am genuinely surprised they didn’t find any of BriTANicK’s routine redeemable. It was tight despite seemingly being improvised, consistent despite coming across as a stream of consciousness and remarkably wide-ranging despite the limited number of props and the relatively cramped stage area of the pint-sized venue.

In fairness, I didn’t know what I was getting into either. I admit, I was also expecting a British comedy duo (for as much as I research comedy acts prior to interviewing them for Cult MTL, I try to keep myself completely ignorant of an equal number of comedians/acts — it’s nice to be surprised). This was one of those pleasant surprises, especially given that, based on the introductory sketch alone, I could not anticipate what the show would ultimately become. It is a remarkable feat to go on a journey with two talented comedians and performers that ultimately takes you somewhere you didn’t expect, and nonetheless find yourself coming full circle.

BriTANicK is partly a comedy duo (brilliantly paired with the equally phenomenal Lucas Brothers, who followed up at 8:30 pm, though the shows are two separate events), a well-established comedy writing team (Saturday Night Live, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and a two-man performance troupe composed of people who seem to have quite a bit of improv experience. It’s sketch comedy, though it has a free association and free-flowing quality to it that makes it seem almost like improv. It’s also highly self-referential, the fourth wall is broken often and the sketches are nestled within each other like Matryoshka dolls. And if I haven’t done a sufficiently good job selling yet, there’s partial nudity and the possibility Brian McElhaney might fuck Nick Kocher on stage. He didn’t succeed last night, but who knows what the future holds (don’t we all want a tasty dish from the fuck buffet?).

BriTANicK proved a few key points about the state of comedy in 2023: Playing the Edinburgh Fringe Fest isn’t particularly lucrative, Just for Laughs charges the talent to use a projector and it’s been long enough that we can start making phenomenal 9/11 jokes. 

In re-reading this, I’m careful to avoid giving anything a way. I don’t want to spoil any surprises, yet despite everything I’ve said here, I have barely scratched the surface of what this show is and what these guys are capable of. It was well-crafted and well-conceived, the product of two comedic professionals earnestly trying to deliver something genuinely unique, and doing so in such an effortless fashion you don’t even realize what you’re watching is breaking new ground until you’re already completely immersed in the world they’ve created for you. Trying hard without appearing to do so is the epitome of craftsmanship, and though I can’t adequately describe exactly what I saw, I know BriTANicK was exceptional. 

Early on in the show, Nick — in character, mind you — said something like, “Following your dream is cute when you’re 19 and really sad when you’re 37.” It got a great laugh. If this was their dream when they were 19, all I can say is I’m glad they followed their dreams, as the world is richer place for it.

Go see this show — you won’t be disappointed. ■

Fall-down funny duo BriTANicK are at Just for Laughs nightly through July 27

BriTANicK continues nightly at Théâtre Sainte-Catherine (264 Ste-Catherine E.) through July 27, 7 p.m., $38

For more Montreal comedy coverage, please visit the Comedy section.