Being honest, some of the most interesting parts of Paul Anthony’s Talent Time are not whatever is on the stage, but everything happening around it. I’m talking about all the little moments that happen in between all the big moments: a stage hand plugging something into the floor, the band member checking his phone in the last thirty seconds before start time, and – my personal favourite – Proud Stage Dad preparing to hit “record” on the camcorder as soon as his daughter comes on. Yes, Proud Stage Dad, I saw you and chuckled heartily to myself at your expense.
This is not to discredit the show’s host and mastermind Paul Anthony or the revolving acts of his television circus, but for me that’s almost always the most interesting part of any show, regardless of the main event. And, anyways, part of the charm of Talent Time is its honesty. They don’t try to hide the kinks and hiccoughs, if anything they use comedy to accentuate them. How admirable it is to point the finger at one’s self.
Watching the audience is always a treat. Eclectic. Eccentric. Often times, bizarre. Many types flock here. It is funny to think that they all have at least one thing in common. But, after all, it is its audience a show like this has to thank – and they do. Audience participation is often a highlight of the show; at least it has been for as many times as I’ve seen it. And this time round there was a special focus on getting the audience involved.
Games night was the theme. A cardboard, DIY version of the popular television game show Family Feud (retitled for Talent Time’s purposes: Family Argument) was the game. Like in any good game there were two teams or, in this case, “families.” One was made up of five audience members. The other was made up of five entertainers: Middle-aged “teen pop” singer I,KANDEE, comedians Aaron Read, Sophie Buddle, Graham Clark and Talent Time co-host Ryan Beil. The game was played according to the rules as seen on the original Family Feud: teams are asked questions based on the results of surveys given to smalls groups of average Americans.
The audience members absolutely wiped the floor with the team of entertainers. This was in part due to the entertainers being unable to resist trading bunk answers in return for raucous laughter – but who can blame them? Words were exchanged, set pieces destroyed – all in the name of having a good time. And in such a case I think everybody wins.
The rest of the evening was divided between music and comedy. 12-year-old Ava Frye, who has raised more money for a hospital than I have ever made cleaning floors and picking up other people’s garbage, kicked off the show with a song she wrote about being true to one’s self.
The taste of bubblegum leftover in all our mouths after her wonderfully palatable performance was quickly eliminated soon afterwards by Aaron Read and his properly dark “two-line” comedy. Donning the voice and attire of a character out of a fast-talking, old-timey film, Read played the role of the lonesome half of a comedy duo whose partner had passed away before the show. He invited members of the audience to join him on stage to read the second lines of his two-line jokes – only to slowly reveal sad truths about his “former partner,” – in the most hilarious way imaginable.
He was followed by Sophie Buddle, whose stand-up act doubled as a window into an all-girls slumber party. The second half geek-chic band The Runaway Four played songs I didn’t recognize from video games I’ve never played (although, to be fair, there were a lot of people in the audience who did.) And then it was time for the games to begin.
Overall the night was fun and entertaining – exactly as it should be. Talent Time never disappoints, and even though nobody actually won $20,000 being there was a reward in itself.
Paul Anthony's Talent Time can be experienced live, the first Thursday of every month at the Rio Theatre. Not to be missed is their 8th annual Christmas Special on December 3rd. An edited version of the show plays 5 days a week on Shaw TV and twice daily on the Novus Network.