For those, like me, who know Gavin Crawford from his time on This Hour has 22 Minutes, the prospect of being able to see him perform live in Edmonton is pretty exciting. Gavin is kicking off Canoe Theatre Festival on January 28 with his one-man show, Sh**ting Rainbows, however, don’t expect the same show you’d get on weeknights on CBC. Gavin says, “[On 22 Minutes] we’re only allowed to go to a certain place. One of the joys of doing something live is you can actually go a little further with it. It will be a slightly edgier me than you normally see at 8:30 on CBC.”
Gavin describes Sh**ting Rainbows as a “very hilarious mishmash” of stand-up, songs, character monologues, and accents. And, if pressed for an overarching theme, he says it is, “Where are we at now in terms of gay people things or otherwise. That’s the general theme, but it’s not all that. There’s politics and it’s kind of a weird satirical look at where we are as a society at whatever moment I happen to be performing.” While not giving away everything you’ll see at the show, Gavin says, “You’ll hear about Facebook, about West Jet, about Quebec, probably Bill 10, there’s some CBC radio things, [and] there’s plenty of Germans [and] Americans.” And he hinted that Severus Snape – or at least his spot-on impression of him – may even make an appearance.
Throughout our conversation about Gavin’s work and, in particular Sh**ting Rainbows, one theme that keeps coming up is his taste for exploring the dichotomy in almost any subject. “That’s always a hard thing as a comedian. You don’t want to accept everything on face value, you’re always looking at what is the good of something and the bad of something and how do I point that out in the most bizarre way possible?”
Gavin says his knack for finding the inherent dichotomy in just about anything is another factor that will underlie a lot of the performance of Sh**ting Rainbows in Edmonton. “I think I have that weird dichotomy in me. Maybe growing up in southern Alberta but also being gay and wanting to be an actor but also growing up Mormon… It’s not exactly hating southern Alberta. It’s having a certain love for Alberta on one hand but also getting so annoyed by other things. That sort of thing lives in me… [Like] Alberta and Quebec and how they’re weirdly the same province. Which sounds sort of insane, but if you spend a quantity of time in both Quebec and Alberta, you meet people that are very similar in one way except that they’re vehement about opposite issues. Albertans are very staunchly Albertan and the Québécois are staunchly Québécois in literally the exact same way which is very funny to me, having spent time in both places. When I was shooting something in Quebec I was sitting around listening to all these Québécois people complaining about the rest of Canada – ‘They’re taking all our money!’ – and I’m like, ‘Wow, I have heard this somewhere before!’… I wanted to say to the guy, ‘You should meet my Dad. You are exactly the same and you would hate each other because you’re exactly alike.’ So, it’s surfing in dangerous territory but also if you can tweak it and do it in a funny way it makes people think of something they haven’t thought of before.”
Gavin’s penchant for dichotomy makes its way into the show’s title as well. “It sort of comes out of that thing of that strange dichotomy of ‘The celebration of everything gay is rainbows! Rainbows!’ Which is, on one hand, really brave and celebratory, but on the other hand it becomes a bit too much. It’s like can we define this another way? Does it have to constantly be a rainbow glitter party? … We’ve simplified everything down to, ‘Hooray! Rainbows!’ So that’s where that title came from. It’s like, ‘Yes, you’re becoming that gay that you’re shitting rainbows’… I also like the idea of seeing something terrible and making it fabulous. I enjoy the dichotomy in everything, basically.”
Given that I typically speak with artists working in text-based theatre, I wanted to find out a bit more about Gavin’s process of creating the characters he uses in his skits. Gavin says his characters come about in a number of ways. “Sometimes I’ll have a voice I’m working on or a character who talks in a certain way and I’ll just be imitating them and then back pocket them and as I find subjects I want to talk about, I’ll be like, ‘Oh, this person could talk about this subject.’ or ‘What if I jammed that together?’ Or sometimes [the characters] just sort of come out. I’ll be walking around and just start doing a monologue about a subject and the character will be there and it’s just a process of writing it down and trying to figure out cohesively these things are not germane to what the piece is about… I fortunately have a really great writing partner who is the complete opposite of me and also very funny. My partner Kyle Tingley helps me. He co-writes the shows with me and also directs them. We’ve been working together for many years, almost 18 years now. I come from an improv background and I tend to go off and work it out or act it out… So, I’ll get sort of everything in my head or in the voice I want and get it down on paper and send it over to him and he’ll look at it and he does all the dramaturgical work… A lot of [my process] is instinctual and I don’t know what I’m trying to say. Or, when I am actually saying something, I still don’t know what I meant to say. So he comes from the outside and says, ‘It seems like you’re saying this.’ ”
And what “this” exactly is, we’ll have to wait until January 28 to find out, but Gavin’s parting words to me were: “Come! Because you will have a great time and you won’t leave pissed off!”
Gavin Crawford will be performing Sh**ting Rainbows in Edmonton one night only on January 28 @ 7:00 p.m. to open Canoe Theatre Festival (January 28 – February 1). Sh**ting Rainbows will be followed by an opening gala reception. Tickets are $30 – $35 from Workshop West.