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article imageCBC's 'Baroness von Sketch Show' original, relatable fun Special

By A.R. Wilson     Jun 13, 2016 in Entertainment
'Baroness von Sketch Show' stars and co-creators Aurora Browne and Meredith MacNeill on making CBC's new all-female comedy series.
The four comedians behind CBC's new all-female comedy series Baroness von Sketch Show — Aurora Browne, Meredith MacNeill, Carolyn Taylor, and Jennifer Whalen — had only one rule when writing material for the show: Make it relatable.
That approach and a fresh perspective — that of women closer to Gen X than Gen Y — are the driving force behind the success of "Locker Room," an irreverent sketch released online to promote the show's June 14 premiere. The skit hilariously pokes fun at the immodesty some women exhibit in gym change rooms, a "let it all hang out" attitude that allegedly strikes at age 40.
"I've never felt so entitled to a space!" says a new member of the club when she's introduced to a room full of unabashedly naked middle-aged women, who are plucking, shaving, and wiping as they please.
The video has gone viral, garnering over 1.5 million views on Facebook and eliciting comments from all over the world, including the U.S., the U.K, and Australia.
"I think that the relatability in the show is part of why that particular sketch got so shared around," says Browne, who phones with MacNeill while on a press stop in Winnipeg. "We were expecting trolls and body shaming and stuff and instead we completely got people saying, 'That is so true. I remember that so much.' Even from men."
That men also responded to the sketch and shared their own locker room overexposure tales shouldn't be notable. However, in a world where some people freak out over all-female Ghostbusters, it preemptively demonstrates the universal appeal of Baroness von Sketch Show. From finicky credit card scanners to literal games of "F**K, Marry, Kill" to people letting their wild side out during weekends "at the cottage," the six-episode series peers into modern absurdities and embarrassments that everyone will recognize.
That said, the sketches that focus on the lives of midlife women — such as a fantastic one with friends trying on jeans with names like the "slutty cousin," the "ex-husband," and the "sister-wife" — are a major reason the series feels so original.
"There were no all-female troupes in Canada," says MacNeill. "We're all forty and above and felt there's a real space that we could fill. We thought there's a voice that needs to be heard and let's shout it out."
That process began with the show's largely female writers' room — an extreme rarity in the male-dominated world of comedy.
"I know that one show that I worked on, at one point there were three women to nine men," recalls Browne, a Second City vet who also co-created the CBC Punchline web comedy Newborn Moms. "And at one point in the middle of the writing process, I had to say, 'Hey, guys, when we're casting a part, women can play judges and lawyers.'"
"It's pretty great just to have that change," says MacNeill, who has appeared on This Hour Has 22 Minutes and several U.K. comedies, including Man Stroke Woman. "Our director was female, our [director of photography] was female, a lot of our crew was female."
MacNeill says the group used their extensive comedy backgrounds to build a safe and productive creative environment. "We've all been in the industry for a little while and had different experiences, so when the four of us started to create the show, we wanted to take the best of every writing room we've ever been in and put it in our room."
Browne adds, "It's a very supportive room. I think it was Carolyn and I who were talking, there's this quote from John Cleese and he said, 'I know that some people think that strife and conflict create humour, but I've always believed you can create better humour when everybody's having a good time.' And we have a great time together."
"And, as Aurora always says, we have great snacks in the room," laughs MacNeill.
They ended up writing over 300 sketches and shooting 120 of them in and around Toronto last summer. According to MacNeill, the 90-plus sketches that make up the show's first season are a labour of love. "This is our baby," she says.
Browne concurs: "We visualized the show, we created the show, we wrote the sketches, we created the look and the tone, so it's very satisfying. It's a very complete experience that you don't get when you're just being an actor on camera."
As for audience response, she says, "I'm hoping people can see themselves or people they know in these sketches. I hope that people feel that we're speaking directly to them. That would be super satisfying because that's where the inspiration came from.
"And we're hoping to get a second season, of course."
"Yeah, I think we'd all throw down to keep this one going along," says MacNeill.
'Baroness von Sketch Show' premieres Tuesday, June 14, at 9:30 p.m. ET on CBC.
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