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article imageReview: Married Toronto comics Baram & Sneickus keep the laughs going Special

By Jeff Cottrill     Sep 29, 2016 in Entertainment
Toronto - Naomi Snieckus and Matt Baram are two of the funniest comedians in Toronto, if not all of Canada. And if their new sketch revue, “Still Figuring It Out”, seems a tad uneven in spots, there’s still plenty there to keep your funny bone occupied.
Even if you’ve never seen one of Baram & Snieckus' live shows, the married comedy duo may still look familiar to you: Snieckus has a supporting role on the CBC sitcom Mr. D, while Baram has a bit part in Suicide Squad. Both comics are Second City alumni, and they also supplied half the main cast of The Carnegie Hall Show (along with Ron Pederson and Chris Gibbs), an ingenious weekly live series in which they dressed up in fancy suits and dresses while improvising period-set scenes “written” in past eras.
Still Figuring It Out, which opened at the John Candy Box Theatre last night and runs for two more shows, has the duo performing pre-written sketches, mostly on the theme of dating or relationships. It’s meant as a self-reflexive take on their own marriage, of course – “the most dangerous show a couple could do,” as Snieckus quipped in the introduction last night. As with most sketch shows, some bits work better than others, but Snieckus and Baram have such great chemistry together that the energy never dies. Some longtime couples instinctively finish each other’s sentences; this one lobs “Yes Ands” at each other the same way.
Among the better sketches here: one in which Snieckus tries to watch a baseball game with Baram, but can’t stop commenting on the social injustices she perceives in it; one in which she can’t remember his face at a party, despite ample photo evidence of their long history as friends; and a cruelly hilarious bit in which she ineptly practises for a simple audition, with him coaching. (The last one is reminiscent of the duo’s award-winning web series, The Casting Room, which satirizes common audition mistakes.)
There are also two filmed sketches (apparently to give Snieckus and Baram quick breaks), including a brilliant scene about a couple who attempt a role-playing game in a bar – only to keep messing it up. Another bit about a co-working couple has a good punch line, and a meetup in a park results in the characters listing their own personal quirks, which become progressively stranger. (Snieckus: “I collect tattoos. Not my own.”)
As funny as the written sketches are, it’s when the pair go into improv that they really let loose. In last night’s show, an audience suggestion of “Rush-Hour Polka” begat a wonderful, silly scene with Baram adopting a Shmenge Brothers voice as a man who lived in a laundromat without ever doing laundry. “I picnic here,” he said, while claiming to be from “the part of Poland that borders on Mexico.” Everybody else in the theatre laughed, even Snieckus.
Less successful are a sketch in which the couple try to talk to a dog and end up blurting out their own personal issues with each other, and a lengthy opening scene in which they play a couple reminiscing about their past embarrassments. The few passing references to domestic violence, abortion or rape may not sit well with some more sensitive viewers. Some sketches are recycled from the duo’s revue from last year, You and Me Both, although that’s not a problem for audience members who missed that one.
Again, the improvised parts in Still Figuring It Out show Baram & Snieckus at their strongest, and this may leave some in the audience starving for more improv – especially if they’re familiar with Carnegie Hall or the improvised parodies of Tennessee Williams and David Mamet plays that the pair did with The National Theatre of the World. But as Second City vets, the couple certainly shouldn’t be shrugged off when it comes to prepared material. They’ve long figured that out, too.
Baram & Snieckus: Still Figuring It Out runs at the John Candy Box Theatre (at the Second City Training Centre) tonight and tomorrow night.
More about naomi snieckus, matt baram, Second City, Comedy, sketch comedy
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