Bright lights, big laughs

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Amherst comic finding success in Toronto

TORONTO – There’s the dream, and then there’s the reality, for now at least. Amherst native Laura Bonang would love to be on Saturday Night Live some day – what aspiring comic wouldn’t? – but for now she has to pay the bills working the box office at a live theatre.

Not that she isn’t realizing some success. On the contrary, she’s a member of Lady Business, a three-woman sketch troupe performing at the 8th Annual Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival. Lady Business will be doing a set March 13 at Lower Ossington Hall and March 15 at Comedy Bar.

We caught up with Bonang on the phone from Toronto.

“I’ve always loved comedy and the idea of sketch comedy,” said the comic.

Bonang has been a fan of SNL since she started watching the show at age 10 or 11. Her influences range from British duo Fry & Laurie (as in Hugh Laurie, of ‘House’ fame), to MAD TV. She likes wordy, smart comedy, she said, and appreciates a British sensibility that trusts the audience is smart enough to get a joke without hammering the punchline home.

She has Canadian favourites too, though.

 “Kids in the Hall were just amazing (at) their craft,” she said.

Bonang left Amherst after high school to take theatre at York University in Toronto. She continued her studies at Humber, and has taken classes with Second City.

The sketch festival is a landmark in her career – “This is pretty great.” – but not the first one. Last summer, the troupe traveled to Fringe Fest in Edinburgh to perform. The Scottish event has attracted famous talent over the years, she said.

What does a professional comic think is funny? Well, it takes more than just a well-crafted joke to really impress Bonang, although she has respect for the skill it takes to write one.

“It’s about people that you can believe to be real,” she said, and the situations they find themselves in.

The comic said Mr. D is an exceptional Canadian sitcom. She’s a fan of The Office (the U.K. and American versions), as well as 30 Rock. And she called Arrested Development the best show ever on TV.

Tina Fey is an aspiration for Bonang, but she goes back to Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball when she talks about women who’ve led the way in comedy. She thinks having an all-female troupe lends itself to sketches that touch on gender, and comedy that can be about more than just laughs. The absence of a man onstage or the choice to have one woman play a man can both carry meaning. And she said female comics still get approval or face judgment based on their appearances.

“It is still very hard to be judged solely on your talent,” she said.

The Amherstonian enjoys writing and sees that as her most likely for success in the business. Writing for a sit-com, writing screenplays or creating (and acting in) her own sit-com are all on her radar.

“SNL will always be the dream,” she said.

Until those dreams come true, she has the support of her folks in Amherst and two upcoming gigs in Toronto.

Organizations: York University, Humber

Geographic location: TORONTO, Amherst, Edinburgh U.K.

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