‘Too Busy for Spooks’ Comedy Show Frights At Le P’tit Impro

Local Femme & Non-Binary Performers Delight At Infemous

  • Sarah Swinwood performed her suburban mom character Barb Durguss for the first time on Oct. 19. Photo Stella Mazurek

  • The show combines both storytelling and improv to create a space of laughter and understanding between the audience members and performers. Photo Stella Mazurek

“I’m going to continue building her,” said Sarah Swinwood about the first time she performed her sketch character Barb Durguss at the comedy show Too Busy for Spooks on Oct. 19.

Swinwood sat down on stage as Barb Durguss, a suburban mom wearing a bunny headband and her night robe. Beneath the stage light, Swinwood played the part of a sick and tired mother who smoked and swore about her problems.

Swinwood’s stand-up style stems from situations that have made her uncomfortable—she uses comedy to bring out the strangeness from everyday life.

“Once when I was in high school, a friend’s neighbour was yelling, ‘Get in the fucking car Jordan!’—to her seven-year-old son, and we were all shocked,” said Swinwood.

Saima Ahmed told personal stories, such as her getting into her divorce. Photo Stella Mazurek

Barb Durguss emerged from her experience as a teen growing up in Ottawa and surrounding small towns.

“There’s this type of small town Ontario woman who has a high moral ground, but is potty mouthed and smoking,” said Swinwood about the creation of Barb Durguss.

The act that followed Swinwood’s included two monologues by Saima Ahmed, who told the tale of her divorce.

A group of improvisers—Mariana Vial, Laura Galita, Kate Bradley, Lauren DeRoller, and Kate Hammer—used Ahmed’s monologue for inspiration for their improvisation set.

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“We never want to replay the life or replay the story that she told,” said Hammer, who is the founder and organizer of Infemous, which put on Too Busy for Spooks.

“Infemous in itself is an hour-show of honest storytelling and improv,” explained Hammer.

The show combines both storytelling and improv to create a space of laughter and understanding between the audience members and performers.

“There’s that sense of improvisation and following the moment, following your heart. I love it all—I love it all! That’s why I want to do it all.” — Kate Hammer

Infemous is weekly comedy show centering around women and non-binary performers. According to Hammer, Infemous has always been an energetically fast-paced show.

“As a scene partner, you soft yes until you figure out what is going on,” explained Hammer about working as an improv group on the stage.

“There was one show I did where men literally kept physically standing in front of me and cutting me off, not respecting and misgendering me,” said Hammer.

For this reason, Hammer decided to build her own show that would be more inclusive and understanding of non-binary and gender nonconforming comedians.

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“I’d be like, ‘I’m wearing men’s pants,’ and they’d be like, ‘Mary! Mary, my wife,’” said Hammer. “It was very frustrating because you didn’t feel listened to.”

“I like looking at people’s faces and connecting and saying like, ‘Did we like that joke? Did we not? Should I press, should I back off?’” said Hammer.

Kate Hammer is the founder and organizer of Infemous, which put on Too Busy for Spooks. Photo Stella Mazurek

Hammer explained that, as a comedian, she tries to connect and feed off the reactions of her audience while listening to her scene partners.

“Performance is power because you don’t feel like you can interrupt,” she said.

Through her shows with Infemous, Hammer aims to grant those with the same passion for comedy the confidence and skills to create their own shows.

Swinwood admires Hammer for her presence and her confidence.

“You can really feel her presence in the room,” said Swinwood.

“I love the energy that Kate [Hammer] brings to the room and I see myself in her,” she said. “It encourages me to keep at it and to stay confident and not be afraid to be bold.”

Hammer successfully created a dynamic stage for those who could flaunt their skills as humorists and storytellers.

“There’s that sense of improvisation and following the moment, following your heart,” said Hammer. “I love it all—I love it all! That’s why I want to do it all.”

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