Of disco singing physicists and “Name That Bum”

Comedy is a serious business. Delivery, timing and a thousand variables must be carefully considered before a finished product is shown to an audience. So you can be assured that when you finally see Stephen Hawking take the stage and sing the greatest disco hits of the ’70s, you’re taking part in something magnificent.

Beginning Sept. 4, the five-member Calgary troupe Obscene But Not Heard will present a series of carefully orchestrated sketches entitled Cirque Du So Lame, dispensing comedy that’s aiming for the head as well as the always hilarious groin.

"We’re always trying to be witty," says group member Trevor Campbell. "We won’t go for the lowbrow unless it’s clever. We begin with a concept that leaves us all howling, then we hack and slash it until it’s distilled to the core."

Aiming to avoid the often drawn-out one joke premises that shows like Saturday Night Live have made infamous, Obscene But Not Heard aspires to comedy on a higher level–jokes within jokes, plays on words and even send-ups of Greek theatre.

"Ubiquitous, here you are again."

Even when a group takes its comedy seriously, there are bound to be bits that can’t appeal to everyone. Therein lies one of the great parts of sketch comedy, according to member Len Harvey.

"With stand-up comedy, the audience just wants to be fed," he says, pantomiming shoveling what I can only assume is supposed to be comedy into his mouth. "With sketch comedy, we can just say, ‘come with us on the ride’ and lose ourselves in the characters. We have one audience member who we always keep in mind, an older woman with one of those amazing encyclopedic minds, someone who can really appreciate the kind of intellectual comedy we aim for. At the same time, we know she might not be as fond of ‘Name That Bum.’"

Though the evening of sketch comedy takes its name from a famous troupe of Quebecois clowns, parody is only a bookend for two hours of finely crafted fun. With stand-up comedian Barbara North and the all-female comedy styling of Tiny Tuna opening the night, Cirque Du So Lame promises two hours of entertainment without the cumbersome presence of international acrobats in brightly coloured tights.

"There aren’t any fake, heavily muscled units here," counsels Campbell. "We’ve turned down the production values so that we can turn up the funny."

Cirque Du So Lame runs Sept. 4 to 6 at the Daniel Sponange Centre.

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