Week Thus Far goes further with Season Two
By Lara Violet
If you are still channel surfing, you may have caught wave of local Shaw TV comedy Week Thus Far, styled after late night talk shows with the host/guest/live band paradigm, but enjoying the zany liberties allotted to public access programming. If you have decided to take your television viewing habits into your own double-clicking hands online, you may be missing out on the bizarre beauty of local DIY TV.
Development of Week Thus Far began when producer Craig Ward got the job of “Master Controller” at Shaw, and approached future WTF host Dan Huen about starting a talk show. With various burgeoning ambitions to start a sketch comedy group, rounding up hilarious talent was almost instantaneous, even though the vision was uncertain. “Nobody knew what this was or was going to be, we knew we wanted jokes, a guest and a band. Beyond that we had nothing pre-conceived. The meetings began to be about whether or not we could actually provide the content,” writer/producer Tim Gray explained.
Between the intro, of host Dan Huen and couched companion Ben “Old Ball Coach” Walker engaging in improvised banter, to the outro live band performance, WTFers seem to have no problem filling the half hour program with free-wheeling entertainment. The fake news reports have all the quick cutting deadpan of The Daily Show, covering stories that range from global significance to Winnipeg-centric. They approach their guests with the same love of incendiary chaos as the Muppets, evident when host Dan Huen challenges CJOB traffic reporter Brian Barkley to navigate a hypothetical journey across town, throwing in obstacles such as a spontaneous flock of sheep, followed by a train. Barkley negotiates the imaginary detours with a sincere sense of duty, a fitting reaction for a city whose artistic community is known for entangling dreams and reality.
It is clear that WTF writers and guests alike have grown tired of the predictable “cold” and “mosquito” mythologies that plague our city, constantly conjuring new ones ready for circulation. When Huen asked city councillor Gord Steeves if mayor Sam Katz can breathe underwater, Steeves responded, “No, I don’t think he can. Just the other day I had him at the YMCA and I held him underneath [makes hair-grasping gesture with hand] and he looked uncomfortable!” One illusion of a superhuman mayor is replaced by lore of bullying amidst city council. It is this undermining of power in iconic local settings and cyclical myth-making that seems to be at the core of Week Thus Far‘s sense of humour.
While you do not have to be fluent in Winnipegoise to get the jokes (“the children’s museum turned 25 today and oddly enough is still hanging around the children’s museum,” for example), a familiarity with the city’s landmarks will garner a greater appreciation for how deep the writers will dig for a laugh, exemplified by a gag in which archaeologists uncover fossilized SAAN stores. “We are lovers of Winnipeg and want to honour it every night by making fun of it” writer/producer William O’Donnell declared.
Many of this city’s comedic gems (Matthew Nightingale, Cathy Herbert, Michael Green, Ryan Ash, Jordan Welwood, just to name a few) have volunteered their time and funny to create a show that contributes to the future of public access TV in Winnipeg, while honouring its rich history by having Rockin’ Ron Pollock (of late ’80s fun-loving and frenzied Pollock and Pollock Gossip Show) as their second-ever guest. Back then, the audience for public access TV was regionally restricted due to the limitations of analog transmission, Week Thus Far benefits from the accessibility of the internet, so that locals, ex-patriates and distant international voyeurs may make themselves delirious with Winnipeg comedy and mythology via video archives and online “news” content.
When asked what we can expect from WTF this year, O’Donnell stated, “We’ve been told that comedy shows should be funny, so we’ll try for that in Season 2.” The first show of the season features Free Press stalwart Bartley Kives as well as fiery country vixens Oh My Darling as musical guests, followed by prolific improv titans Crumbs the following week.
To be part of the live audience, head down to Finn McCue’s Pub in the Johnston Terminal, in the very lap of the Forks, on Monday September 12th at 8pm. The show airs on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Shaw 9 starting September 13, or 24-hours a day, anywhere in the world, on their website: weekthusfar.com.