This interview didn’t start out so well. We were supposed to have a conference call, but technology wasn’t on our side. So, I spoke with Baroness von Sketch Show’s Aurora Browne and Jenn Whalen separately, asking them the same questions. I won’t compare their answers like we’re on The Newlywed Show – although there is a sketch based on this premise in the upcoming fourth season, where expecting parents get individually quizzed at their baby shower. Both were excellent, patient, and hilarious sports about it, just what I would expect from some of Canada’s best comedians.
Browne and Whalen will be in Kingston on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2019, taking part in “Baroness von Sketch – In Conversation With Jenn and Aurora,” one of nearly 70 events happening this weekend’s Kingston Canadian Film Festival. They’ll be discussing their hit sketch show, the Canadian television industry, and anything else that comes up during the audience Q&A.
“I expect it will be a deep nerding out about television,” says Whalen.
“We’ll talk about the industry, and where comedy in Canada can go from here,” says Browne. “We have a lot of talent in Canada, and we want to keep nudging it forward. I’m always curious to hear what people have to say about that kind of thing.”
Both Browne and Whalen have performed in Kingston previously when they were part of the Second City troupe, and they’re excited to come back.
“I was there about a year and a half ago with my husband and step-son,” says Whalen. “They went to a Frontenacs game and just loved it. I took a Haunted Walk, which was really a lovely stroll through downtown on its own, plus all the fun history.”
Baroness von Sketch show debuted on CBC in 2016 and also includes Carolyn Taylor and Meredith MacNeill.
“Carolyn has an obsession with Baroness von Schraeder from the Sound of Music,” explains Browne. “We wanted the title to be kind of obvious about what the show is, and looking through some historical baronesses, we found a lot of quirky characters, so it fit perfectly.”
The foursome came together organically, meeting over time through collaborations at Second City and as writers and performers on This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
“It’s a different beast to do a weekly topical show like 22 Minutes,” says Browne. “It takes a lot of energy and a lot of focus. We’re really enjoying looking at sort of ‘small p’ political, the politics of people’s lives.”
“It’s so satisfying to craft a good joke for a topical item,” says Whalen. “But reading that much news every day is quite depressing. I was writing about climate change 15 years ago, and I realized the other day that nothing has really changed. The planet has been in serious jeopardy for at least that long. So staying on top of the news was sometimes just bleakness after bleakness after bleakness.”
“Jon Stewart is kind of glad he walked away from that world,” adds Browne. “Partly because he doesn’t have to watch Fox News all the time. I really cherish that I can step away from Twitter if I want to. It’s like being forced to watch snuff films all day.”
Whalen, Browne, and their co-stars are not only the stars of Baroness von Sketch Show, but also the creators, head writers, and are heavily involved in editing.
“We’re in it all year,” says Whalen. “With comedy, editing is so important because it’s all about timing. So we felt the need to be a part of that process, too.”
The Baronesses had plenty to say about the recent controversy in the Canadian comedy world, in which the Sirius XM station Canada Laughs decided to focus most of its content on a partnership with the Just For Laughs comedy festival, essentially taking up-and-coming comics off the air. Canadian comedians have been saying that they are losing a valuable avenue for not only income, but exposure in a tough business.
“It’s unfortunate. And that’s kind of an understatement, “ says Browne. “I don’t know what the accounting is like at Canada Laughs or what their books were looking like, but the fact is that because we have a country with a much smaller population, yet we’re still competing in the US market, comedians really depend on that money. It’s one of very few revenue streams available to a comic.”
“I stand with the stand-ups!” says Whalen. “We’re known for being funny in Canada, but it’s so hard to make a living in this country. It’s so hard for Canadians to support our own endeavours. It would be really great to see Canadians stay here and not have to go to the US to see success.”
While this Saturday’s event is billed as a conversation more than a performance, it still requires some prep work from the Baronesses.
“I’m going to have a shower,” says Whalen. “And try to figure out something that looks good sitting down. That’s important.”
As they take a brief break for editing the fourth season of Baroness von Sketch Show for their appearance here on Saturday, neither Browne nor Whalen could stop gushing about their job.
“It’s a dream job,” says Whalen. “I can’t emphasize that enough.”
“It’s the best job I’ll ever have,” says Browne. “I guess it’s all downhill after this.”
Saturday’s event takes place at the Holiday Inn Kingston Waterfront at 7 pm. Tickets are $25 in advance online.