Let us salute the local pandemic broadcasters who have made life more bearable

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There’s been much talk of “the show must go on” for performers under the stifling audience-erasing of the pandemic — it’s central to their lives, after all. But the reality is, it’s tough to recapture the essence of a live show when you’re watching it on a small screen instead of inside an appreciative crowd, especially at extended lengths, especially on garish Zoom.

The efforts of those maintaining institutional continuity should be applauded, and we’ve been doing just that. But to be honest, what’s really been standing out and thriving locally has been forms of content invented inside our pandemic, inspiring new innovations which each take advantage of the way we already consume our handheld theatrics — with just the right balance of gonzo and polish.

Kicking awake the sleeping ghost of the Journal’s daily Three to See column, I’d like to highlight three local, for-real geniuses who’ve made all this COVID-19 nonsense more bearable in the last few months, as easily accessible as tapping their social media pages.


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The first is Marielle Elizabeth’s Isolation Tonight comedy newscast, running between three and five minutes. They’ve already earned the photographer and body-positivity advocate over 20,000 views — find her as @marielle.elizabeth on Instagram.

Noting a love of late-night political satire along the lines of The Daily Show segments, she noticed a lack of quality Canadian content in the format. And, she jokes over the phone, making them is “something cheaper than a puzzle for my husband and I to do together.”

Without mercy, she goes after our petrophile politicians all the way up to the general zeitgeist, noting in an April episode, “Women across Canada are experiencing a violent sense of déjà vu this week after a handsome, middle-class white man tells them to just stay home, bake some bread and let him take care of the money.”

She notes, “Right now, I think the news is much more palatable if it comes with a punch line.

“Comedy is often how I’ve processed other things that were frustrating or outrageous, to really magnify how f—ed up the situation is.”

Brightly lit and beautifully framed — Elizabeth has a photographer’s eye — yet she nonetheless forgot to make her bed in the background of her first episode. The moment she made fun of that was ground zero of the show’s charm, and she says the cracks appearing were inevitable, living in “a literal 800-foot loft where we can’t be not in the same room together, just weeks and weeks of this.


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“It’s an interesting intersection of me and my partner’s skills,” she notes of Elijah Lindenberger, who produces, edits and shoots. “We’ll decide we want to make an episode. Then probably about a day and a half of joke writing.”

That’s another X-factor that works for these pop-up productions — time for preparation — which we also find in local actor Jessie Gervais’ amazing blue-screen Isolation Scenes. (He’s @jesse.gervais on Instagram.)

In them, with amazing seamlessness, he plays both Jesse and Jiffy, two actors working through famous movie scenes together, including the climaxes of There Will Be Blood, Brokeback Mountain and Fight Club.

Jesse and Jiffy — both Jesse Gervais —perform the milkshake scene from There WIll Be Blood.
Jesse and Jiffy — both Jesse Gervais —perform the milkshake scene from There WIll Be Blood. Photo by Fish Griwkowsky /Postmedia

Breaking the fourth wall, things go wrong when one Gervais accidentally hits another too hard during the famous “I drink your milkshake” scene. But of course, think about it, it’s all planned and edited — Gervais’ ability to LEGO his scene in space is a wonder to behold.

“After all our shows got cancelled I lost six months of work and thought I should probably pull this idea I had about these two guys trapped in this house together. One of them wanted to do scenes from plays and movies, and the other one, who is actually the good actor, didn’t,” he laughs.

“I started out with Waiting for Godot, and they end up having this argument and never actually get to the scene — and then it just snowballed from there.

“It’s quite difficult to act to someone who isn’t there,” he laughs. “But I was really interested in that challenge, and it actually fit the theme of isolation, me acting all by myself.


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“The low-fi, I think, is part of the charm.”

A member of Die-Nasty, he notes, “I am desperately missing that connection with the audience, but I’m really enjoying these.”

Numerically, one of the biggest pandemic broadcaster success stories around here is Caroline Stokes who — on Instagram as @imcarolinestokes — has also been performing duet covers of a sort, in her case mirroring photographs and footage of famous actors and viral dance videos — whether it’s the head turn of Jack Black’s Nacho Libre or an affected pose by Justin Bieber with hilariously inaccurate Sharpied tattoos, including one that just says “bread.”

Caroline Stokes, right, doing a fine Nacho Libre. See more at @imcarolinestokes on IG.
Caroline Stokes, right, doing a fine Nacho Libre. See more at @imcarolinestokes on IG. Photo by Caroline Stokes /Supplied

A massage therapist and musician-actor, Stokes was hit with a two-punch by isolation. Yet like many artists, she took advantage of a thin silver lining. “I love my work as a massage therapist, but before all of this I just wanted more opportunity to be at home and create things.

“It’s like the guilt and the pressure around making money has been totally lifted for a bit, because that isn’t even a possibility for me right now.

“It’s not like I walk around all day singing and dancing in a costume,” she laughs. “It’s not like life right now is amazing. But I’m so entertained by all of the ways people have been trying to stay busy at home.”

In her full-costume dance videos, Stokes has been taking on increasingly difficult muses, and with her terrific comedic awkwardness they’re funniest when she has no chance in hell of matching the originals. “I like to broadcast all styles of movement,” she laughs again.


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“The more I hear, ‘This was the best one yet,’ the more I think I have to up my game. But something I find so fascinating is you just never know what one will be one that really stands out for people.”

One of her mimic jobs — footage of BBC fitness guru Tony Britts working out in the ’80s — ended up getting 2.5 million views after being shared by Defected Records on Facebook.

“I’m just so amazed people are watching what I’m doing. I think my parents are thinking, ‘Wow, who knew that she would get some attention for these ridiculous things she does.’

“You hear about videos going viral. I thought when it reached a million streamers would fall out of the ceiling; the phone would just ring off the hook.

“But I was just home alone by myself. My parents FaceTimed me and that was great.”




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