11th annual festival highlights alternative talent

Award-winning comedians come together to honour sketch comedy

Toronto is home to a network of talented people who develop their public personas by emphasizing the unique elements of what they do.

For some, that meshes nicely with events like Busker Fest, which highlights local performing acts, and North by Northeast (NXNE), which focuses on live music and alternative art like sketch comedy.

But there’s also the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival, which was introduced in 2005 to create new opportunities for networking comedians. Inspired by similar events in Chicago and Vancouver, the festival invites beginners and professionals to showcase their passion for humour.

This year’s edition opened last Thursday and runs at various Toronto venues until this coming Sunday, March 13.

One of the performers will be Marty Topps, the award-winning comedic alter ego developed by Stratford-born Isaac Winter.

After moving to Toronto to attend York University’s film program in 2004, Winter decided to attempt an open-mic night on-campus.

“I don’t know if I was nervous or if I wasn’t proud of my material,” he said, “but I just worded out the name ‘Marty Topps’ on the sign up sheet and I kept that name ever since.”

For several years that followed, Winter began writing and performing on The Marty Topps House Party Show, a series of videos that would later gain momentum on YouTube. What he described as a variety show complete with circus performers, bands and comedians began to build a following for him in Toronto. When he decided to translate his sketch work into music, he met with another warm reception.

Winter has performed Marty Topps solo — but also as part of the comedy collective Laugh Sabbath at the Comedy Bar on Bloor Street West. Either way, his act plays off aspects of his personal life; a funny spin on failed relationships and a fondness for the U.S. sportswear company TapouT.

The current instalment of the TO Sketch Comedy Festival is honouring 10 years of Laugh Sabbath.

“When I was first starting out in comedy, I used to go and watch them at the Rivoli,” Winter recalled. “I was just in awe of what they were doing.”

This is Winter’s second year at the festival and he’s performing twice: once yesterday and again this coming Thursday, March 10. Both shows have been slated for the “SiriusXM Stage.”

Last year, Winter said, “I don’t think they knew what to expect from me but I ended up getting the Best of the Fest showcase.”

Curious to know what to expect this year? Marty is holding his cards close to his chest. About all he will give away is this advice:

“Don’t forget your wallets.”

Don't miss Isaac Winter as Marty Topps at the 11th annual TO Sketch Comedy Festival
Isaac Winter performs as Marty Topps this Thursday at the 11th annual TO Sketch Comedy Festival. (Courtesy of Marty Topps)

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