TORONTO – The legendary Jim Cornette once said that “funny doesn’t draw money.” But starting this Friday night, the cast of “Sleeperhold” — a Toronto improv comedy troupe’s unscripted comedic look behind the curtain of a 1980s wrestling territory — is hoping to put that theory to the test.
The show, which runs weekly from April 24 through May 22 at the Bad Dog Comedy Theatre, will focus on the backstage drama of the fictional Northern Ontario Wrestling territory, a promotion that (drawing on real-life events at the time) is struggling to survive the national expansion of the WWE juggernaut.
While that premise may not necessarily sound like fertile ground for laughs, two of the show’s cast members have deep experience in both areas, so will help ensure the right mix of chuckles and chokeholds.
Those two are wrestler RJ Skinner (who wrestles as RJ City but is also widely known for his role on YTV’s Splatalot) and Nug Nahrgang who Canadian WWE fans watch every week on Sportsnet’s Aftermath analysis show.
Nahrgang has years of acting and comedy experience, including both sketch and improv, having performed for Second City’s touring company, working on cruise ships, and stage shows like Evil Dead: The Musical and more recently, Cannibal: The Musical, and even once was invited to audition for Saturday Night Live in the late ’90s. So it was only natural that he would eventually combine both his loves. An after-show conversation with RJ, who has been making his own waves on the city’s improv stages lately, got the ball rolling for Sleeperhold.
“We were joking around about wrestling’s behind-the-scenes stories being ripe for this kind of a show,” Nahrgang told SLAM! Wrestling, “and the more we talked about it the more we thought it could work.”
“(We came up with a) really unique mix of straight-up comedy and classic wrestling idiocy,” added RJ. “It’s really an idiotically-written love letter to all we love about wrestling.”
That includes the larger-than-life personalities that defined the industry during that era. The show features a number of these classic character types that any fan will instantly recognize.
“We’ve got the retired wrestler-turned-booker, the next-generation star, the valet, the rotating gimmick tag team,” listed Nug. “It’s a classic sandbox of characters.”
“It’s so much fun to play these big-gimmick characters before and after the bell,” noted RJ. “Adding to the fun — for the audience and also the cast — is the fact that the audience will be providing suggestions for the actors (throughout) the show.”
Meaning that every show in the run will be unique. So while there may be some running threads over the entire series, the show is more episodic than serial, “so feel free to come out for any and all of the shows,” plugged RJ. “There’s definitely something for everyone.”
- For more information on Sleeperhold and to buy tickets, visit its Facebook page
- Bad Dog Theatre Company
Bob Kapur has been performing improv comedy for years. E-mail him at [email protected], and he’ll “Yes, and…” you back.