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The Holodeck Follies: Star Trek humor for all to enjoy

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The host of Space channel’s ‘InnerSpace,’ Morgan Hoffman, with the cast of the Holodeck Follies: (from left) Hoffman, Alan Leightizer, Dale Wells, Zach Mealia, Andie Leathley, Jason Zinger, Lara Harb. (image: courtesy of Morgan Hoffman/The Dandies)

I’m a fly on the wall, listening to Andie Leathley (of the Toronto comedy team, The Dandies) conclude her interview with Morgan Hoffman, the lovely host of Space Channel’s Innerspace. This is just before the season finale performance of the Holodeck Follies – a Star Trek inspired improvisational comedy performance that Toronto Trek fans and non-Trek fans can both enjoy.

Right now, Andie is modestly describing her talented skill in creating the tribbles, uniforms and communicator badges the cast uses in their performances. They look adorable and Morgan loves them too. She’s laughing long and, dare I say, prospering as I write this. Andie’s far too modest – they’re both wonderful and I want a tribble of my own.

A creation of Dale Wells, a graduate of the inaugural musical conservatory at Second City, Holodeck Follies has been running nearly every month since February of 2013. Hosted at Black Swan Comedy/The Social Capital Theatre in Toronto, Dale felt that as Star Trek lends itself extremely well to both ensemble and solo performances it would provide a unique form of musical improvisational work. Also being a big fan of science fiction and especially Star Trek, the choice was obvious.

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Included in the cast are Dale Wells, Andie Leathley, Alan Leightizer, Lara Harb and Jason Zinger. Zinger provides the musical accompaniment for the show. For the performance I’m at tonight, a cameo cast includes Hugh Cameron, Kayleigh Robertson and Brie Watson. In addition to interviewing the cast, Morgan Hoffman also joined the crew of the USS Albatross tonight as Ensign Morgana Slashala and demonstrated her comedic improv skills.

At this moment Morgan is currently tickling her tribble and listening to it purr.

I have a good life.

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Yours truly at the Holodeck Follies show sporting a Vulcan Ale t-shirt I won in a raffle run by the Dandies. (image: courtesy of The Dandies)

Holodeck Follies is more than just a comedy – it’s a skillful demonstration of that most difficult of comedic arts: the parody. It not only pokes good-natured fun at the media it is inspired from but it also elevates it by showing a detailed knowledge of the subject matter at the same time. Such detailed information can only come from a true lover of Star Trek in all its various incarnations.

A really fun element to the Holodeck Follies is the audience interaction. Special sound effects are provided by the audience, like the sliding doors. Every time a crew member motions with their hands that he is about to pass through doors, the audience is cued to make a swishing sound; same thing with the transporter effect or when the ship enters into warp speed. It’s a chance for the audience to become part of the show which is always the sign of a successful performance.

Oh, as an added bonus, Panago Pizza is supplying pizza for free tonight. It’s the season finale for the Follies, and how great is it to enjoy free pizza with your comedy? A very classy touch. Captain Tachyon Starfield (Wells) and crew know how to take care of their guests.

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Cast member Andie Leathley enjoys complimentary pizza from Panago. (image: courtesy of The Dandies)

Morgana Slashala (Hoffman) has now joined the crew on stage. Presently she is suffering from a love ailment caused by space tendrils and is announcing her love for the rest of the crew. Why? Who cares? It’s improv and Hoffman is really getting into the spirit. Actually, she’s pretty good. She can’t sing, but she’s funny. Of course, it must be difficult to sing when your body is infested by alien space love parasites. Ah… Star Trek improv and love: a deadly combination. Now we segue into Morgan’s desire to have space babies with one of the crew.

They’re going to name it Gorth.

I’m writing this as I’m watching but I’m laughing so hard that it is virtually impossible to continue writing. The Holodeck Follies is a blast. This evening the house is packed and the entire crew is in excellent Star Fleet Academy form. There’s good beer on tap and everyone is involved and, pardon the joke, engaged. Did I mention there was free pizza?

Another great feature of the show is the inclusion of other acts that may not be Star Trek oriented but are still pretty entertaining in their own right. For example, tonight’s show includes a performance by stand-up comedienne, Rachelle Elie. I’ve now progressed to the part when she’s killing the audience with her stylings about being a mum and answering delicate questions about flavoured condoms to her pre-teen son. She’s definitely fun to listen to and hopefully gets more chances to entertain other audiences.

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Comedian Rachelle Elie (image: by David Leyes via Rachelle Elie Facebook page).

You know, this is the great thing about living in Toronto. Not only do we get to enjoy a selection of different cultures, but we get to experience humour in all its various incarnations, Star Trek comedy included. But anything Star Trek is good… even jokes about space tendrils.

We’ve reached intermission and I have to put my pen down now. I can’t write any more… my sides ache and I just want to enjoy the rest of the show. With laughs galore in its warp-wake, the crew of the USS Albatross has certainly entertained its ship-load of guests. Hoffman has left the club now. Well done to Our Lady of Space Channel. She held her own with some pretty funny performers. These guys are definitely crazy and hopefully that came out in the television interview the Holodeck Follies are featured in that should run on Innerspace fairly soon.

But hey… sometimes you need a little bit of crazy on a starship. We’ll see the Follies return in January of the New Year. If you’re in Toronto, you definitely need to check out this show.

Until then, make sure you laugh long and prosper.

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About Captain John K. Kirk

Captain John K. Kirk
John Kirk is an English and History teacher and librarian in Toronto, Canada. In addition to the traditional curriculum, John tries to teach his students to make sense of geek culture. And with the name "J. Kirk," it's hard for him to not inject "Star Trek" into his lessons. Comics, RPGs and the usual fanboy gear make up his classroom resources.