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5 Questions for Briana Templeton of Templeton Philharmonic

On Friday, March 13th, Briana Templeton will be taking to the stage with her comedy partner Gwynne Phillips at The Theatre Centre, a newish venue at 1115 Queen St. They are performing as a part of The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival, which was headlined by Kate McKinnon and The Pajama Men.

Local sketch troupes like Templeton Philharmonic need to receive more attention, as most comedy festivals focus upon stand-up, and not enough on sketch, which is an essential form. We caught up with Briana in advance of hosting the Oscars at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, when she discussed her love of the movie Foxcatcher, great places to see shows, and Templeton Philharmonic’s comedy aesthetic.

How did the two of you meet?

Gwynne and I, we both went to U of T together, and we studied Drama. In our final year, we both had an opportunity to go and perform a play in Milan at a Festival about Italian Futurism. So we did this super weird fun show, and we realized that we both really liked working together, and in 2011, we applied to Montreal Fringe, and we realized that we wanted to do this interpretive, intense drama about dreams. We ended writing a sketch show.

What are your most important rules for sketch comedy?

It’s really nice feeling that you have an artistic soul mate. It’s important to distill your ideas for a sketch. Keeping it short is good.

What and Whom are your comedic influences?

Pajama Men, an Australian duo are going to be at the Festival, and I’m going to see them live. Key & Peele are amazing. When Gwynne and I sit down to write, we also like watching a lot of weird old movies, and we’re sometimes able to mine those for material as well. We really love choosing a certain era. It allows us to be really indulgent in terms of costuming, and doing voices from an era, like a really fun 1940’s transatlantic accent, a sketch will automatically be a lot of fun to perform.

You know that TIFF had a Kubrick exhibit…

We were lucky enough to be at the Stanley Kubrick launch party, we dressed up as the O’Grady twins, and walked around in character scaring people. They had all different kinds of reactions, though, which was really fun to see. As the night wore on, people got tipsier, but some people were like “Oh, you guys look so cute”, while others were just terrified of us.

That seems to be a common theme in your sketches

Most sketches, there’s one person who’s super wacky, and then there’s the straight man. And we do have some sketches that are like that, but we do a lot of sketches where we almost play the same person. And that’s a lot of fun to play off each other. Apart from “I have brown hair, she has blonde hair”, which works well for our branding. (Laughing) I’m worried people might think I’m a narcissist, because I’m like “We will only have our last name”. We were going to be Templeton Phillips, but we thought that it sounded too much like a law firm.