A&EHeadlinesGrad stars in CBC sketch comedy Tallboyz

ETC StaffOctober 15, 20196 min

Liliia Smichenko, Arts Reporter

It can be hard to make a living in the business of making people laugh, says one of Humber College’s most successful comedy writing graduates.

“It’s a difficult industry to make money in,” says Vance Banzo, star of the CBC sketch comedy series Tallboyz. Banzo says people who are in the comedy industry have to put a lot of thought into their routines.

“It is important to take the time and think before you say something. You’re not going to get the same laughs as you would with easier jokes,” he said.

The year he started at Humber, Banzo was short on money and couldn’t afford his lunch. He describes it as among his worst moments in college, but he admits his college years produced some of his best moments too.

Vance Banzo is a member of comedy group Tallboyz and a Humber grad. (Liliia Smichenko)

In his last year at Humber, Banzo was performing on the main stage in the city and he broke the stage.

“I stepped on the ledge and I snapped all the wood, all the wooden paneling came off,” he said.

He recalls his prof told him he should keep one of these wooden planks as a keepsake. Banzo picked up a plank of wood and was about to take it home when one of the workers asked him to return it.

The best experience of them all came almost three years ago on Oct. 25, 2016, when Tim Blair, Banzo’s best friend from Humber brought the comedy group now known as Tallboyz.

The success of Tallboyz began when they performed at the Toronto SketchFest about a year after the trio got together in March 2017. There they met Kids in the Hall alumus Bruce McCulloch.

Tallboyz stars Franco Nguyen, Guled Abdi, Vance Banzo and Tim Blair. (CBC Media Centre)

McCulloch was familiar with Banzo’s work, because he was teaching at Humber at that time, and he took an interest in Banzo’s writing.

They started to develop the TV show with that production company, later pitched it to CBC and the rest is hilarity.

Andrew Clark, director of Humber’s Comedy Program, taught the cast of Tallboyz and knows them well.

“I think that’s very funny show first and foremost, these guys are really talented and funny,” Clark said. “They’re speaking to younger viewers and also viewers from diverse background, so they’re able to make really funny stuff about Canada.”

“Performing for TV is a different experience from performing live,” Banzo said. “On stage, I get instant gratification and the audience’s laughter gives me energy. On TV, I don’t how a joke would land.”

Now almost three years later, Banzo is encouraging the new generation of Humber comedians to keep doing what they believe in, keep evolving, and keep working.

“Comedy is all about putting on your shoes and getting out the door,” Banzo said.