Allison Hogg walks on stage and feels at home. The gymnasium lights beat down on her as her schoolmates and teachers anxiously peer up at her, and she knows it’s time to release Mary Katherine Gallagher, the fictional character Molly Shannon used to present on Saturday Night Live.
The year was 1997 when Hogg was in Grade 7 performing in her Collingwood school’s annual talent show.
Hogg, who now sits comfortably at a table in Toronto’s Comedy Bar, shakes her head and lets out a booming laugh when reliving the performance. It was a shameless, blatant, word-for-word rip-off, as she remembers, but it served as her segue into comedy.
Hogg is a Humber graduate of the school’s comedy writing program. She’s also performing as part of the Sketchersons troupe at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival now running to March 15.
“It brings a lot of local acts together with some international, bigger people. The Sketchersons are the only group that has done it every year, so that’s kind of exciting. We’re trying to incorporate that into our show this year,” Hogg said of TSCF and the Sketchersons’ plans for this year’s edition.
Ashley Comeau, who’s part of the TSCF production team this year and has been involved with the festival in various capacities for the past six years, emanates excitement when discussing this year’s depth.
“It’s bigger and better than ever. It’s the 10 year anniversary, full of fantastic, cream-of-the-crop troupes,” she said.
This year’s lineup includes SNL cast member Kate McKinnon and the world-touring sketch duo Pajama Men.
Comeau has high praise for Hogg.
“She’s delightful,” she said. “I’ve seen her do some really fun stuff. She’s an absolute gem to work with and watch on stage.”
Similar sentiments surface when Andrew Clark, director of Humber’s comedy writing program, recalls Allison’s days at the school.
“She was a very good student, very funny and intelligent. She was a good writer and I think she understood it. You got the impression from Allison that she was going places, that she was definitely thinking things through,” he said.
Hogg said the inspiration behind her writing strikes her as she’s slipping into slumber.
“Right before I’m going to bed, I’ll think of something really silly. Afternoon naps are perfect for generating really great ideas,” she said.
Hogg also said her work stems from real-life, everyday encounters.
She mentioned one customer that she served while working at Pantry, a restaurant and catering company in Toronto. The woman would routinely come in, sit down, and as she read her newspaper, whisper the words to herself. It was perfect material for Hogg to mould into a sketch she would perform with Ladystache, a duo that she and fellow Humber grad Steph Tolev created.
Ladystache has been around for roughly eight years and has brought both Hogg and Tolev great success. The duo has been nominated for two Canadian Comedy Awards.
Hogg said Ladystache is about high energy, with big, crazy characters. Her style of comedy with the Sketchersons, however, is slightly different.
“It’s grounded silly. I really like silly stuff, but I also love slice-of-life comedy. It’s harder in sketch, but I love finding a relationship and laying that out. I also love when a sketch ends in a sweet way because it’s so atypical of comedy for things to work out,” she said.
Looking back, Hogg said Lucille Ball, Buster Keaton and Gilda Radner influenced her career moves.
“She has done great things, she’ll continue to do great things, and I can’t wait to watch her whole journey and continue supporting her…You just love rootin’ for the good guys and she’s one of them,” said Comeau.
TSCF runs out of Comedy Bar, the Theatre Centre, and Randolph Theatre.
Tickets are available at here.