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This is That goes here and there

Peter Oldring and Pat Kelley, creators of CBC Radio satire program, bring live show to Whistler



From comedian Rick Mercer to online "magazine" The Beaverton, Canadian news satire is a thing of beauty — and laughs.

The CBC current affairs send-up show This is That is a proud contributor to this tradition, taking liberties at the expense of serious newsgathering since 2010.

Co-hosts Peter Oldring and Pat Kelly investigate important stories such as downhill climbing (the fastest-growing sport in the Pacific Northwest), baby-proofing the House of Commons and David Bowie, Moose Jaw Zamboni driver.

"We weren't really thinking of a project... it started out as a hobby to try and make ourselves laugh," says producer Chris Kelly of the show's origins.

"We'd always joked about doing a fake CBC news show and we strung together a few stories that became the pilot."

Oldring adds: "We became a summer replacement show, which was terrifying. I don't think too many people internally at the CBC knew what to make of it. But the audience responded that first summer and we were asked if we could do more — six years later we're still doing it!"

Sometimes their stories drew irate phone calls to the CBC from listeners who thought they were real news items.

And the media, in the usual frenzy of 24-hour newsgathering, has also taken them a little too seriously.

"In the beginning, it was accidental. We came along right at the time when fake stories being treated as real stories was starting to happen across the Internet," says Kelly.

"We got caught up in that wave and it's been a kind of happy byproduct."

In 2012, Public Radio International reported as fact a This is That story that said dogs in Montreal were legally obliged to know commands in English and French.

USA Today and the Washington Times reported in 2013 about an U11 soccer organization had decided to play the game less competitively by removing the ball from the game.

And, wonderfully, Harper's reported a This is That story about a Canadian student suing her university for failing to accommodate her allergies to cactuses, escalators, tall people and mauve.

"Once we figured out the power of it, there was a lot of fun to be had. You really make some great points with the satire," Oldring says.

"The format of CBC radio and parodying it is a great jumping-off point for comedy. It allows for these different types of comedy within the framework of the show.

"It's quintessentially Canadian. I don't think it would work anywhere else, actually."

Now Oldring and Kelly are taking This is That on the road.

This is That Live brings its 19-plus show to the Maury Young Arts Centre (MYAC) on Thursday, Feb. 25. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are for aged 19-plus; $27 for WAC members and $29 for non-members.

Kelly says that a Q-and-A session is also part of the show, giving the audience the chance to learn more about how they make their version of the news.

He calls the Whistler visit — only up the highway from their studio location in Vancouver — part of a "piecemeal Canadian tour."

"We're jokingly calling it a 'Good Portion of Canada Tour.' This chunk of it we're focusing on the Prairies and B.C. Then we go to Toronto in March," he says.

Both Kelly and Oldring say they love getting immediate feedback from the audience, but how easy is it to take the This is That show on the road?

"We don't get that back in a studio. It's definitely different from doing it on the radio," Oldring says.

"It's more liberating because you're not focusing on being deadpan or incredibly convincing with the material we're improvising. We open it up more and have more fun. You're playing off the energy of the live audience."

Oldring says that the show has been a delight to be a part of and hopes everyone in the Whistler audience will feel the same way.

At the moment there is no definite plan to have the live show play on the radio.

"We're going to record all the shows and when we finish the tour we're going to listen to it and see if there is something we can play," Kelly says.

"There may be a live one-off special."

For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.artswhistler.com or the MYAC box office.


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