It has been a tough year for everyone, including comedians and musicians. Where do you find the humour —and the joy—in a pandemic? Well, you turn to The Island Summer Review for a start. The show’s stars, Patrick Ledwell and Mark Haines, spoke with Ann Thurlow about making a show in challenging times.
AT: This is your 9th year. How hard is it to come up with new material year after year?
PL: It amazes me how the Island always yields a bumper crop of new inspirations. I’ve appreciated our odd news stories and quirky turns of phrase all the more during this strange year. Mason jar shortages. Citizens apprehending a loose seal in Charlottetown. Breaking news: a man grows a huge beet. There’s a conversational meal to be made of that.
MH: Patrick’s ability to look at the day to day, find the funny side of it and turn it into words never ceases to amaze me. And it gives me great opportunity to bring to the table every musical skill I have developed over the years.
AT: Looking back, how would you say things have changed over the years?
MH: Every year, I think we’re bringing music and comedy closer together.
PL: Mark is an amazing performer, and also a patient teacher. He’s given me a nine year music lesson, all for free. It used to be that I would take breaks between the comedy. Now I get to accompany him on guitar, trumpet, and bass. We’re trying to give people the biggest show we can, out of two people on stage. No breaks!
AT: Can you give some insight into your process? Do you collaborate or work alone?
PL: Our collaboration is like chowder. We look in our own fridges for some good ingredients, bring them to the table, and then figure out what else the mix needs. For instance, I convinced myself the 1980s R.E.M. song “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” would be a good base for COVID moods and new words of the last year. Then, it takes Mark’s musical sensibility to find the right rhythm, and insights like “Hey maybe the chorus should have a reggae beat.”
AT: So what’s new and exciting?
MH: This summer I’m really looking forward to the continuing travelogue of PEI Rocks. We’re making stops in Borden, Souris, and Three Rivers. Another piece I can’t wait to get in to the air is a song about my wife Maggie’s uncle Billy who buried his life savings somewhere on the property. We’re still looking.
PL: I appreciate how there’s a thread through the show about home, away, and how those two worlds bounce off each other. We’ve commandeered the Maritime favourite “Heave Away” and written a sea shanty about ‘here’ and ‘away.’
AT: The shows are always a mix of the salty and the sweet—what are some non-comedic elements to look forward to?
MH: Over the years we have not been shy to include a poignant moment or two. This year could actually be a first for us in that we have been entertaining the addition of a love song. Get close to someone you like.
PL: The past year has made each of us feel a range of different things at the same time—gratitude, worry, anger, hilarious levels of awkward. The Northumberland Strait has protected us from the worst trials of the pandemic, and it’s also kept me from seeing my own siblings and their kids. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Hopefully, that’s where comedy can find a way in.
The Island Summer Review opens July 6 at Harmony House in Hunter River. The show runs two nights a week, each Tuesday and Wednesday, at 7:30 pm, until September 1.