Canadian sketch comedy has long had two levels: pandering populist crap and the irreverent cutting-edge, only rarely, such as with Rick Mercer, have the twain met. For every Kids in the Hall there’s a Smith & Smith, for Codco an Air Farce. We do have a history of some great, if underexposed sketch comedy - SCTV, Four on the Floor, The Vacant Lot, Radio Free Vestibule, Corky and the Juicepigs - but we also have our weak teas - our Wayne and Shuster, our Comedy Inc., our Bizarre, the latter of which seem to enjoy some unfortunate longevity. So when a new Canadian-bred sketch comedy show pops up, one has to cast a wary eye towards it.
Hotbox is the brainchild of Pat Thornton, a sketch comedy show more in the vein of Tim and Eric than Mad TV, dispensing with the studio audience and going full bore production sketches, with some keen retro-styled animation for the title sequence and acting as bumpers before commercial breaks. The humor is generally irreverent, often oblique, dark, or nonsensical, but, most importantly, nine times out of ten, it’s funny. Thornton enlists a slew of recognizable faces (if you know Canadian comedy at all, at least) for the show, plus animators and puppets. The production values are great… we’ve gotten far away from any “Canadian” aesthetic. Like most Comedy Network shows, Hotbox is watchable on-line