Some Steinbach talent made it onto a pretty big stage last night at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival.

Locally, we’ve enjoyed the humour and sketches of the Sidetrack Bandits with performances hosted by the Steinbach Arts Council, and at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.

The comedy group is made up of a few local couples who enjoy entertaining and have a refreshing sense of humour. They are Cameron Penner, Heather Penner, Jeremy Plett, Michelle Plett, Thalin Dyck and Kenton Dyck.

First time’s a charm

Kenton Dyck says this was the first time they submitted their work to the festival in Toronto, and being accepted right away, that’s a pretty big deal.

“We've been doing sketch comedy for a while now, to have some recognition on kind of a different stage is really neat,” he says. “I'm happy to perform for my friends and family to be honest, but it is kind of neat to have new, different people watching the stuff that you put together, eyeballs that wouldn't otherwise see it, and then to get a little bit of feedback on that front.”

In the past, this festival was a live event with the audience watching multiple sketches being performed right in front of them.

“A few years ago, they started an online component, before COVID-19,” Dyck says. “Which was really convenient because then when COVID-19 happened, they were already prepared to do everything online. So, this year the majority of the festival is online.”

This makes it possible for people across the country to participate by submitting video sketches.

“And then what's happened is they put those into categories and they're doing live screenings, if you will. So, they are all pre-filmed, but what happens is you buy a ticket, and you get a ticket to what would be like a show. And there are anywhere from 10 to 20 sketches in that show, comedians from around the country. And it's like a screening. And then after that point, there's some on-demand settings as well. So, you can go back and watch individual sketches.”

Dyck says it is quite an honour to share the virtual stage with so many talented people from across Canada.

Usually, the SideTrack Bandits have multiple characters in their sketches, played by several group members. But the sketch that was in the festival last night, Self-Interrogation, was unique for this team.

“This one is kind of a weird project because I wrote it and it's me talking to myself,” Dyck explains. “So, it really comes out of COVID-19, it comes out of being stuck at home. The whole idea is around me, my future self, interrogating me for my bad nutritional habits at home. And so, this is kind of a weird one where it really is me versus me and the antics that come from that.”

Dyck says he finds comedic inspiration all around, but the challenge is to remember everything and write it down. He encourages anyone interested in sketch comedy to reach out to the SideTrack Bandits via Facebook or Instagram. His hope is to grow the local sketch comedy scene and have a few groups in the area.