'I think satire is a great vehicle for rethinking how we remember our past'
From scrunchies to Iran-Contra, everyone has warm memories of the 1980s.
And If you don’t, The Ringos can help with the sketch comedy revue ’80s Kids Will Understand, being staged this week as part of the On The Edge fringe festival.
Today I interviewed The Ringos’ Kristen Keller to discuss life in the 1980s and ’80s Kids Will Understand.
Windatt: “Why a show about the 1980s?”
Keller: “We wanted to do a show that commemorated our youth, and explored our nostalgia for the ’80s. At the same time, we wanted to explore some of the darker sides to the ’80s, and poke fun at that relationship.
“There are so many people who love to remember the retro and quirky side of the ’80s, like wearing neon, and crimping your hair, and all those zany things that happened in the ’80s. But sometimes we overlook the weird things that happened, or just how bizarre the thinking was back then.
“We are all about sketch comedy, but some of it goes a little darker. One sketch focuses on women in the arts, where there is a female writer for a big TV show, and she is up against a ‘big man producer’ who needs to improve the ‘market’ for his show by adding a female character, but he knows nothing about women, except for how much he likes to look at them.
“We satirize a lot of things that happened in the ’80s, in terms of what still happens today. Men having a lot of power, women really having to swallow their opinion, and do what is asked of them. We poke fun at the entertainment industry, with big shot guys in charge. We poke fun at things like the Smurfs and how bizarre it was that there’s one female Smurf, among a whole town of males… How does that work? But it’s also a lot of parodies of iconic pop culture references, that people would understand who weren’t even born in that time period.”
Windatt: “Can you explain a bit of your creative process and how you came up with all this?”
Keller: “My background is primarily improv. In our group, there are five of us. And two of them are the writers, Brendan Main and Colleen Waltenbury, who are fantastic. They bring us a script, as well as a ton of improv prompts, and Bryan and I play around, and see what works. Betony, the director, has a background in dramaturgy, and we all work together to edit it as a whole. We keep playing with it until it’s something we like.”
Windatt: “Can you tell me a little bit about what the big take-away will be from your show?”
Keller: “It’s funny, we often will just write and create a show, and then it’s not till afterwards that you see what it’s about. We started from something silly… when we think of the ’80s, we think how we tend to put a bubble gum package around it, right? We think of the quirky things.
“We think of the hairdos, the music, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Madonna with her cone bra, WWF wrestlers. And we tend to think of those colourful characters and how colourful it was at that time. But as we kept working on the show, it began to look at the weirder side of the time. Chernobyl happened in the ’80s, and the Challenger disaster. There were all these bonkers things that happened, but that don’t get included in our nostalgia. There is a gap in public thought. I think satire is a great vehicle for rethinking how we remember our past.”
The Ringos are presenting ’80s Kids Will Understand in the basement venue of the Capitol Centre. Showtimes are 6:30 pm tonight, 8 pm Thursday, 5 pm Friday and 4:30 pm Saturday. Tickets are $12 at the door. The Ringos recommend their audiences be 12+ years of age with a warnings that some coarse language and sexual innuendo will be presented with exactly one precisely timed ‘F-bomb’ as part of the show.