Dead Parents Society: A Dark Sketch Comedy Revue is made up of comedians—each of them having lost a parent at a young age—banded together to mine their experience of grief for comedy. While this sounds rather morbid, the show is remarkably upbeat and often very moving.
Under the direction of Kirsten Rasmussen, this troupe (Shohana Sharmin, Anne McMaster, Carolyne Das, Jackie Twomey and King Chiu) highlights the absurdity of trying to function in everyday life while grieving the loss of a parent.
Conceptually, all the sketches are solid and varied. From a support group for orphaned Disney characters, an HR rep outlining a company’s ludicrous “grief policy” to parental ghosts helping their child pass a driving test—the set-ups are clever and diverse.
I especially appreciated, in one sketch, the way casual sex as a distraction from grief wasn’t portrayed as shameful or even particularly unhealthy, but as one of many probable reactions to one of life’s unpleasant realities.
My favourite was a recurring bit with a man (Chiu) and his Grief Fairy (McMaster). While it does borrow heavily from the hormone monsters of Big Mouth, Chiu and McMaster make it their own. Swooping in with her red silk robe to the opening bars of Careless Whisper, the Grief Fairy takes great joy in disrupting his attempts to go on with his life. While any single instalment works well on it’s own, it is the constant reoccurrence that gives this series of sketches weight and meaning, perfectly capturing grief’s knack for sliding into your life unexpectedly—at work, at parties, while quietly cooking a meal at home.
Not all of the sketches landed well for me. Sometimes the delivery lacks the right energy or feels a little stilted. Technically, the show could use more polish—the music cues in particular are a little clunky. When it works though, when concept and execution are on point, the results are hilarious and disarmingly truthful.
In the finale, each member of the troupe takes a moment to address the parent they have lost. These tributes are brief yet poignant in their specificity. Even this heartfelt closing bit doesn’t feel downbeat, but is buoyed by an exhilarating sense of genuine connection and release. And, almost without fail, their sketches conclude with some truly inspired one-liners.