Sasheer Zamata and Scott Thompson to play Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival

The SNL alum and Kids In The Hall veteran are among 14th-annual fest’s first wave of performers


Saturday Night Live alum Sasheer Zamata and Scott Thompson’s new one-man show The Buddy Cole Monologues are among the first wave of acts confirmed for next year’s Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival.

Zamata will perform two-stand up sets at Longboat Hall on March 7 and 8, while Thompson will perform as his beloved Kids In The Hall’s character Buddy Cole on March 14 at the Great Hall. Tickets for both shows are now on sale.

Running from March 7 to 17, the 14th-annual TOsketchfest will feature over 80 acts, with more performers to be announced in the coming months.

Earlier this year, Zamata was at Toronto International Film Festival for the world premiere of Toronto filmmaker Stella Meghie’s romantic comedy, The Weekend. Zamata plays a struggling stand-up comedian who finds herself third-wheeling on a weekend getaway with her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend. In addition as a cast member for four seasons of SNL, Zamata has also appeared in Transparent, Inside Amy Schumer and People of the World.

Earlier this year, Thompson revived and updated his popular gay socialite character from Kids In The Hall by re-releasing the mock memoir Buddy Babylon: The Autobiography Of Buddy Cole and creating a new one-man show. It promises to feature a mix of the character’s classic rants and reviews alongside new material.

Past TOsketchfest headliners have included NOW Magazine cover star Kate McKinnon, The Kids in the Hall, comedy synth duo Ninja Sex Party and This Hour Has 22 Minutes’s Gavin Crawford.

The festival runs from March 7 to 18. For ticket info, visit




NOVEMBER 21, 2018

Miranda Mulholland Interviews RIAA Chair Cary Sherman

Cary Sherman, the outgoing chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), sat down with artist, label owner and festival founder Miranda Mulholland, at the recent Music Canada year-in-review at Toronto’s The Great Hall, to “share memorable moments in his career,” that ranged from politics and policy to the personal.

Naturally, much of the chat for the industry members in attendance was about history and the changes that led to the recent passing of the Music Modernization Act on Oct. 11.  But Sherman also revealed some fun facts about himself, including that his father was born and raised in Toronto, he is a first-generation American, his favourite album is Sgt. Pepper’s; he plays the piano; and Rihanna sent him a platinum award and note complimenting his “platinum smile.”

“That’s the first time I’ve ever gotten a gift from a major artist, and it’s in my office and that is very, very cool,” Sherman said. He has worked at RIAA for over two decades.

The graduate of Cornell University and Harvard Law School joined RIAA in 1997 as general counsel.  In 2011, he replaced Mitch Bainwol as CEO; his successor is the current president, Mitch Glazier, whom he made a point to mention during his interview.

“Mitch was born to do this legislation, he really was,” said Sherman. “He is an amazing mastermind in terms of legislative strategy, but he also has an unbelievable personality, so that everybody in every sector — whether it be producers, managers, PR, publishers —would go to him for — ‘How can we do this?’ and ‘How can we manage this particular member?’ and so on.

“Mitch really deserves the credit for getting this done through the Congress because bringing the industry together was an amazingly important piece, but if you can’t deliver on the actual legislative tactics inside the Congress, this would not have happened.

“And then we all got to watch Trump take credit for the whole thing,” he quipped.

Below are some bullets from his 20-minute chat with Mulholland.

On the key piece of Music Modernization Act:

At a very high level, there are five pieces to the legislation — the most important is that it creates a blanket mechanical license. So instead of getting one mechanical license at a time, work by work, which is a compulsory license in the United States, and it’s very dysfunctional, you now file a piece of paper and get a blanket mechanical license and then you will pay royalties, along with reports of usage to a music licensing collective that will then have the responsibility for distributing the money to the right publishers and songwriters. That’s a huge improvement in efficiency over the existing system. Every digital musical service had to try and find out who owns every musical work and have its own database of that information and then make payments to all those people. This is going to be much more efficient to have a centralized database, which will be the authoritative source of the information and for all this money to go into this music licensing collective and be distributed to songwriters and publishers.

On spouses, building relationships and getting to know each other:

“This was a dozen years in the making. When I started off in the industry, which was 1974, my first job was to fight publishers and fight songwriters and to make sure that they didn’t get a bigger share of the pie than we did… It was a mess. It was very fractured community. Over time, as we realized that fighting for each piece of the pie simply means that the pie never gets larger because we’re not fighting together against the real people that we need to be fighting, which have now become the tech companies, we were hurting ourselves. And that in order to get past the history of the industry, we needed to construct an entirely different relationship. I never met with the CEO of ASCAP or BMI. The only time I met with the head of NMPA, which is music publishers, was when we had something specific to negotiate or fight. It was never to get together to talk about things.

So, we created a group of CEOs of the music industry associations that would get together twice a year to actually just sit and talk abut what’s going on and what issues you’ve got and why you’re taking the positions that you are and we’d talk them through, and so on. It became not only informative and educational, but it became a relationship and suddenly you knew the people you were dealing with. In fact, we specifically asked to have significant others, with spouses, come to these events to that we created relationships where you did not want to do something to offend some other group because you knew them personally; you knew their family. Twelve years later, we now can operate as a music community with an email…It took a dozen years of trust building, of conversation, of understanding where each other is coming from, to get to the point where you could reach compromises. The MMA was a series of compromises that everybody had to make to be able to get on the same page so that everybody could support everybody else.

On playing piano since the age of six:

Clearly have a gift for it because I had perfect pitch and I played by ear so I took to it very quickly, but I also knew that I did not have the discipline or the drive. One of the things I learned when I started writing songs — and I actually tried to get record companies to listen to them or radio stations to listen to them — is my God, it is difficult to sell yourself and sell your work and what a commitment you have to have in order to actually pursue this as a career. So, I decided not to [laughter]…I went to law school instead and I came into the back door. So it’s been fun to be involved with music creators and music professionally. I feel like I’m able to give them something other than that my piano playing and my lyrics.

On an album that had a significant impact on him growing up:

I grew up during the Beatles, so it’s hard to imagine anybody coming close in terms of the impact that The Beatles had on musically. The Sgt. Pepper’s album was simply a breakthrough album and completely redefined what an album is.

Up until that time, songs were ditties; there wasn’t a lot of structure to them. There was 1-4-5. This was now a studio album. This was not just singing a song in front of the microphone; you happened to do it in a studio, but it’s no different than performing on a stage. The Sgt. Pepper‘s album was actually a studio production that could not be reproduced on the stage because of what it created and it completely redefined the album concept. It redefined the future of music, and it opened up music in ways that nothing ever else had.

On meeting Jay-Z and Rihanna:

Generally, I’m sure you realize that if you meet emerging artists, they’re normal people and you relate to that and talk to them, and have a real conversation, but when you meet somebody who is already famous, there is a wall around them that is very, very hard to penetrate. They can’t trust anybody. They always think that somebody always wants something from them. I feel really bad for them because they can’t live normal lives. But as a result, you also come away with certain expectations about what they’re going to be like.

I just assumed that Rihanna would be pretty cold and pretty distant and pretty difficult. She was none of those things. She was amazingly warm and friendly…she sent me a platinum award with something about my platinum smile. That’s the first time I’ve ever gotten a gift from a major artist; it’s in my office and that is very, very cool. And Jay-Z, there’s somebody, he just loves the idea of being able to talk with somebody about what’s going on in the music business, what’s the future and how does this thing actually work and where is the money coming from.  I mean, he is a businessman and he really wants to understand the business. And so, meeting somebody who actually does it professionally is an opportunity for them. And I find that so often there are so many more artists that you would not expect, who really want to engage.

Nov 09, 2018 by Karen Bliss

Review: Low showed how to remain vital after decades at the Great Hall

Duluth, Minnesota’s Low are best known for their molasses-y post-rock sound, which they’ve been honing for the better part of 25 years. Though the trio established themselves in the 90s, they’ve steadily released 12 albums since then. Whereas bands of a similar vintage often turn their sets into career retrospectives, Low drew primarily from their five most recent albums during last night’s sold-out show at the Great Hall and did something few bands are capable of: demonstrate that their earliest work isn’t the prism through which their discography has to be understood.

In fact, the band’s latest album, Double Negative, sounds unlike anything else Low has ever recorded. It’s a gauzy, textural, abstract 45 minutes. The sounds coming from their bass, guitar and drums are familiar but almost unrecognizable – a fitting aesthetic choice for an album that contemplates the disorientation of life in Trump’s post-truth America.

The core of the band’s sound, which is evident on the record but becomes even clearer in a live setting, is the vocal harmonies courtesy of Alan Sparhawk (guitar) and Mimi Parker (percussion), who were joined by Steve Garrington on bass on the album and at this show. On stage, it was clear how well Sparhawk and Parker’s voices worked together. At first it seems like they complement each another because of how long they’ve been in a band (and also married), but early songs in the set like Quorum and No Comprende demonstrated those harmonies are the result of a band that truly listens to one another. They’re far from coasting on autopilot.

The rapt room felt completely silent in awed response, which lasted through the hour-and-a-half set. The quiet actually started before the set during the opening performance by Minneapolis-based IN / VIA (aka Nona Invie), whose delicate piano and voice-driven songs sent a hush throughout the venue.

Low occasionally took advantage of that silence, with Sparhawk’s marvelous fretwork filling the space with a heaviness that the band’s records never quite prepare you for. But it’s Low’s vocals that connect their material, making recent droning and noisy departures like Dancing And Blood fit so well alongside more straightforward classic-style Low songs like Spanish Translation from 2015’s Ones And Sixes and Especially Me, from 2011’s C’mon.

The usually chatty Sparhawk was fairly mum throughout the set, letting his appreciation show by dusting off of older songs like Do You Know How To Waltz? and Lazy. The two were played back to back, tethered to previous track Holy Ghost by an almost shoegazey performance. Every instrument bled into the next. The bleary sonics from those 90s cuts perfectly paired with the new material – an effective detour into the past without ever feeling like a nostalgia trip. Instead, it was a fluid connection to the present.


NOVEMBER 7, 2018

11:42 AM