Laugh Track: Devin Mackenzie and Tom Hill

Illustration by Ariel Mitchell

For years, Devin Mackenzie and Tom Hill have been bringing their signature style of high-speed comedy to the Vancouver scene. In addition to being part-founders of local improv and sketch comedy school Blind Tiger Comedy, the pair have also made a name for themselves through their two-man moniker Hip.Bang! The Peak caught up with Hill and Mackenzie to learn more about their upcoming Fringe show, Hip.Bang! presents WHITE PANTS, and to learn whose butt is featured so prominently on the all of the show’s promotional items.

Your show Hip.Bang! presents WHITE PANTS is about to start an eight-show run at the Vancouver Fringe Festival. First off, how many pairs of white pants do each of you own?

Devin Mackenzie: For this show, we each own two pairs of white pants.

Tom Hill: Historically though, for this show, probably closer to five each. A lot of women’s pants, a lot of pants that don’t fit our bodies correctly. But the pants we use in the show fit our bodies. Although I’d like to point out that Devin’s pants are women’s pants.

DM: We started out going to a lot of thrift stores and buying a lot of different oddly shaped pairs of white pants, and then we dialed it in to just spending the money to have the pants fit us and be comfortable. And yeah, funnily enough, the ones that are the most comfortable and actually look astonishingly beautiful on me are these long, thin, sexy women’s pants that I’m just making come alive.

TH: The poster for the show, I’m sure Devin would be happy to share, is an image of his butt in white pants.

What’s the elevator pitch for the show?

TH: WHITE PANTS is a two-man comedy show all about the idea of wearing white pants. If that sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. WHITE PANTS is a comedy show but it also goes beyond that. We deconstruct what it is to watch live comedy while you’re watching live comedy.

One thing that people aren’t really anticipating about the white pants thing is that, yes, of course white pants are amazing and beautiful and that’s the inspiration for the show, but as much as the actual garment is the inspiration, perhaps closer to the vision is the idea that something is perfect and beautiful, but could be destroyed or imperfected by almost anything there is. That sense of tension — of something that should be great, but maybe is not or could become not — is what excited us most about the concept. So it might as well be called Hip.Bang! presents The Idea of Impossible Perfection.

Are there any noticeable differences between Fringe audiences and the audiences you usually perform in front of?

DM: Fringe audiences generally attract a wider spectrum of ages and types of people. Through our flyering and actually talking to people, we really target younger crowds. We try to get the younger person in there because, in a way, our show relates better to younger people more than it does to older.

TH: The demographic that sees shows at the Fringe is totally different from the demographic that typically sees us in Vancouver. With an improv show, you can really adapt to that. The audience is always in conversation with you on what they’re enjoying and you can do more of that for the next 45 minutes. But WHITE PANTS is written to our taste and what makes us laugh, which is deliberately not something that everyone will laugh at. We don’t like a lot of vanilla, mainstream comedy. We’re aiming for what our twisted, fun sensibility is — which is not for everybody.

What’s the hardest part of writing sketch comedy?

TH: The sheer amount of time. You take a bunch of time and then you pour it onto the show and you realize you need more. And then you pour more on it, and then more, and you just keep going until you run out of time.

DM: You’re working for 10 to 15 hours, probably more, on a two-minute bit.

TH: That strikes me as the hardest part. We love doing it, and we love performing. It’s exciting to discover what is working and isn’t working in a show. But the last 10 per cent of editing and tweaking the sketch show just the right way is a grind.

Is there anything else you want to tell our readers about Hip.Bang! presents WHITE PANTS?

TH: It’s more than just a normal sketch show. We tried to pursue ideas we thought were generally interesting in comedy and pushed them into this show.

DM: It deconstructs comedy a little bit, and builds it back up in front of your eyes. It’s very unexpected. It’s also very sharp and very funny.

TH: We had a review from the Edmonton Fringe I thought was really accurate: the show is definitely not for everybody but if you want a show for everybody, don’t go to the Fringe. WHITE PANTS is meant to be a cool comedy show for people who are interested in a cool laugh. If you want to do something safe, go do something else.