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Trailer Park Boys Live Report
Dear Santa - Go Fuck Yourself The Quietus , December 29th, 2011 05:06

Tom O'Boyle went to watch Trailer Park Boys live in Manchester earlier this month. Here is his verdict

Having visited the Manchester Academy on many occasions over the years, it is somewhat disconcerting to walk into a venue you are accustomed to seeing dominated by circle pits and instead finding a room full of occupied seats. There is a palpable sense of excitement from the animated crowd. They chatter busily amongst themselves in anticipation of seeing the Trailer Park Boys come to life before their very eyes. Before long, the slow realisation dawns that one of the venerated residents of said trailer park walks amongst them. A police officer, in an ill-fitting toupee. He stumbles ever so slightly, and when his words finally emanate they are somewhat slurred; difficult as it is to accuse your arch nemesis of being a 'drunken recidivist idiot' whilst being 'nine out of ten drunk' yourself, he has the added challenge of being heard over the fevered screams of a sold out venue. Never before have several hundred people shouting 'Fuck off!' sounded more affectionate.

For the uninitiated, Trailer Park Boys is a Canadian comedy series that ran for seven series, including three feature films between 2001-2008. The shows focus on the lives of Ricky and Julian, residents of the Sunnyvale Trailer Park that have recently been released from jail, with a camera crew in tow documenting their return home and attempt at rehabilitation. Rehabilitation in their case always seems to comprise of liquor, cigarettes and a get rich quick scheme usually involving the cultivation and selling of Marijuana; a task they could probably pull off it it wasn't for Ricky's weed-numbed skull, short fuse and willingness to pull a gun on every problem. The third member is garden shed dweller Bubbles; their bottle bottom bespectacled confidante and at first glance, greasy odd-ball. Viewers soon come to realise that not only is Bubbles the real brains of the outfit, but he is the heart of the show. As Ricky and Julian lose control of their desperate schemes, it is always Bubbles' voice of reason that attempts to reign them in. He usually fails, but follows them into hell regardless, because that's what real friends do.

Such behaviour does not slip easily by Sunnyvale's overly officious Trailer Park Supervisor, and ex-police officer Jim Lahey, or his perma-shirtless, burger bellied, secret boyfriend and assistant, Randy. Driven to alcoholism by years of Ricky, Julian and Bubble's recidivist activities, all Lahey wants is a clean and peaceful trailer park; instead he is often left with an empty bottle, pee stained pants and a bitter vendetta against the boys that causes more problems than it solves. Each series effectively turns into 'Yogi Bear' with drugs and guns, and culminates in the boys once again behind bars.

If that synopsis read as deranged; you'd be right to think so. A television series that at first seems impenetrable through its oddity reveals with time the exact reason why there is a room full of people that can barely stay in their seats tonight. In Ricky, Bubbles and Mr Lahey, played by actors Robb Wells, Mike Smith and John Dunsworth (Wells and Smith are also part of the writing team) you have some of the most well observed, unique characters currently alive in comedy. There is a depth of character and a subtlety to their performance that requires the viewer to invest time in getting to know them. There really seems to be something about the show that people find endearing. After all, who doesn't want to spend their lives getting up to mischief and having fun with their family and best friends? Given time, even living in a dilapidated trailer park begins to seem sort of appealing.

Having called time on the Trailer Park Boys for now, Mike Smith, Rob Wells and John Paul Tremblay (Julian) have embarked upon a new television series, the Drunk and On Drugs Fun-time Happy Hour, a surreal sketch comedy show where the cast and crew, unwittingly high on hallucinogens, believe that each character and scenario is absolutely real. Traits familiar to Trailer Park Boys fans are alive and well, liberated by a diversity of character and a less constrained format. Fans of the heyday of British comedy would do well to watch, especially if the anodyne shows which make up the bulk of comedic output these days turn you cold. There is an anarchic, 'anything goes' danger to the show that has been for far too long absent on comedies' cutting edge; echoes of everything from Monty Python to the Young ones are alive and well in Canada it seems.

There are murmurs amongst the crowd that many people are unsure of how the Trailer Park Boys will make the transition from television programme to live show; from the response every word receives tonight, the transition works. Like many live performances of well loved characters, much of the show is comprised of a loose fitting plot. Bubbles is on a mission to spread the true meaning of Christmas whilst trying to maintain the illusion that Santa is real to Ricky, still a fervent believer at the age of thirty-something. Julian is along for the ride; as usual to try and make a quick buck, and Mr Lahey has followed them to take them back to jail where they belong. The framework of the show provides the opportunity for most of the well loved catchphrases to be aired and for some key moments of the show to be fondly remembered; but it is in the moments in between the script, where the ad libbing kicks in that the true charisma of these well honed characters shines, and it is nothing short of utterly hilarious.

Trailer Park Boys works fundamentally as a light hearted morality play. These are cult comedians that deserve to be anything but. Ultimately the show instils that no matter how hard life can be, what matters most are the people that count. Or as Bubbles puts it at the end of the show, 'Christmas is about getting drunk and high with your friends and your family.'

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