By: Conner O’Grady
Two of the Bob’s cast members hover around a couch during a skit. Funny stuff!
For the past 141 years, a group of student writers and comedians have come together at Victoria College to put on The Bob Comedy Revue, the oldest student comedy show in Canada, whose alumni include Lester B Pearson, EJ Pratt, Norman Jewison, and Margaret Atwood.
The Bob was founded in 1872, at a party hosted by Victoria College caretaker Robert Beare, who was “apparently just the coolest guy,” according to one of this year’s directors, Britta Johnson. His annual parties were known as “The Bob,” and were occasions to mock the school, professors, and other students.
After Beare’s retirement, The Bob continued on as a stage show in the form of a musical revue.
Over the years The Bob has radically changed format. In the 1970s, it came to include more sketches than songs. In addition, in the last few decades there has been less humour revolving around Victoria and more scenes about general life situations.
As with many Victoria University Student Administrative Council (VUSAC) clubs, the budget of The Bob has shrank in the last few years, down to roughly $200 in 2013. This slash meant that for the first time in many years, the members of The Bob were unable to have their writer’s retreat at the Hart House Farm and instead had to use a private residence in North York.
Not only financial problems plagued this year’s production. Three days before opening night, Vic’s administration requested changes to one of the show’s planned sketches due to the perception that it was overtly offensive. It involved a man murdering a woman.
“Every event goes through a risk assessment process to make sure it is accessible and to make sure it isn’t offensive,” said VUSAC president Jelena Savic. “The Bob is tricky because humour really relies on things that can potentially be construed as offensive.”
The Bob’s director, producers, and administration officials negotiated a compromise the day before the show opened. The directors made some minor alterations to lines in the sketch, at which point the administration gave the show the green light.
Despite this year’s complications, perhaps The Bob can be considered a success for its sheer existence. Its 15 student actors from across UofT were joined by comedian Mark Little from the viral video series “Powerthirst” and the CBC show Mr. D.
It is The Bob’s rich history that keeps it together. Director Kieron Higgs commented on the history of The Bob: “Its legacy has astounded me lately: seeing ‘Established 19XX’ on product labels brings into scope the age of The Bob. Compared to numerous beer breweries, newspapers, you name it, being able to experience a five-year chunk of that time makes me feel lucky and honoured to have taken part in such a long-standing tradition.”
This article was originally published on our old website at https://thenewspaper.ca/the-arts/despite-cuts-and-critics-bob-carries/.