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Her Majesty's Cabaret turns 5

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Local sketch comedy group celebrates anniversary

BANGOR One of the Bangor area's premier creative collectives is celebrating a birthday this month.

Her Majesty's Cabaret has been devoted to making audiences laugh for the past five years. They're inviting friends and fans to help them celebrate with an anniversary party as part of Bangor's ARTober festivities. The event featuring a screening of some of the group's most popular video offerings takes place at COESPACE on Columbia St. Things are kicking off October 10that 8 pm, with the videos starting at 8:30. Starting at 9:30, friends of HMC A Severe Joy and Haus of Paradigm will be performing.

It's impressive enough to keep any sort of creative group together for five years. For HMC, however, it hasn't been just a matter of staying together. They've grown and evolved over the years, becoming a beloved part of the region's entertainment scene. Over the course of 15-plus shows, they've built themselves into a self-sustaining comic dynamo.

While they have seen plenty of guest performers come and go over the years (including yours truly once upon a time), the core of the group has been relatively constant, with co-founders Zachary Robbins and Emily Burnham joined by collaborators Brad LaBree and Kat Johnson and jack-of-all-tech Thom Cosgrove.

'We've definitely changed for the better over the years,' said Robbins. 'The first couple of shows weren't official albums; more like basement tapes.' I think Love Cabaret Style' was our catalyst for trying to figure out proper shows.'

Robbins and Burnham are husband and wife that dynamic informs a lot of the work that they do together.

'Our marriage is based on humor,' Robbins said. 'We've definitely progressed as a writing couple. It feels natural and comfortable creating together.'

While there's no doubt that each member brings a unique perspective to the table, a shared sensibility is certainly crucial to the success of any collective such as this one. Happily, the HMC crew definitely has plenty in common when it comes to comedy.

'I think we all grew up loving comedy,' said Burnham. 'I know I did. SNL reruns and MST3K and Kids in the Hall on Comedy Central and Monty Python on PBS had a huge impact on me, personally. And I think that bleeds over into what we do today. Plus, I think comedy brains operate differently from the rest of society. I think we have that kind of brain that finds a joke in just about everything. Fortunately, I think we have a filter to keep out the ones that shouldn't be said in public.'

'I love these clowns! I feel really fortunate to work with such nutty, talented people,' Johnson said. 'There really isn't a great deal of sketch comedy in the area - I'm pretty sure we're it. So that in and of itself is really cool. When I was a kid, my first love was comedy and I used to tell my mom I'd be on SNL - so I like to think that this is Bangor's version of that. My band even opened for HMC once at a gig we did in Portland - which is probably as close as I'll get to living out my childhood dream.'

'We're all on the same page,' said Robbins. 'There's a lot of love. It's all natural, like a good marriage equal parts contentment and argument.'

Over the years, HMC has definitely grown in a number of ways. Their writing has evolved and their shows have become more cohesive.

'I think when you work with a group of people over time, you just get better and better because you really get to learn about one another, and how to work best as a unit,' said Johnson.

'We love tension and volume and making the straight character the guide,' said Robbins. 'The best comedy comes from secondary and tertiary characters. We try to take a situation and dramatize the humor of it.'

'People relate to characters better if they are part of a journey and witness some sort of struggle,' LaBree said. 'I think storytelling is a big part of comedy. People want to enjoy a ride and one-off jokes only go so far.'

When you talk to the members of Her Majesty's Cabaret, the analogy of being in a band comes up regularly. It makes sense these people write together and rehearse together and try to get into the same headspace just like any working band. It's not an easy thing to do, but when it happens, it's readily apparent. And anyone who has been to an HMC performance knows that these folks can really play.

(It should also be noted that while he is not an onstage presence, Thom Cosgrove is considered a vital member of the crew as well. His technical acumen is a key cog in the success of the HMC machine. His contributions might be largely behind the scenes, but his importance to the team cannot be stressed enough. According to Robbins, Cosgrove is 'the fifth Beatle' high praise indeed.)

Perhaps the most telling aspect of HMC's tenure is how readily they have been embraced by the community. Their audiences have continued to grow over their five years. LaBree offered a perfect example of that community connection.

'When people stop me on the street or something to talk about their favorite character or joke is a hoot,' he said. 'This one time this random nice guy bought Kat and I our coffees because he wanted to thank us for what we do for the community. I couldn't believe it. People are amazing.'

As far as going forward, there's plenty of enthusiasm regarding what is still to come.

'The ante keeps getting upped each show - so I'm excited to see what the future holds,' said Johnson.

Happy birthday, Her Majesty's Cabaret. Congratulations on five fantastic years. Here's to many more.

Last modified on Thursday, 08 October 2015 18:03

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