'Baroness von Sketch Show' Says Goodbye Without Fanfare, Just Jokes
"We knew COVID was coming, so we decided to get ahead of the curve and shut down early"
Published Oct 05, 2020After five successful seasons, CBC comedy series Baroness von Sketch Show is calling it a day and airing its final episodes (premiering October 6 at 9 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem). So why say goodbye now, just when the world needs satirical comedy most?
"We knew COVID was coming, so we decided to get ahead of the curve and shut down early," quips Jennifer Whalen during a phone call with Exclaim! Also on the line, her co-creator/co-star Carolyn Taylor gives a chuckle.
They're joking of course; this latest season was written and filmed in 2019, before they knew about any of the world-altering events of the past seven months. That means there aren't any sketches about anti-maskers or quarantine — although the new episodes have an apocalyptic undercurrent that feels undeniably appropriate for 2020.
"We knew we were in the end times," Whalen says dryly. "There's a sketch about the Doomsday Clock and how perilously close we are to midnight, so I think, in the greater scheme of things, we knew things were shifting in the world."
Mostly, though, this is the same Baroness von Sketch Show fans know and love, as the four comedians (Whalen and Taylor, plus Meredith MacNeill and Aurora Browne) satirize our world with sharp observations and a dash of surreal goofiness. It's a brand of humour that has made the show one of Canada's most beloved homegrown comedies — resulting in some memorable viral moments.
"One of the true highlights was the weekend when 'Locker Room' came out [in 2016] and it started to go viral," remembers Whalen. "I was driving up to my brother's cottage, and my husband was looking at it. He was like, 'Oh, you've got 20,000 views.' Then we stopped for coffee and he was like, 'No, you have 200,000 views.' By the time we got to the cottage it was 500,000."
Rather than ending with Baroness von Sketch Show with pomp and fanfare, the farewell episodes are characteristically irreverent. The creators only decided to make this latest season their last after they had already written it — meaning that there's no grand goodbye, just jokes.
"What you're getting is just unadulterated Baroness von Sketch, the way that we've always approached it," says Taylor of the unplanned ending. "It would have been nice to have known and bid it farewell — but in other ways, I think it's better this way, because otherwise you would have had a lot of long, tearful sketches where characters hug each other for no reason."
The members of Baroness von Sketch Show each have new projects on the horizon — Whalen is co-writing the buddy cop CBC drama Lady Dicks (which stars MacNeill) and is working on adapting a YA novel for a TV series, while Taylor is working on an experimental music album with a "queer collective of artists and musicians" including Carmen Elle of DIANA. Most of all, they're looking forward to stepping back from the annual grind of creating a new season each year.
"Five years is a pretty good run for any TV show, and this particular show is really demanding. All of us are so involved in all parts of it, and it really takes the full calendar year," says Whalen.
As far as Taylor is concerned, it's time to move on after a job well done. "We always said, 'Let's get five seasons,'" she reflects. "Without knowing that we would end at five, I think we'd always said that. It really is a year-round job, and to get back out and live in the world that we satirize felt like the right move."