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Sex and Relationship Group Therapy, with the Comedy

  Except for being very very funny, Daniel Packard has little in common with the typical stand-up comedian. While he covers relationships, sex, pleasure and bliss, religion, Vancouver arts audiences, and gender roles, identity and orientation, he has no need to mock such predictable stand-up targets as Surrey mullethead whores and promiscuous West End gays; nor do we.

  His Fringe Festival show, “Broken Word: a Free Flow Evening with Daniel Packard,” ran 5 nights at the Crush Champagne Lounge downtown.

  His unique blend of an informal setting, a stand-up bass backup, steep audience interaction with a roving mic in the crowd, and deep interpersonal skills allow him to be a counselor/facilitator of a public relationship and sex group therapy session.

  Packard arrived in Vancouver from San Francisco several months ago--truly, their loss. Since being in town he has evolved audiences’ expectations of humour while appearing at Thundering Word Heard on Sunday nights at Montmartre Café on Main Street, at his sold out show in the Vancouver International Comedy Festival and at the increasingly popular and infamous Corrupt Cabarets.

  His Fringe show develops a living room or salon atmosphere with a focus on humour, honesty and safety.

  The Crush Champagne Lounge helps with oversized, cushy couches and chairs for cuddling, retro jazz lounge curtained walls, and colourful downward trickling lighting.

  Before the show even starts, the delicious “Bad Girls” distribute goodie bags full of very curious items including elastic bands [for a poignant effect] and survey cards, which are collected just before the show begins. The survey questions gather fodder for Packard’s show with questions on our personal idiosyncrasies and thoughts and feelings on gender, sex and relationships.

  MC T.Paul Ste. Marie roams the audience with a mic to augment people hollering their feedback, responses and ideas: something Packard thrives on and integrates into his show.

  And jazz/funk/blues/world-beat/gypsy/rockabilly/pop bassist Sam Shoichet augments Packard’s groove with layers of tonal support that cleverly reflect the ever-evolving mood of the evening.

  Packard’s deep interpersonal skills show up during this group therapy session in his ability to listen intuitively and insightfully to what audience members are contributing: from monosyllabic yelps to long treatises on the nature of recreational sex. His lightning fast mind extracts kernels to reincorporate previous ideas against or to flow to new ones.

  He reads audience members’ body language to know where they’re at emotionally and psychologically so he can respond meaningfully to them without neglecting the rest of the crowd.

  And at the same time, he gauges the audience’s reaction to the flowing topics because we’ve been instructed to fire the goodie bag elastic bands in his general direction if we’re bothered by something going on or if we simply think he should move on to something else.

  Within minutes of his “act” beginning, it’s hard to miss how he evolves stand-up comedy to a new level of poignancy: indeed, he releases stand-up from its cesspool. He has succeeded in his attempt “to investigate and redefine what a comedian can accomplish on stage.”

  Packard’s “Broken Word” show will undoubtedly be selected to appear in the Pick of the Fringe, September 18th to 21st. If not, his future shows will amaze, thrill and maybe even release you from at least one or two culturally-implanted social shackles.

  Packard’s humour is easily worth the price of admission. The catharsis is free.

Stephen Buckley
Copyright 2003

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