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April 10, 2008
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Feature
Funny girl
This Hour Has 22 Minutes star Geri Hall returns to the stage for the Winnipeg Comedy Festival
Jared Story

Funny girl
Geri Hall's experience of Winnipeg has been very up and down - literally. On her last visit to the 'Peg, the comedic actress spent most of her time in an elevator shooting a scene for the 2004 flick Shall We Dance.

"Thank you Winnipeg," Hall says. "I spent three days in a tiny elevator with Richard Gere. It doesn't even matter if it wasn't in the movie because I know what Richard Gere smells like. How many girls can say that?"

When she's not sniffing Hollywood's leading men, Hall is part of the cast of This Hour Has 22 Minutes. After doing a few guest spots on the Canadian political satire, CBC extended her contract to full-time cast member status this season.

"It's absolutely amazing," Hall, 35, says of her addition to the 22 Minutes team. "Some of the most humbling moments I find are when you walk into the wardrobe room and you see the pieces of wardrobe from past characters. One rack has a whole bunch of plaid, flannel shirts, of course from when Rick Mercer, Mary (Walsh) and Cathy (Jones) did the Quinlan Quints.

"I try to look cool when eyes are on me, so when no one's looking I walk through them and go, 'Oooh, I remember that. That's Marg Delahunty.'"

Hall joins Mark Critch, Gavin Crawford, Shaun Majumder, and original 22 Minutes cast member Cathy Jones on the show. Seeing that Jones has been on the show for all of its 15 years, I have to know, does the rest of the cast call her Mom?

"Cathy Jones is way too foxy to be called Mom," Hall says. "Seriously, when I first met her it was like, 'My lord, this woman is a fox.' I see re-runs and nothing has changed. When you meet her in person, she has this incredibly powerful sexy presence. She is a force to be reckoned with."

Hall hosted The Winnipeg Comedy Festival's Opening Night Show on Wednesday and will also be a part of Friday night's travel-themed gala, performing a piece she wrote with Winnipeg comedian Dean Jenkinson.

"Dean was one of the writers on 22 Minutes, so we got to know each other quite well," Hall says. "We've just been e-mailing each other flight attendant jokes and it's been quite funny. So hopefully no nightmares will happen and if they do, that's why Jesus invented whiskey. I believe the Bible says wine, but I prefer to remember it otherwise."

With cracks like that, it's hard to believe that Hall got into the comedy game a little late. After returning from her honeymoon in 1998, the then-restaurant-waitress Hall had what she calls "an after-school special moment," realizing that she had to take a crack at comedy. She signed up for workshop classes at The Second City and six months later, Hall was a part of The Second City's touring company, promoted to the main stage soon afterwards.

Things just kept on getting better for Hall. In 2002, a CBC executive saw her play, Death of a Salesgirl, which was turned into the hour-long CBC comedy special, Too Die 4 and led to appearances on Ken Finkelman's At the Hotel, The Rick Mercer Report and her current 22 Minutes gig.

"One thing just leads to another," Hall says. "Never turn down an audition, even if it is for pornography, because you don't know where it could take you. Everybody watches porn, including probably TV executives."

While you won't see Hall's name in the credits of Curse of the Golden Shower or Young Women for Old Men, she does have one sexy voice, which Wikipedia calls "distinctive."

"This voice used to get me in trouble," Hall says. "In the beginning acting people would wonder if I had blown my voice at a concert the night before. I was constantly defending it. I've had this voice since kindergarten. It robbed me of friends from a very young age and then it got sexy when Grade 9 hit."

That sexy voice surely pulled in a ton of tips during Hall's former career in the food-service industry, but she's glad she made the jump to comedy and acting.

"It beats the hell out of coal mining for paying the mortgage," Hall says.

Do you mine, Geri?

"Not yet, but I'm not ruling that or pornography out for the future," Hall says. "Coal mining porn girl. It's a specialty market."

Winnipeg Comedy Fest Full Schedule

Thursday, April 10

Super Gala Thursday - Pantages Playhouse Theatre - 7:15 pm - Act One: The Wedding Show feat. hosts Colin Mochrie & Deb McGrath w/ Tim Steeves, Teresa Pavinek, Kevin McGrath - Act Two: The Raising Kids Show feat. host Gerry Dee w/ Alex Dallas, Mrs. Hughes

Drolement Votres 6 - Centre Culturel Franco Manitobain - 7:30 pm - Feat. host Vincent Dureault w/ Martial Tougas, Michel Roy, Martin Bruyere, Yan Dallaire

CBC Pilot Show: This is Only a Test - Gas Station Theatre - 8 pm - Hosted by Niles Seguin

The Improv Superstars Show - MTC Warehouse - 10 pm - Feat. hosts Teresa Pavlinek & Roman Danylo w/ Stephen McIntyre, Cory Wojcik, Jeff Sinclair

The Three Amigos - Gas Station Theatre - 10:30 pm - Feat. Big Daddy Tazz, Al Rae, Dean Jenkinson

Friday, April 11

Super Gala Friday - Pantages Playhouse Theatre - 7:15 pm - Act One: The Sports Show feat. host Dennis Hull w/ Deb Williams, Erica Sigurdson, Harry Doupe - Act Two: The Travel Show feat. host Manoj Sood w/ Ali Rizvi, Geri Hall, John Wing, Jimmy Tingle

Big Daddy Tazz & Friends - Gas Station Theatre - 8 pm - Feat. host Big Daddy Tazz w/ Heather Witherden, Rachel Sommer, Warren Persowich, Brad Oswald, Chantel Marostica, Dean Jenkinson, Jason Beck
The Dark and Stormy Show - Gas Station Theatre - 10:30 pm - Feat. host Mike Wilmot w/ John Wing, Tim Steeves, Harry Doupe, Rick Currie

Aboriginal Show - MTC Warehouse - 9 pm - Feat. Don Kelly, Dawn Dumont, Darrell Dennis, Gerry Barrett

Saturday, April 12

Super Gala Saturday - Pantages Playhouse Theatre - 7:15 pm - Act One: The Animal Show feat. host Roman Danylo w/ Big Daddy Tazz, Don Kelly, Rich Currie - Act Two: The Medicine Show feat. host Mike Wilmot w/ Brad Muise, Lou Eisen, Darrell Dennis

The Debaters - MTC Warehouse - 1 pm - Teresa Pavlinek vs. John Wing; Brian Stollery vs. Dean Jenkinson; Tim Steeves vs. Harry Doupe; Dawn Dumont vs. Darrell Dennis; Bruce Clark vs. Irwin Barker; Alan Park vs. Carrie Gaetz

The Greater Winnipeg Show - Gas Station Theatre - 9 pm - Feat. host Bruce Clark w/ Big Daddy Tazz, Paul Sveen, Brian Stollery, Dean Jenkinson, Irwin Barker
Best of the Fest - MTC Warehouse - 10:30 pm - Feat. host John Wing w/ Mike Wilmot, George Westerholm, Tim Steeves, Erica Sigurdson, Steve Patterson, Brad Muise, Kevin McGrath

Sunday, April 13

The Debaters - MTC Warehouse - 1 pm - Feat. Bruce Clark vs. Mel Silverback; Mike Wilmot vs. Kate Davis; Simon Rakoff vs. Ray Hanania; Sabrina Jalees vs. Erica Sigurdson; Mike Wilmot vs. Derek Edwards

Reasonable Accomodation/The Desi Show - Gas Station Theatre - 7 pm - Feat. host Bruce Clark w/ Mike Wilmot, Azhar Usman, Ali Rizvi, Irwin Barker

For me Winnipeg Comedy Festival coverage, see our Arts section

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