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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ford's Focus: Matt&Kyle&Matt

The Westie Boyz … a True Canadian Bromance
Weird is not just the purview of the Fringe
by Barbara Ford
WARNING: The following may not be suitable for all browsers. Only those of supreme intellect who possess a highly sophisticated wit should proceed. However do be careful as few among us are sufficiently armed to interpret the difference between fact and just a lotta horseshit when dealing with the fertile imaginations of the Westie Boyz.

DIRECTIONS FOR USE: Firmly plant tongue in cheek and proceed with caution. To be taken with a grain of salt.


The elder Matt Gagnon met middle man Matt Raudsepp’s sister in elementary school: EPPC for those in the know or École Primaire Pointe-Claire for those who aren’t. When Raudsepp was in grade four, he watched in awe as a chiselled, athletic Gagnon, quite spontaneously, attempted and completed a spectacular aerial flip over several bodies beneath him for a school variety show. The winged vision of Gagnon in mid-air, like a white-tailed gazelle in slow motion, made a lasting impression on Raudsepp. Youngest man on the totem pole, Kyle Gatehouse, was still in Pull-Ups at the time, fostering a growing fascination for dog shows, sea creatures and cavies (or guinea pigs for those unfamiliar with the professional term). Today he breeds them and is the undisputed ‘king cavy breeder’. 

Matt R.
Gatehouse and Raudsepp met in a John Rennie High School production of A Christmas Carol. All three Westie Boyz attended the same high school and sang glorious praises, in three part harmony, of their acting teacher: Louise Chalmers. The three sensitive boyz chose the Drama and Improv Arts program as opposed to the mindless, macho sports streams (burley bulls in china shops they were not). Most of the West Island high schools are involved in the CIG (Canadian Improv Games) and our three comedic heroes participated vigorously during their respective terms at John Rennie. They were bewildered year after year by uproarious crowd reactions to their performances which propelled them towards quarter and semi-finals only to be penalized for thinking outside the box and losing to less comical conformists in the end. They must have thrown the rule book out this year though, with cheeky John Rennie H.S. finally winning the national competition! 

Matt G.
Both Matts continued their acting training, though at different times, at John Abbott College: Raudsepp in the Professional Theatre program and Gagnon in the Theatre Workshop program. In his first year, the ambitious Raudsepp started a theatre company called Second Body Productions, presenting Sing to Me Through Open Windows by two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Arthur Kopit (most recently known for the 2009 film version of his Broadway musical, Nine), in the black box of his high school alma mater. 

Gatehouse, still at John Rennie, was already acting professionally with an agent landing him small film roles, commercials and larger television parts. He derived most of his flawless technique from the seminal, forty-minute Michael Caine training video, widely available on YouTube. Hungry to build on his already substantial training, (courtesy of Mr. Caine), Gatehouse followed in his future roommates’ steps and also applied to John Abbott College. However he was soon faced with an odd conundrum: he was told that to study acting he must stop acting … he studied film instead.


Raudsepp and Gatehouse were aimlessly cruising the West Island one lazy afternoon when Raudsepp spotted Gagnon strolling along the side of the road. “Hey … let’s pick him up,” he exclaimed as he screeched to a stop beside the surprised Gagnon, who gladly hopped in only to come face to face with Gatehouse for the first time. “It’s not like there were fireworks or anything but I definitely know I heard the faint strains of celestial guitar strumming in the car that day,” glowed Gagnon as he recalled the fateful meeting. 


As if fated, the threesome kept running into each other as they were coincidentally cast to work on the local projects. Both Matts, along with three others, enacted Tom Stoppard’s 15-Minute Hamlet outside the Saidye Bronfman Centre, glorified barkers-cum-ushers for the Gravy Bath five-hour marathon, Kali Yuga. Drawing on their extensive improv skills, all three played prominently in several Just for Baths, (which swiftly changed to Jest for Baths to avoid any confusion, or collusion, with Just for Laughs), Gravy Bath’s spaghetti-dinner comedy fundraisers. Tony Palermo, Gravy Bath’s founder and himself a John Abbott theatre graduate as well, discovered our boyz by grilling college mates for names of funny people and these three kept popping up.

Matt R. and Kyle
In 2006, Raudsepp was in Gayanashagowa and Au-delà de la ville, two Gravy Bath Productions in the Festival of New Classical Theatre while Gagnon was in Toronto understudying, and occasionally playing, Frodo in the David Mirvish musical production of Lord of the Rings, (the most expensive musical ever made, that is until this year’s Spiderman), at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Playing a Hobbit was a piece of cake for the naturally furry Gagnon, who had long before squarely faced two of his three acting fears having already performed in the nude and in a gay scene for the MTV teen hit Undressed. Casting must have overlooked seeing him shirtless at the audition so imagine the shock and amazement as Gagnon bravely revealed his man-rug on the day of the shoot. Twenty minutes later Gagnon’s chest more closely resembled that of an eighteen-year-old’s thanks to a handy pair of beard trimmers. Oh yes … he was one spanking, clean-shaven Adonis for that scene on his knees!

Meanwhile, the adventurous Gatehouse was off exploring the great white north shooting a commercial working with Andrew Shaver for the first time. The two bonded in the bar the first night when they both ordered kangaroo steak, a culinary choice that led to Gatehouse’s first play in 2007: Morris Panych’s The Dishwashers, staged by SideMart Theatrical Grocery in the basement of BU, a hip-and-trendy wine bar on St-Laurent in the Plateau.


Once Gravy Bath Productions folded in the fall of 2006 (a moment of silence please) our three intrepid thespians became much closer as they produced two sketch comedy shows at Theatre Ste-Catherine. Between 2006 and 2010 all were busy either doing stand-up, hosting and/or performing in comedy shows, and/or acting for film, TV and theatre. 

Gatehouse with Daniel Brouchu
Gatehouse and Gagnon played in Pre/Intervention, Graham Cuthbertson’s 2008 Fringe Festival play. Earlier that year Raudsepp had been in Persephone Productions’ Othello and in the winter of 2010 played in the Montreal Theatre Ensemble’s A View from the Bridge at John Abbott’s Casgrain Theatre. Gatehouse was on a roll, beginning with SideMart’s The Dishwashers in 2007, then their Haunted Hillbilly (both the workshop version in ’07 and the full production in ’09) followed by Trying for the Kingdom in 2010, (all at the Segal Centre), as well as Whitman’s Whiskey Comedy Review in ’09 at Theatre Ste-Catherine. This season he was featured in Urban Tales, Centaur’s annual dose of anti-Christmas cheer, and shared the stage with SideMart buddy, Daniel Brochu, in Marie Jones’s Stones in his Pockets (also at Centaur).

Gagnon, the self-admitted academic of the crew, spent much of this time at Concordia University studying Creative Writing and after that, Fine Arts, which he is finishing up this year. Keep a sharp eye out for his weekly editorial cartoon in the West Island Gazette to be syndicated worldwide very soon.

By now they realized they had a love, so pure and so true, that none of them had the strength to deny it. Gradually, as they’d grown to care for one another more deeply, the seed of an idea began to form: create a web site entirely devoted to their particular brand of off-the-wall humour. Gagnon, a bit of a techno-dinosaur who still relies on fax machines, was enthusiastic though he knew he had his work cut out for him, having to learn the complexities of the World Wide Web on such short notice.


They understood fully the demands an online commitment like this would put on each of them and therefore made a unanimous decision to move in together to relieve some of the pressure. They took things slowly and meticulously at first, investing a full year to prepare the site and get it just the way they wanted. They phished through Elance for the perfect web facilitator and came up with Robert Richards, a seventy-one-year-old genius who refuses to liaise with them electronically, preferring Gagnon’s favourite mode of communication (fax) or the trusted reliability of snail-mail. (By the way, what’s the latest scoop on the postal strike?)  Gatehouse was impressed with Richards’ retro 90’s sites and chose him to recreate that look and feel for their site.

To further bond, the boyz invented the game of Fax Pictionary. Listen up kids: here’s something you can play with your parents as a way to bring the family closer. Two teams send visual clues from fax to fax within your home or you can expand the game to include relatives and friends in distant cities … fun and games for everyone!


They tentatively tested family members and friends for their initial reactions to samples of the site as they worked on it, eager for their input and hopefully, their blessings. The site, Matt and Kyle and Matt (M&K&M) released a pre-launch teaser in the fall of 2010 with an audacious declaration of their love in the singing video “The Commitment Song”.  The official launch in December was a cornucopia of original comedy videos. Gatehouse calls it an “internet Utopia where you can find all the best parts of the internet in one place.  The best-looking boyz on the net, the best comedy and everything’s got our special brand of irreverence and supreme intelligence.” Quite frankly, it’s the ‘Best of the Westies’. 

The Mormon Cycle, Episode 4

It’s a mix of webisodes such as This is How We Live or The Mormon Cycles and one-off sketches like their Mother’s Day tribute to dads. “What’s so great about the site,” explains Gatehouse, “is if we have an idea for a series with a specific tone where we want to achieve certain things artistically and see it as let’s say a six-episode idea, we do it but then we can move on and do something completely different in tone and style for the next one.” “It’s a bit like a variety show,” adds Gagnon, “and we can explore whatever comes up.”

Gagnon faced his final acting fear: serious physical injury.

Having crossed nudity and homosexuality off the list of dreaded scenes to play, Gagnon thought he was home free when it came to latent phobias but such was not the case. It was while shooting an episode of The Mormon Cylces, the story of two Mormons spreading God’s word to dusty, secluded hamlets on their bicycles, that Gagnon faced his final acting fear: serious physical injury. He took a nasty spill during one scene that necessitated calling at a nearby homestead for medical attention for a bone-deep gash on his sculpted, muscular leg. Luckily, the babysitter was versed in Red Cross emergency procedures and tended to his wound with the utmost professionalism and care. “I can safely say that I have nothing to fear from this day forward,” shuddered Gagnon as he recalled the life-altering event.

Though they had to painstakingly bring Gagnon up to speed in the technology department, each of them has a blog on the site.  Every day one of them makes a new post. Though Gagnon is the visual artist of the threesome, it’s Gatehouse who favours cartoons in his blog. Once he has fifty images he plans to send them to every museum in the world for free public display, as well as to mags like Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler for publication. “These cartoons are meant to be seen and shared. I can’t limit them to the web; it would be criminal!”

Matt G. as Pigboy
They like to upload a new video every second Tuesday; not an easy feat when you consider that this is a love child comes with no financial recompense.  They have to squeeze the writing, video shoots and editing in between paying gigs, sometimes as actors and other times as average Joes.  They use a huge empty storage container down at the docks as a set.  Here they can recreate in minute detail, every nuance of their apartment, for instance, for the series This is How We Live.  It’s costly and time-consuming but they are relentless in their pursuit of perfection.

But between shoots, what to do with the sets?  Their dependable, steadfast dads came to the rescue with free storage in basements and garages and the boyz have not forgotten to show their gratitude, doing so freely online. As a matter of act, the site is more or less dedicated to their fathers, just one more step along the path in the revolution they are leading for uninhibited, open declarations of man-love between straight men, something Gatehouse says there just isn’t enough of these days. 

“The idea for the web site was obviously to have a platform for our zany ideas but also to showcase other talented professionals in the city.”

But they don’t stop at ‘pop-love’. Their generosity and sense of community is inspirational. “The idea for the web site was obviously to have a platform for our zany ideas but also to showcase other talented professionals in the city,” explained Gatehouse. The trio has co-written numerous skits with special colleagues in mind for the characters. They might stumble upon an idea over beers with pals one night at a local watering hole and five years later call them up at two in the morning to say the script is ready and they’re shooting the next day.  “Now that we’re writers, producers, directors, actors, sound designers and editors, casting tends to be last on the to-do list; we’re notorious for last-minute calls,” confessed Raudsepp, “but we do our best to work around our friends’ schedules, at least the ones we really want to work with.” It’s positively heart-warming to see the love flow in both directions with film buddies lending camera equipment and technical expertise and actors donating their time to the shoots.

No doubt about it, it’s a labour of love with Gatehouse freely admitting  that even if no one was logging on to the site, they would still be doing it for their own amusement. They have no financial support, unlike some other local web-based entertainment but that’s due to a lack of time rather than sheer laziness. “It boils down to priorities: do we write the skit for the next upload or write a grant application?  The decision is clear in our minds,” Gagnon stated resolutely. Gatehouse confided that “if we each get a film job every month and a half or so, it’s enough to keep us afloat.” Raudsepp chirped in with, “High five Montreal’s cheap rents!”


And so, our three multi-threat artists have delivered unto us a site that is unparalleled in the city, dare I say the world? And now that they have birthed their creation, how are they announcing this great achievement?  Gatehouse goes beyond the call of duty by making it his sole purpose to leave postcards in every public washroom in the world, beginning with Ireland last month.  Sky-writing is also on the table. They link their site to other comedy sites and post their videos on Funny or Die, Will Farrell’s comedy site, and are discovering daily that through word of mouth, total strangers in unexpected places are logging on to follow their antics. Producers and directors here, in Toronto, and indeed around the world that one or the other has worked with, are beginning to tune in regularly for their daily dose of comedy from our three stooges.

The most recent promotional idea is a winner: a line of merchandise flaunting the mugs of Matt and Kyle and Matt: gorgeosity itself! Their first initiative will be pillow cases.  Young people of discerning taste can have the guilt-free pleasure of sleeping with all of the Westie Boyz every night.  “We’ll be the last thing they see before they go to sleep and the first thing they see when they wake up,” boasted Gatehouse.  The decadent line of pillow case merch will be called “K’ses” with plans for a second line featuring their dads’ photos: another example of the fearless and proud outpouring of love these appreciative young men have for their fathers.

Of course they each have their own Facebook and Twitter accounts, though Gatehouse tends to reserve his Twitter account for cavy-breeding news.  His ultimate goal is to breed show Abyssinian cavies with cowlick shoulder rosettes, which occasionally necessitates an apartment overrun by rodents when the little critters pop out a litter, but his roommates put up with it.  That’s the beauty of unconditional love.  


To co-habitate and co-work together so seamlessly, they each need some ‘alone time’ to nurture interests that have nothing to do with the world of entertainment.  Gagnon is a thriving miniaturist, working in Fimo resin to comment on social and political injustices. As I gazed spell-bound at his tiny creatures I knew with undeniable certainty that they would one day inhabit revered museums the world over. 

In addition to trawling alleyways and dumpster-diving in his tireless devotion to recycling, Raudsepp is a member of the local rock band, HONHEEHONHEETest drive their work by visiting their MySpace page. They’ll be playing in two festivals this summer: the North by North East Fest in Toronto, June 13 to 19 and the Sled Island Music Fest in Calgary from June 22 to 25 and plan to drop a CD this summer.  

Unbeknownst to most, Gatehouse has a burgeoning boxing career and somehow finds time to spend hours in the gym pulverizing punching bags and terrified sparring partners. “I feel it’s very important to keep the balance between body, mind and spirit and boxing helps me achieve that perfect equilibrium.  If I couldn’t beat the crap out of my opponents, I just know my art would suffer.” Don’t miss him as one of the headliners in the next International Extreme Boxing tournament coming to town.

And this is hot off the press. (Just remember you read it here first.) All three of them are starting a Toto cover band that will essentially cover any band’s top forty hit as long as there is a jazz breakdown at least once in the song. Gagnon piped in to let me know that “We are using the term ‘jazz’ rather loosely: really it can be any pop hit with a soulful bridge.”  I can say, unreservedly, that I am breathless with anticipation for this next creative offspring.


“We want to create a live show based on some of the web content.  It would be a multi-media extravaganza, a comedy-palooza if you will,” Gatehouse spluttered animatedly. Naturally they won’t limit themselves to staying within the Canadian borders. “A world tour is the only way to go,” piped in Gagnon but the ever cautious Raudsepp interjected to remind his buddies that they’re not there yet. “The web site is a useful tool to try out material for the live tour, just as live sketch comedy and stand-up is and we take full advantage of these opportunities.”


Though all three monogamous young men confessed that “our hearts are pretty full at the moment” there is still hope for young ladies and ten percent of young men out there.  Though they trust each other implicitly with their hearts, they know all too well that one (or two) people cannot fulfil all of your needs all of the time. Gagnon is officially spoken for but a little innocent dating is good for the circulation so they have come up with a cunning plan to enlarge their social circle, not to mention attract more fans. Anyone who links ten or more of the M&K&M videos to their own Facebook page wins a date with all three eligible bachelors or any combo thereof. They solemnly promise to “make it a very special time.” I ask you, could you want for anything more?


As their site proudly declares, “we just want to make some honest-to-goodness goodness,” and we, their adoring public, have no intention of stopping the steady flow of comedic brilliance. 

Tune in for the next instalment of Ford’s Focus when I lay bare the career of consummate stage manager Melanie St. Jacques.

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