February 20, 2002
That's so Gavin and Mary
By JIM SLOTEK
That's so Will And Grace. You guys are just like Will And Grace. Will And Grace, Will And Grace, Will And Grace.

"It's hard to get away from that reference," says character-comic Gavin Crawford, whose friendship with fellow Second City alumnus Mary Pat Farrell is a key dynamic in the second season of the Comedy Network's Gavin Crawford Show.

"It's like you can't have a straight woman and a gay man be friends without it being Will And Grace. In actual fact, we're more like Laverne And Shirley."

Tonight's episode is the second since Crawford returned from a Hollywood hiatus -- where he starred in the ill-fated U.S. sketchcom Hype. The prodigal Canadian comic pairs up with Farrell in an extended Grand Guignol movie spoof where they play themselves -- with Mary Pat convinced that Crawford is about to be killed by his deranged Gloria Swanson-like agent (also played by Crawford).

"If you think about it, that plot is pretty Laverne And Shirley."

He recalls another Lavern-esque moment, offscreen. They were in Las Vegas, where Farrell recently opened the Second City franchise, and Kyle Tingley (his partner and co-writer) decided to go rowing. They were in a rowboat, floating off haplessly, with Mary Pat on shore.

"We turned instantly into the two giantest girls in the world. Mary Pat rips her top off, jumps in the lake, grabs the boat and rescues us. Mary Pat's like me, she recognizes a good moment."

For good measure, audiences at the Rivoli's alt.comedy.lounge show last week got to see them perform the "dinner scene" from Carrie for laughs, with Farrell as Piper Laurie and Crawford as Sissy Spacek.

They'll be playing themselves in sketches threaded throughout the season. Not that Farrell is his only leading lady. He does a great Misery sendup tonight, playing a Karl Lagerfeld-like fashion designer held captive by his "biggest fan" (Cathy Gordon Marsh, who hobbles him by making him wear stiletto pumps). Later in the season, another ex-Second City pal, Tracy Dawson, plays the brassy girlfriend of his character Red Ronnie Rocker -- a persona for which Crawford's been commissioned by Alliance-Atlantis to write a feature-length movie script. Other fan-favourite Crawford characters return as well, including the oblivious Library Lady (who carries a torch for her gay male co-worker) and porn star Hugh G. McNutts.

All of this is a severe hit of fresh air for Crawford, who regretted his decision to join Hype "pretty much from the second day. I just can't see myself dressing like Britney Spears and saying 'Hi, I'm Britney Spears and I'm stupid and I can't sing and I'm slutty' and that's the joke. A lot of Hype sketches were going like that. 'Hi, I'm insert celebrity name here, and I'm untalented.' It's that process of script elimination where you start off with a good sketch and it goes hand to hand to hand getting whittled down."

So Crawford came home to a lesser-paying but much less supervised TV gig. (The aforementioned Farrell, meanwhile, inherited his L.A. apartment to look for sitcom work).

"I look at it this way," the Lethbridge-born Crawford says. "I could jump ship when somebody says, 'Oh, you wanna come down to L.A. and be on That's My Neighbour?' And I could get really famous for that, and five years down the road I've got a significant chunk of American money, and I'm the That's My Neighbour guy for the rest of my life.

"I'd rather they know me as a Gavin Crawford Show character instead."