New ‘Baroness von Sketch Show’ season skewers ‘garbage-fire times,’ says Whalen


TORONTO — As the CBC’s hit “Baroness von Sketch Show” enters its fourth season Tuesday, cast member Jennifer Whalen says they’ve really hit their stride.

The co-star, co-writer and co-executive producer says the all-female troupe has upped the production level and are more ambitious in terms of where they set scenes.

Sketches this season satirize everything from the difficulties of sending nude selfies in middle age, to the office trend of labelling every room a “hub,” and eating placenta.

“We have a piece where we meet aliens for the first time, we do a genre piece where we look at the Bronte sisters and sort of bad-boy role modelling, we have a piece on the Titanic — so we’ve been quite ambitious,” says Whalen.

“I think it’s a really nice combo of some commentary about the garbage-fire times that we’re living in, with also just really silly, fun things that give you a good belly laugh.”

Airing on CBC in Canada and IFC in the U.S., “Baroness von Sketch Show” also stars Aurora Browne, Carolyn Taylor and Meredith MacNeill, who are all also co-writers and co-executive producers. The series is also on Netflix.

Whalen says they’ve found the sketches that resonate with viewers and get shared the most on social media are the ones that “touch on something that we know to be true,” like season 2’s “Psych-up Salad,” in which MacNeill’s character resorts to increasingly desperate measures to try to stomach a healthy green lunch.

This season they’ve tried make the sketches shorter and more concise.

“It is snackable, it’s easily digestible, it’s easily sharable, which is great — much like cocaine,” Whalen quips.

“And it’s not going to tank your life, you aren’t going to like, lose your job or tank your relationship over it. It’s a healthy addiction.”

While they see this season almost as a series of short films, that doesn’t mean their budget was any higher, Whalen adds. It just means they’ve become “very smart” about how they spend their production dollars and where they put them.

“Sometimes a sketch will call for a special effect or something and our teams will be like, ‘Oh my god, it’s too much,’ and we’ll come up with a pretty simple solution,” says Whalen.

“We had a thing this year where Aurora needs to have Skittles fall out of her sleeve, an endless amount, and there were all these talks about pneumatic pumps and stuff like that.

“Then we were just like, ‘How about we get two people on a ladder with some funnels down the back of her shirt, and then we pour them down the funnels and then we digitally paint it out?’ And that’s what we ended up doing. It’s pretty old-school.”

Whalen says each season the foursome aims to reflect what’s happening in our culture at the time.

Other topics touched on this season include people who believe the Earth is flat, women who pee on the toilet, and the popularity of podcasts.

Like last season, there is also a bit of drag.

“Aurora has a lovely turn as a country singer in the upcoming season 4, which is really fun,” says Whalen.

“If you don’t know it’s her, you might not even catch that she’s playing a guy. Also, she’s super hot, which we all found super disturbing.”

The series, which has also been renewed for a fifth season, has about 12 sketches per episode. Some days they film five sketches, which can be challenging for the stars who have to play different characters in each.

“It’s a great exercise in staying Zen,” says Whalen. “When we’re filming, you really have to be in the moment and … then when it’s done you let it go, you go back to your trailer, you change your clothes, you get your hair and makeup redone for the next thing, look at your lines and then you’re like, ‘OK, and now I’m in this.’

“It is a tremendous amount of work but it’s also such a fun joyful thing to do and I feel so fortunate.”

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press