Comedy and music collide with The Three Martinis

Musical improv trio and special guests perform holiday shows in Peterborough and Bowmanville on December 9 and 10

The original lineup of The Three Martins (Jimmy Bowskill, Rob Phillips, and Dan Fewings) are performing two holiday shows in Peterborough and Bowmanville this December, featuring special guest musicians (supplied photo)
The original lineup of The Three Martins (Jimmy Bowskill, Rob Phillips, and Dan Fewings) are performing two holiday shows in Peterborough and Bowmanville this December, featuring special guest musicians (supplied photo)

There aren’t many acts around like The Three Martinis, where comedy and music collide for a value-added show that’s fun and different every time.

“The audience writes down titles to songs never before written and we pull them out of a hat,” explains lead singer and lyric improviser Dan Fewings. “We ask the audience for a genre for the song, or we pick one, and then the lyrics flow.”

The funniest part of the show involves Dan solving word problems on the fly. Working within the metre of the song, its rhythm, and of course its title, he has to craft something both entertaining and brand new.

“I love the fly-by-the-ass-of-your-pants dimension to it,” Dan says. The real fun for the audience, he believes, comes in the interactive nature of the act. “The audience gets to see this in action. Hearing the comedy in the lyrics and seeing their song titles come to life really seems to rock their world.”

VIDEO: The Three Martinis promo video

Dan’s rare talent for making up off-the-cuff song lyrics is something that comes naturally to him. He likes to quote Red Skelton when referring to this uncanny ability: “I have the sixth sense. I don’t have the other five.”

For some of his word-play chops, Dan credits studying and practising clowning at theatre school way back when, and he says he also built up the improv muscle while teaching guitar at Peterborough Collegiate Vocational School.

“I would have 25 students at a time,” he recalls. “Most of the kids would just have to strum and strum and strum in the early days to build up their speed. The boredom of the repetition got my overly active ADHD mind working and I started firing off lyrics to entertain us all. It would get us through the necessary drudgery of the students learning basic fingering and rhythm.”

The music at the heart of the act is driven by Peterborough piano stalwart Rob Phillips (Rick Fines, Thursday Jazz Night at the Black Horse), along with a rotating “third Martini”. When the trio first formed, the third Martini was Bailieboro’s famous native son Jimmy Bowskill on bass (who Dan first met before Jimmy started high school; the pair have maintained a strong friendship ever since).

Other third Martinis over the years have included Ryan Weber, Dennis Pendrith and others sitting in on bass, as well as Dan’s son Josh Fewings on drums.

VIDEO: The Three Martinis featuring Sean Cullen

The Three Martinis concept and name formed organically, when Dan was running his Fabulous Green Roof Children’s Theatre Camp at Showplace Performance Centre in 2009. At the end of five weeks, Rob Phillips agreed to be musical director for a free week-long adult theatre camp.

“During creative time, Rob played a few Tom Waits like motifs and I just ran with it, making up some lyrics to them,” Dan say. “It kept happening and the songs were good and funny.”

After the project, Rob invited Dan to have some fun at a jazz night at a restaurant in downtown Peterborough.

“Two acquaintances of Rob’s were there and he asked one of the shy ones to sing. She said ‘Ha! Three Martinis, then I’ll sing.’ We ran with it from there.”

“Somebody Loves You Darlin” by Ralph Stanley performed by Bowskill & Fewings

Two exciting holiday shows are coming up in the Kawarthas featuring the original Three Martinis lineup of Dan, Rob, and Jimmy — along with some exciting guests. The two shows offer a rare treat to see Jimmy perform in an intimate setting, as he’s between tours and albums with The Sheepdogs and Blue Rodeo.

The first of two shows happens on Friday, December 9th when Steamwhistle and present “The Three Martinis Holiday Bash” at the Gordon Best Theatre (216 Hunter St. W., Peterborough, 705-876-8884). The night will feature never-before-written songs as well as performances of a few holidays classics and original tunes by Melissa Payne, Trevor Davis (The Silver Hearts), and Alisha Embury. Josh Fewings (Mayhemingways) will add drums as the fourth Martini for the evening.

During the show, there’ll also be a rare performance of tunes by Jimmy and Dan as Bowskill and Fewings. The duo toured Newfoundland together twice over the past couple of years, and their last show in Peterborough was a crowd-pleasing opening set for Stephen Fearing and Andy White at the Market Hall in 2014.

VIDEO: “Wait On Down” performed by Bowskill & Fewings

A pre-paid reserve list is available at The Only (underneath the Gordon Best) and tickets are also available online at and at the door. Tickets are $20 plus fees in advance or $25 at the door. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins around 8 p.m.

The second holiday show in the area is the following night (Saturday, December 10th) at the cozy Haydon Community Hall in the small village of Haydon, north of Bowmanville. The show will take place in a beautiful old one-room schoolhouse and will feature the original Three Martinis along with Josh Fewings on drums, Alisha Embury singing a couple of tunes, a set by Bowskill and Fewings, and a performance by Haydon Kitchen Party favourites Mayhemingways. Doors open at 7 p.m. with the show beginning at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $25 and will include snacks. A special brew by Manantler Brewing Co. will be available, as well as mulled wine. Tickets for this event are available in Peterborough at Bluestreak Records (444 George St. N., Peterborough, 705-742-6078) and in Bowmanville at The Hands On Music Co. (39 Ontario St, Bowmanville, 905-623-7474).

VIDEO: “Hunter Street Blues” by Mayhemingways