Since May 2017, real-life married couple Tamara Bick and Drew Antzis’s stage show Settle This Thing has been a fixture at The Theatre on King (TTOK) in downtown Peterborough. The pair has become popular with the audiences that come to see their show, a fast and clever comedy where the two comedians bring their personal disputes out of the privacy in their home and onto the TTOK stage.
But this summer Tamara and Drew will be taking their performance to bigger cities and bigger stages. Lightning has struck three times, and the couple have been invited to bring Settle This Thing to the Montreal, Toronto, and Chicago Fringe Festivals.
“It’s like we’ve won the lottery three times,” Drew says. “Well, two times, but we were first on the waiting list for Chicago and someone dropped out. It could not be three better cities.”
For those not familiar with Settle This Thing, Tamara and Drew started it as a series of YouTube videos in 2012 while living in Los Angeles, where they met while working for Funny or Die.
The premise for the video series was that they would present their everyday household spats to the cyber audience. They’d present their different points of view, and then allow the audience to vote on who they think is right. Based on the number of votes each video got in the comments section, they would respect the decision of the audience and honour that decision in their real lives.
Although the original video series was relatively short, after relocating from LA to Peterborough so Tamara could be closer to her family, the pair decided to revisit Settle This Thing, but this time develop it as a live show.
VIDEO: A ‘Settle This Thing’ webisode from 2012
In their live show, Drew and Tamara spend an hour dissecting and analyzing certain aspects of relationships, as well as presenting brand new videos to the audience based on new household disagreements. Once again, whatever the audience votes for becomes the law of the land in the Antzis/Bick household.
“As a live show, there are a lot of major themes that we wanted to explore,” Tamara explains. “We wanted to explore relationships, parenting, marriage, in-laws, family, money, and all of that. So those are these major thematic umbrellas. We’ve been able to devote an entire show to one of these themes.”
For the Fringe Festival performances, Drew and Tamara have decided to restructure Settle This Thing even further by combining many of their previous performances into a single show. Although this is an ambitious undertaking, the pair have been working hard to create a coherent and entertaining script based on all of their previous TTOK performances.
“To go and do the Fringe Festival, we’ve decided to take four or five of these different themes and put them all together in one show, and try to cover the science of relationships,” Tamara explains. “By doing multiple different shows, it’s allowed us to explore the topics for an hour, and now we can distill it down to the best bits.
“We’re definitely narrowing in on what our one-hour fringe show is going to be and we’re super excited about it. We’re going to feature three Settle This Thing episodes, and do questions and answer sessions with the audience, and there’s improv involved. I think the finished project is going to be really fun to do, once we actually know what the show is.”
To see Tamara and Drew on stage, and then visit with them in their home, is an odd but entertaining experience — because where the act ends and where the reality begins continues to be unclear.
There’s a natural banter between the two, with Drew being the optimistic straight man to Tamara’s pessimistic (she says “realistic”) cutting jabs at married life. The result is a wonderfully smart and natural way of communication where the gag just never stops.
“Our whole relationship started as a comedy bit,” Drew says. “We’re improvisers so we can’t say no. As an improviser, you have to say yes and just add on to it.”
“I want to say no to Drew, but then I would be a bad improviser,” Tamara shoots back.
So has the shtick of Settle This Thing helped improve their marriage? There doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut answer.
“It’s helping our marriage,” Drew says in his ever-optimistic manner. “It’s also helping people who come and see it because we do offer exciting tips and tricks.”
“But I wouldn’t say that we’re happier,” Tamara replies.
“I would say that we’re still married,” Drew points out.
“And not everyone can say that,” Tamara agrees. “Seventy per cent of couples crash and burn. So it’s like this: Are we happily married? Yes we are! But are we? Yes, we are. But are we?”
I can’t decide if they are or not. But as Drew and Tamara go on to reveal, divorce isn’t a viable option for them.
“We have children,” Tamara points out. “We have a house together and our money is all mushed together. It’s so complicated to separate.”
“Even if we wanted to, we can’t afford it,” Drew adds. “You sometimes have to choose between paying for your children’s education and getting a divorce.”
“Do you want the kids a good education or send them to public school?” Tamara says. “Do you want to get divorced? Yes. But can you afford it? No.
“So you stay together and you buy another house. I can live in this house. He can live in a house down the street. He can come to dinner on Sundays. It’ll be great.”
Over the next three months, Drew and Tamara will be performing the Fringe Festival version of Settle This Thing at TTOK while they develop and fine tune the material. What they really need from our community is audience interest and participation to bring this funny and intelligent performance piece to its polished form.
“We’re doing the same show, but with tweaks,” Tamara says about their next batch of performances. “It’ll be different videos, different audiences, and lots of new material, so we can get used to doing it. The question and answer period, and the bits between us and the audience will definitely change.”
“We may punch things up depending on audience reaction,” Drew adds.
“It’s very possible that huge sections of it will get cut and we’ll replace it with something else,” Tamara says. “But right now we have a working script which is close to what we want to do in Montreal.”
I have attended three of Drew and Tamara’s Settle This Thing performances since May 2017 and each time I’ve been entertained by their natural humour, their ability to play off each other and the audience, and the intelligent and sometimes uncomfortable subject matter.
Their next three shows will be a presentation of the best of their previous performances, and they need audience support more than ever to help them develop the show before they venture off on their North American tour.
If you haven’t seen Settle This Thing yet, put at least one of their final three dates in Peterborough on your must-see list. If you like it, go back to the next date and bring your family and friends. With a much larger audience base about to experience this brilliant comedy show, it may be now or never for us to experience Settle This Thing on the small stage.
“Just focusing on the show, having fun with it, and making it what we want it to be is the main thing,” says Tamara in a rare moment of seriousness. “We’re not doing it for any particular reason but that we enjoy doing it and we enjoy making each other laugh.
“I think the show has a chance of living and breathing and going somewhere. It was born out of just wanting to sit on our couch and saying ‘You’re wrong. I’ll never agree with you. Let’s make someone else decide whose right.’ It was really fun to do.”
Tamara Bick and Drew Antzis will be continuing the development of the Fringe Festival version of Settle This Thing at TTOK on Friday, March 30th, Friday, April 27th and Friday, May 25th. The shows start at 8 p.m. and admission is $10.
For those who are travelling this summer, you can see Settle This Thing in Montreal between June 7th to 15th, in Toronto between July 4th and 15th, and in Chicago between August 30th and September 3rd (dates, times, and venues have yet to be announced).