A mockumentary that rarely lets up in the laugh department, “Ham & Cheese” is a must-see for anyone with the smallest thesping aspirations. High degree of face recognition, with veterans of “Kids in the Hall” and other northland tube shows on board, probably means that vid-shot effort would be worth a film transfer for distribs looking to take a chance on a potential cult classic.
Title might be a bit off-putting to some, but it neatly encapsulates the pic’s parallel subjects: the unctuous Barry Goodson and doltish Richard Wolanski, played to imperfection by co-scripters Jason Jones and Mike Beaver, respectively. Their dreams dwarf their talent, adding poignancy to the Canuck-humor mix, which includes facts of acting life that will ring true even for those who have tasted some success at “trodding the boards,” as Barry would put it, usually with a bad British accent.
Richard is a thirtysomething smalltowner deluded by his mother’s encouragement into taking a shot at the big city, meaning Toronto. His counterpart — although they only meet once, in a hilarious, split-screen audition for a TV spot — is also in deep denial.
Seemingly in a happy marriage, to the mouse Beth (“Daily Show” correspondent Samantha Bee, Jones’ real-life wife), the blandly handsome Barry is actually working for a local legit company — manning the phones in the direct-marketing department. His attempts to go to casting calls constantly put that gig in jeopardy while he gets to exhibit his paramount talent: sabotaging himself.
Meanwhile, Richard, whose standard audition pitch involves the Fonz as directed by Quentin Tarantino, enlists the services of a reputable but wholly uninterested acting coach, played in several pic-stealing scenes by ex-“Kids” thesp Dave Foley. Fellow alum Scott Thompson shows up as the no-nonsense helmer of a bad tube movie Barry flukes into.
“Ham” helmer Warren P. Sonoda does an excellent job of ratcheting up the yoks, with each adventure being a bit more outrageous than the last. Highlight is Richard’s tenure in experimental theater, with Rob Tinkler spot-on as Damien, a wacked-out artiste who uses his charisma to bed the better babes in the company.
Pic’s focus isn’t always secure, as fake-docu format sometimes falls away into isolated vignettes. But the laughs are believable enough, especially when Barry makes an ill-fated step into standup, and tale hangs together surprisingly well for a no-budget, 14-day shooter. Sonoda and company keep a sense of creative life grounded enough to deliver some emotion amidst the titters. Coda in Hollywood (where else could it end?) is a tasty sendoff to a wry “Ham & Cheese” made with lots of relish.