Artists are dangerous; not in a “hold you at gunpoint demanding your wallet or your life” kind of way but rather, they can be highly intelligent people who use their talent to sway both individual and mass opinion/sensibilities. If you upset a writer, they can compose something that addresses you in a subversive way. An actor might deliver the lines in a subliminal tone, guiding you to a feeling that might differ from what is instinctual for you. All that is needed is an Executive Producer to enable them to make it all happen. Combine all three of these with a slightly sarcastic comedic wit and timing and you’ll get Roger Bainbridge…the most interstin…err, dangerous man on Earth…well, at least in Canadian entertainment. Comedians and comic actors get away with saying and displaying some truly awful things by delivering them in a way that shines a light on their ridiculousness. Case in point; Bainbridge had seen many of his friends taken advantage of as unpaid interns. Not only did these people not receive monetary compensation for their toil but, they were quite often not treated with respect. As a writer and an actor with the resources to green light a film, Roger used his role as a part of the Canadian comedy group Tony Ho to create, produce, and present Japan. The film reveals the politics and disrespect (in a very funny way) of the modern office template.
Roger Bainbridge has worn a lot of hats in his career; writer, actor, music video director, executive producer, but he is most commonly associated with Tony Ho (the aforementioned Canadian comedy group). Tony Ho enjoys tackling ideas like threesomes (Wanda), dysfunctional family dynamics laced with time travel (Time), etc. No subject seems to eclectic for Tony Ho. Bainbridge was inspired to write Japan based on the shared office experience many of us have. He explains, “The impetus for writing Japan was seeing a lot of my friends being forced to take unpaid internships at places that really should have been paying them, and seeing how messed up the job market was at the time for people just getting out of school. From there I just thought about what might spurn a change of heart in someone in charge of the hiring. I worked briefly in an office where we did subtitling, so it wasn’t a really traditional office. Everyone had headphones on, pretty cut off from everyone else. No one really spoke to each other, it was all done through email. So I guess I was just left with an impression of people being timid to go talk to anyone, which creates this awkward tension, and tension is really at the heart of comedy.” As the writer of Japan, Roger had the inspiration and the skill to conceive the notes of his comedic sonata and as the EP he could find and reserve the concert hall, he simply needed to proper “musicians” to perform the piece with the delivery and skill that would inspire his trust.
Tony Ho has been creating comedy for over a decade. You don’t stay in any relationship that long unless you have a deep caring and trust of the other(s) involved. Once he had conceived the idea for Japan and written the lines, Bainbridge immediately understood that Tony Ho were the best performers suited to make the film. The trio of Tony Ho has spent more than a decade creating and performing together both live and on screen. Roger refers to Adam Niebergall and Miguel Rivas as two of the funniest and most interesting performers he has ever worked with. Niebergall diverts praise to Bainbridge stating, “He’s a ‘taste maker’ and he’s incredibly compelling. I’ve spent a decade or so working with him in comedy and I still can’t ever see it coming. I’m amazed by Roger’s Vision. He has an unwavering integrity with his comedy. His work is so good because he is always asking himself what he would want to watch and he would never bother making anything that doesn’t pass that test. I think a lot of people write things with the mentality “Oh, this would be good; people are talking about this right now.” and a lot of times that type of thing can come off flat. You can tell when a comedy writer isn’t obsessed with her/his subject matter. Roger knows what he wants to say as a writer and for me that’s always much more compelling to pay attention to. He’s always one step ahead. He thrives on making people think about themselves and it really motivates his work.”
With the writing of Japan completed and Tony Ho set to star in the film, Roger’s job as EP meant he would acquire the production team that would capture the action of Japan. Henry Sansom was the professional that Bainbridge entrusted to be seated behind the camera. DOP Sansom echoes Adam Niebergall’s sentiments, declaring,” In my experience, Roger Bainbridge is one of the most talented and disciplined minds in comedy in Toronto. Not only an incredible actor dedicated to craft and context, he is a star writer of subtlety, relevance, and boldness. Without seeming too fellating, if there was only one artist I could work with for the rest of my career, and know that every project was able to reach the highest standard, that would be Roger Bainbridge.” Inspiring confidence in others is the template of Roger’s career, a worthy attribute for someone whom both creates and enables the filmmaking process. The fact that he is so adept at creating the storylines and situations that take place on camera might divert one’s attention from the fact that Bainbridge is such a respected an accomplished actor. A viewing of his many diverse roles and the temperament of his characters serves as a confirmation that he is truly in his element in front of the camera.
Roger reveals the tone that he wanted for the action on film as he communicates, “In making Japan, we knew we were really pushing ourselves to make something more relatable in tone of comedy, pace, and look, so it was nice to have it be received so well by people who
have seen it. Our stuff can tend to be a bit more challenging, so this was a test to see if we could dip a toe in something a little more mainstream, and people seem to like it.” Centering on the stereotype that the Japanese culture is focused on workplace competition and Karaoke leads Miguel’s character to force Roger and Adam to compete in a sing-off with the winner being awarded a paid position for the company. While Sophie B Hawkins “I Wish I Was Your Lover” has never been so amusing, it’s the flashbacks and narration that empower the performances to have deeper laughs than simply the action might elicit on their own. Japan has a greater level of complexity in terms of the number of sets and number of cast members involved than many of the Tony Ho productions. There is a trait that enables Japan and the theme to be irreverent to the stereotypes that the general public often feels comfortable buying into. Bainbridge agrees, “I think Canadians have a unique take on comedy because we have the benefit of being influenced by both American and British comedy. The British style can be a great deal more subtle and satirical and American stuff can be so in-your-face and broad and angry. I think we have the ability to marry those two influences in an interesting way. I have never been to Japan, and that’s deliberately part of the humor of the piece for me. I like it when people feel like they completely understand a place by just gleaning bits and pieces of their culture as it’s been distorted through media. The larger joke is that these are ideas people may hold about Japan while not actually knowing anything about the place.” Bainbridge is currently in development for TV productions with Tony Ho. With successful comedy albums, his involvement heading films and music videos, Roger Bainbridge is equipped to bring the full package to the home viewing public.