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Mayoral candidates not afraid to stand up for the cause

Toronto's mayoral contenders are about to appear on stage with the Second City comedy troupe, beginning Thursday with long-shot Giorgio Mammoliti.

The sketch comedy outfit has invited the major candidates to participate in question-and-answer improv sessions after performances of its new show, Second City for Mayor. Rocco Rossi, Joe Pantalone and Sarah Thomson have already accepted and George Smitherman's camp is expected to decide at a regular meeting Tuesday .

But the candidate ripest for skewering is likely a no. Rob Ford's brother and campaign manager, Doug Ford, said it's "more than likely he's not going to be doing that." Why not? "We're taking a little different approach now moving forward with the media," he said.

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He wouldn't elaborate, but it could be that the Ford camp is trying to jettison the "buffoon" tag that has dogged the Etobicoke councillor's career. Plus, the jovial Mr. Ford hardly needs to be humanized, the usual reason stuffy elected officials submit to a roasting.

For American politicians, poking fun at themselves on Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report has become a campaign rite of passage; in Canada, the Rick Mercer Report and This Hour has 22 Minutes serve the same purpose.

But the Canadian shows tend to reserve their satire for the big targets on Parliament Hill rather than the easy marks at Toronto city hall. But Second City couldn't resist a bull's-eye as broad as this mayor's race, which began with a sex scandal and features a colourful cast of characters.

The company's writer-actors were busy drafting their next main-stage revue when TTC Chair Adam Giambrone's philandering came to light. He withdrew from the mayor's race after lying to the public and his long-time girlfriend about sleeping with other women, including an aspiring actress and model whose archive of steamy text messages proved to be the candidate's undoing.

"We'd been all wrapped up in what was happening to Giambrone and all that scandal," recalled comedienne Dale Boyer. She and her cast mates were puzzled that private indiscretions had driven an unmarried man from the campaign. Her colleague Adam Cawley pitched a character called the Blue Falcon whose travails are based loosely on Mr. Giambrone's.

"Basically, he [Mr. Cawley]decided to make a superhero type character fall victim to all the nagging little tiny scandals that might make someone fall from grace," Ms. Boyer said. "So, it's kind of his way of saying, 'Are we really this upset about an affair?' "

The title Second City for Mayor was born around the same time, said Klaus Schuller, executive director of Second City Toronto, though the collection of skits is not strictly a riff on the contest to succeed David Miller, who has also agreed to appear.

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Mr. Schuller said the improv sessions with the candidates will be good-natured.

"The purpose of this is not to go after them," he said. "We leave that to you, the press."

Still, there will be plenty of comic gold to mine, beginning with Mr. Mammoliti's appearance Thursday. "I'm actually looking forward to the artists' spin on Mammoliti. It'll be a fun evening," the candidate said.

The York West councillor, whose radio advertisements end with the tagline, "Let them call me outrageous!" is in favour of armed bylaw officers, red-light districts, casinos and curfews for teenagers.

"When we ask for [improv suggestions]from our audience so many times we'll get, 'prostitute! hookers!'" Ms. Boyers said. "I think between our audience and that first candidate coming in it's going to be a pretty raucous night."

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Kelly Grant is a health reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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