‘Let’s Gentrify Hamilton’ mockumentary screening Thursday at Playhouse Cinema

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Published November 27, 2023 at 2:30 pm

Let's Gentrify Hamilton
Adam Niebergall in Let's Gentrify Hamilton

What new migrant to a city would want to change the city – just a bit – to make it more appealing to other wannabe residents? To ‘gentrify’ it, as it were.

Well, most of them, actually. Some with good intentions, others – developers and speculators come to mind – with increased profits as the main driver.

It takes a special kind of newcomer, however, to want to gentrify one’s new neighbourhood when humour is the chief motivating factor.

Enter funny man and newish Hamilton resident – sort of where the Stinson and St. Clair neighbourhoods meet, west of Gage Park if you want to say hi – Adam Niebergall, who got together with a few pals to produce ‘Let’s Gentrify Hamilton,’ a six-episode series on Bell’s FibeTV that will have a special screening Thursday at Hamilton’s Playhouse Cinema.

The show looks at Niebergall’s efforts to drive up the value of his home by trying to ‘gentrify’ the neighbourhood for the incoming hordes of Torontonians looking for real estate bargains.

His efforts, of course, generally fall flat – it’s possible his house has dropped in value some since he and his family moved in three years ago – but the jokes land, he and his friends had a good time filming it and Thursday’s Playhouse showing is in support of the Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre, so win-win all ‘round.

“The idea for the show came in a spit-balling session between some writer friends and I,” Niebergall said. “I had just moved here from Toronto and I was thinking a lot about how popular a thing the mass exodus from Toronto to Hamilton was becoming and it felt like a really great way in for a theme for a show. I also thought that gentrification is such a touchy subject that it would be really interesting to explore with comedy. “

“There’s pain and greed but also ambition and care. It’s messy. So we thought it was worth doing something with. “

Each 11-minute episode features interviews with Hamiltonians in familiar locations such as the Tim Horton’s Field Parking lot (at a Hamilton Tiger Cats tailgate party). Fairweather Brewing, Gage Park and several local businesses.

Shot with fellow comedy writers Alex Kolanko, Callum Wratten and Connor Law, the show follows Niebergall’s misadventures as he tries to dress up the Steel City for the expected wave of rich big city folk coming into Hamilton and his ill-advised money-making schemes while he waits.

Along the way Niebergall tries to create a real estate bubble in his neighbourhood, attempts to make Ti-Cat fans “more appealing” to Toronto billionaires (and schemes to get them to fund a new stadium for the football club) and tries to open a brewery, a coffee shop and finally, a marijuana dispensary to hilariously predictable results.

Adam Niebergall

Episode 1 – Real Estate

After realizing he paid too much for his house, Adam desperately tries to create a real estate bubble.

Episode 2 – Sports

Adam attempts to make the Hamilton Ti-Cats and their diehard fans more appealing to billionaires, including trying to get them to pay for a new stadium.

Episode 3 – Commute

Adam tries get rich people from Toronto to move to Hamilton. Unfortunately, this means Adam has to deal with his two greatest nemeses, traffic and Joel, a simple-minded camera operator.

Episode 4 – Coffee, Beer and Depression

After Adam tries running a coffee shop and then a brewery, he becomes more frantic as he goes through bad idea after bad idea.

Episode 5 – Dispensary

Adam wants to open a cannabis dispensary, as they have become the new harbinger of gentrification. He then tries to open a magic mushroom store to hop on the next legalization gravy train.

Episode 6 – Real Estate 2

After finding that his house has actually lost value, Adam spirals until he decides to embark on his final project.

Satire, yes, and he is certainly poking a little fun at his new hometown, but Niebergall calls it more of a “love-in” approach.

“It’s a lot of playful ribbing but we wanted to talk to people from here and get a real look at the humanity in Hamilton.”

“I love it here.”

Niebergall, a member of the sketch troupe ‘Tony Ho,’ and a Canadian Comedy Award winner for ‘Get Some,’ is also known for the shorts ‘Japan’ (2013), ‘Mark Giordano’ (2024) and for CBC’s ‘TallBoyz.’

He is looking forward to Thursday – “we’ll take whatever butts-in-seats as we can get; it’s for a great cause – and is unsure if there is a season 2 of ‘Let’s Gentrify Hamilton’ in his future.

Season 1, which dropped in July, was produced on a budget of $39,000.

“We don’t get a lot of Intel from Bell about the show,” he said. “We are looking into next steps for the show. There’s a few options.”

Thursday’s screening begins at 7 p.m. with tickets priced at $20. For more information on tickets and to see a trailer for the series, check out https://playhousecinema.ca/event/lets-gentrify-hamilton

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