Our new episode of The Constant Struggle podcast features actor & improviser Alex Wong. Click on the images below to find our more about his awesome acting journey and his cool new webseries “In Real Life”:
Go to your troupe’s Facebook “Page”.
Wait. Your troupe doesn’t have a page?
Make them a page. Right now.
Good, your troupe now has a page.
Now, go to your troupe’s “Page” and click on the “About” tab.
If not all the members of your troupe are listed in this tab, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU EVEN DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?
A producer who books improv and sketch troupes
Our latest episode of The Constant Struggle podcast is up and this time, we had the pleasure of interviewing Dale Wells, improviser and co-founder of The Dandies & Holodeck Follies.
Dale speaks about the benefits and challenges producing live comedy shows in Toronto. We talk about the history of Star Trek improv in the city, about geek culture, and about his show; Holodeck Follies, kicking butt at this year’s FanExpo. Dale and Nick chat about what it’s like to be a Dad artist with a day job. We bring up his love of singing and the various ways in which improv can bring joy to your life.
What a positive guy!
I did it! I performed AND participated in this year’s Big City Improv Festival! Huzzah. My first time performing in the festival! Youpidyday!
My first performance in #BCIF2015 were interesting an unexpected. Such, I suppose, is the nature of the art we practice. I was asked by my former teacher Robin Duke to perform in a show with other Humber alumni. I said yes, because Robin Duke. It was a while before I realized this show was actually part of #BCIF. It seems that because Humber is a sponsor, this is the show they contributed to the fest. And I got to be part of it. Yay.
In all honesty, I really didn’t know how to feel about it. I remember improv not to be one of the main focuses of the Humber comedy program. In fact, here’s what I remember about improv class at Humber:
- Alan Guttman continually blowing my mind in class, dropping his early Second City and Johnstonenian wisdom and;
- Adam Cawley running a longform workshop, which likely convinced me to sign up for Second City classes.
The students interested in performing stand-up seemed to outweigh those interested in improv in number and in willingness-to-give-it-a-try-ingness. All I’m saying is, it’s hard for someone who’s hiding behind a microphone to completely throw themselves into improv; it’s a art that requires a lot of letting go. I think one thing that makes stand-up do their thing, is an inability to let go; and also, in fact, a desire to to instead repeat the thing most people would let go over and over again in exchange for the laughter of strangers. Don’t get me wrong, I love that laughter, but I think I like spontaneity and discovery a wee bit more.
That being said, I was incredibly pleased and delighted to find out that improv at Humber is stronger than ever. Our show featured short form games. The performers were quick, they played fun characters and they were SMART. I got to play a super fun scene with the wonderful Ashley Comeau who was generous enough to give me a gift that allowed me to have SO MUCH FUN. All she had to say was “you looooooooove her” to cool guy Malik Powell and the game was afoot.
Following that set, I ran over to a friend’s house for, get this: her birthday, pizza, carrot cake, the Blue Jays victory, a tasty butter tart & a Liberal majority in Parliament. I excused myself and ran down to Bad Dog where I had my SECOND EVER SHOW in BCIF. Two shows in one night! I waited years for one show, period. This is like a woman who can’t get pregnant, so she overdoses on fertility meds and ends up getting quints…OR so is my understanding of reproductive medications.
So, an 11pm BCIF edition of Improv Game Show was show #2. On a Monday. The same day the Blue Jays were playing. And everyone was watching a pretty historic election. And despite all of this, the show was great! The energy was fantastic. Oliver Georgiou hosted and rocked the night! Our tech Scott, who I just met for the first time that night was freaking hilarious. ALL the improvisers were GREAT and the games were so much fun. We play this game all the time, and yet this edition felt particularly special.
The following day, my 1950s-inspired babefest Fifty Shades of 50 performed a magical set in the cabaret space. It was pretty wacky, there was a lot of talk about fart-smells, and we mentioned a character named “Little Noah No-Arms”. So…you know… improv gold! I love this format & performing with these women so much.
There were many other performers and performances at this year’s festival filled with hilarity and greatness. But that’s not what this post is about. This is a different post.
In this post, I did it! I performed AND participated in this year’s Big City Improv Festival! Huzzah. My first time performing in the festival! Youpidyday!
The past few days have been very improv-heavy, a few days ago. I feel, right now, that I’m advancing but also not going anywhere simultaneously. The Big City Improv Festival began last Friday. This festival is the biggest improv festival in the country and after two years of unsuccessfully applying, I finally got in. If at first you don’t succeed and all that.
BCIF has workshops. Sweet, glorious workshops. And despite the variety, I signed up for only one, because it was pretty expensive and I knew I was likely going to be out of town the following weekend. So, I took the one led by Scott Adsit. It was called “Keeping it Real.” He did not name it.
The structure of the workshop was pretty simple. Warm-up, duo scenes. After each scene, Baymax himself gave us notes. Except the notes he gave were the best, most effective notes I’ve received. To give you a comparison, the last class I took, the INSTRUCTOR, the person who gets PAID, to TEACH & GIVE NOTES on performance, had us perform a montage. Before we began, he threw away his notebook and pen told us SPECIFICALLY he would not be taking notes. Which to me says: “Do your thing, I’m going to check out for the next 20 minutes, see ya.” Scott Adsit, someone who has VERY little invested in a few improv nerds from Toronto, took extensive notes, and dropped them like bombs on those of us who listened. Some of the notes were simple, yet brilliant; “There is no should’ve, there’s only could’ve!” Some were EXTREMELY personal (I’m looking at you divorce attorney’s office scene,) but all were incredibly helpful. You know it’s been a good workshop when the thing culminates in a group hug, is all I’m saying.
I learned how I feel as though I am accepting offers, sometimes, but am not really acting on them. I justify in my mind that I have accepted the offer, but often delay actual action, which is what the scene actually needs. After the workshop, I reviewed one scene in particular of Exit Pursued by a Bear‘s, which we performed in Halifax, where bridesmaid Gill asked male store
clerk Brie to zip up her dress. I found a million ways to not zip up her dress, and justified the shit out of all of them, when all I really needed to do, was just zip up that mother flippin’ dress!
I then watched the masters, Adsit & Lutz, in action on Sunday. They performed a mind-blowing set together in which not a single offer was dropped. They were both in such synch. After a weekend of thinking a LOT about improv, it was great to see it done so well. But it was also fun to see how pros dealt with mistakes (see: gifts) – like that moment Adsit mentioned something about his mother doing something, after previously stating that mother was in fact dead. He loved it. We loved it. Love your mistakes. Embrace the fuck-ups. It’s the only way!
Speaking of masters in action, I was fortunate enough to acquire a ticket to see Sir Paul McCartney‘s show last Saturday evening, (thank you Martha.) I saw the real-life, actual Beatle, Paul McCartney. It was this wonderful feeling of being at the same moment fully present, but also strongly connected to a time before your own. Just seeing all these people, mostly around Paul’s age, singing along to songs we’ve heard for years but, let me assure you, there is nothing in the world quite like singing Let it Be with almost 20,000 other people, one of whom is the ACTUAL MAN singer/songwriter of that very song! It’s incredible. I feel like the main descriptor I can use to quantify the night is: goosebumpy. He sang a song honouring John, mentioning things he wishes he’d said to him before he died, and we all sang Something together in George’s memory. It was super powerful stuff. The grade 5 in me, who watched The Beatles Anthology over and over again for months over that one March break my parents went on a cruise, came out and sucked on the gracious apple juice that was this concert and she liked it very much indeed.The grown up in me was blown away by how talented a singer/songwriter he is and how fantastic it must be to have a career span so long doing something so awesome that people everywhere adore.
So I’m inspired now. I’ve seen some pretty rockin’ stuff in the span of one short weekend. And we’re about to begin another one already. Let’s see what it brings.
For those interested parties, this was Paul’s set list Saturday night at the ACC:
- Eight Days a Week
- Save Us
- Got to Get You Into my Life
- One After 909
- Temporary Secretary
- Let Me Roll It
- Paperback Writer
- My Valentine
- Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
- The Long and Winding Road
- Maybe I’m Amazed
- I’ve Just Seen a Face
- We Can Work It Out
- Another Day
- And I Love Her
- Here Today
- Queenie Eye
- Lady Madonna
- All Together Now
- Lovely Rita
- Eleanor Rigby
- Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
- Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
- Band on the Run
- Back in the U.S.S.R.
- Let it Be
- Live and Let Die (SO MANY PYROTECHNICS!)
- Hey Jude
- Another Girl <— ENCORE
- Hi, Hi, Hi
- I Saw Her Standing There
- Yesterday <–— ENCORE 2
- Mull of Kintyre (with a full Pipe band!)
- Helter Skelter
- Golden Slumbers
- Carry That Weight
- The End
Yesterday was a great day. And I’m not just talking about:
But it certainly did help.
There was already so much excitement in the air because of the Blue Jays that it filled the city’s air with something vaguely magiacal.
I was a little bummed out because I wasn’t going to catch most of the game because I had a dentist appointment, but the dental hygienist had Yahoo! Sports tracking the score throughout my appointment and frequent radio hits between pop hits kept me updated regularly.
After the appointment, I met with a friend. We’d scheduled to meet to discuss an upcoming project that will certainly be very fun and for a great cause. We sat at a bakery on Bloor, where sure enough, the game was on. And, despite my pal’s obvious lack of interest in baseball, she was kind enough not to shit on me the couple times my eyes drifted to the screen. The meeting wrapped shortly after the bizarre incident with Martin’s attempt to return the ball to the pitcher’s mound, and the debate over the call frustrated me. I decided to leave the bakery and not watch the rest of the game, because if the Rangers were going to win on such a stupid call, then fuck them. That’d just be a crap way to go.
Except that how could I not watch the rest of the game? I walked by Comedy Bar where I knew people would be tuned in. I caught all of the 7th inning madness before I had to head out for a show.
I took the subway over to the Social Capital theatre, where I managed to catch the last inning of the game and the Blue Jays’ ultimate victory! WOoooooooooohoooooooooooooo! And what better way to celebrate, than to perform a super duper fun set at Improv League Toronto (that had nothing to do with baseball). What a cool show. You get to watch some awesome up-and-coming longform troupes doing their best, fun thang and you get to do the same. It’s friendly competition, and ultimately, I don’t know what happens at the end of the league, but what I do know is that we’ve had some fun sets so far in the league. At least, the ones I’ve been able to attend anyway. (I was in Halifax and I missed a couple.) I really love performing with this troupe. There’s something super fun about incorporating this particular era into our improv. And next week we get to do nearly a half hour set for BCIF! It’s going to be SO FUN!
After the set, I ran BACK over to Comedy Bar for another longform show I’d been asked to guest called Personal Space Invaders. What a fun show. Again, watching up-and-coming troupes find their stride. A bunch of different levels of experience and expertise, and I had the pleasure of performing a set with some dudes I’ve rarely (if ever) played with, and it was a LOT of fun!
Mmm. Improv AND baseball.
Maybe there was a light-heartedness to the air on account of the fact I was so stressed during the game, but I felt good about my performances, and I just enjoyed them so much. I understand that’s an important part of the process, but I felt it so much yesterday and was so grateful about it.
I could barely sleep last night I was so dang excited about the past day. Every once in a while you need one of those. Even if you feel like a rotten sack of shit waking up the next morning.