Humour and Remembrance

I just wanted to write a little follow-up, albeit a late one, about the First World War themed improv show I held with co-producer Aaron Peever on Vimy Ridge Day, this past April 9th.

One of my huge concerns about the show was that people, especially the performers, would take it seriously. And, I know the reason I was concerned. I was met with a certain defensive suspicion whenever I mentioned the idea to people. I could tell the instinctive reaction was something along the lines of  a “how dare you make fun of people who sacrificed their lives for our freedom?”-mentality, which I think is certainly reflective of the way we’re expected to feel about most military action nowadays. Either you’re you support the troupes, or you hate Canada, right? And making jokes about the War sure doesn’t sound like supporting the troupes!

Here’s the thing. I hand-picked the improvisers to play in this show based on one fact: their knowledge of First World War history. Some of the cast weren’t even improvisers, but were excited by the opportunity to give their knowledge of history a new platform. In fact, most of the improvisers I asked leapt at the opportunity to play in this world, to combine their knowledge with their amazing abilities to create realistic relationships, characters and scenes specifically within the realm of that era. I mean, some of them were pretty stoked to history-nerd out! (Myself included.)

The platform was wonderful. I chose this cast because I knew they would not mock the War. They would create characters and scenes within the very real context of the War based entirely on their historical knowledge of the events in question and their respect and appreciation of its history. The characters they chose were real. The scenarios, likely, given the context. The result; pure unbridled silly awesomeness. NOT mockery.

We’re all so sensitive to political correctness now, I felt like I was walking on eggshells producing a show based on events that took place nearly ONE HUNDRED YEARS ago!  The more I thought about it, the more I came to wonder why people didn’t really get it. And here’s what I came up with.

1) People, in general, aren’t familiar with longform improvisation, or any improvisation for that matter that doesn’t follow the Whose Line Is it Anyway? model they’ve seen over the years on TV. This, to me, is tragic. Longform improv at its core is about playing real, honest characters and having them tell a story and transport you to a place and a time that, when done correctly, will have you in disbelief that it’s all made up on the spot, but also, in stitches. The scenes last much longer than what you’ve come to expect out of Whose Line, which allows for more time to create very realistic world right there on stage.

2) People have short memories. We’re certainly not the first people to make comedy about the First World War (or any war for that matter; look how many movies came out of Vietnam, and what about M*A*S*H, set in Korea? That show was on the air for over 10 years!)

But, specifically regarding  WW1, how about the greats? Here’s some Monty Python for your faces:

Hell, during the Great War itself, Canada had its own group of comedians who would entertain the troops with their vaudeville act, which went onto Broadway after the end of the War!

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The horrors these soldiers faced during the war are not something we want to mock. Quite the opposite. Why not use humour as a way to help people REMEMBER the war, rather than making people paranoid about even talking about it, lest they express some criticism that might make them seem unpatriotic?

If you still don’t catch my drift, come to Toronto on June 6th, and watch this amazing group of improvisers storm the beaches and pay homage, in our own special way, to the Canadians in WW2.

For King and Country – Vimy Ridge Day at SoCap

Tonight, I’m producing an improv show which brings together my love of improvisation as well as my passion for World War One history. For those of you who did not know me before moving to France, I was once (or twice, or four times) a Tour Guide at the Vimy National Canadian War Memorial, in France.

The whole experience had an extremely profound impact on my life and today, on the 98th Anniversary of the Four Canadian Divisions storming the ridge, all together in formation for the first time in our history, I and several of my hilarious colleagues, will be presenting:

WWIMprov

All funds raised will be going to the Vimy Foundation and Wounded Warriors Canada.

It’s a worthy cause, so…

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OctUpdate!

Holy Crap.  I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything since the Moneyball review.  I have been BUSY, ladies and gentlemen!  Time feels like it keeps speeding up.  I’ve been completing assignments the day before they’re due, staying up past midnight, despite having to work super-early in the morning at the Career Centre.

 

It seems in each class, we’re working on major projects.  There isn’t really one in which we’re working less hard than the other. It’s crazy!  The workload is by vastly greater than last year, but folks, I am loving it.

I’m working on a chauvinist male “bro” character called Brian for my Acting class.  It’s both liberating and challenging to portray the type of male I absolutely despise.

I’ve written and submitted the first draft of a 10-minute play (more dramatic than comedic) play about a soldier of the First World War who visits a French brothel.   Apparently, I’m feeling very nostalgic about my time spent in France.  Like it or not, talking about hundreds of thousands of dead guys for 5 months straight two years in a row really gets into your head.

We’ve completed our clown pieces in physical comedy and are now moving onto different techniques.

In sketch writing,  we’ve been working on two major projects: a parody of a TV show (I chose Star Trek, obvi) and a monologue script based on a person we know upon which we’ll be building characters.

In stand-up, Larry’s teaching us what it would be like to work in a writing room, working on a late-nite host’s monologue.  The humour is very topical, news-related, so it’s been helping us with the LaughDraft news as well (which we will be filming this week after a long hiatus!)

Finally, we’re working on writing a sit-com.  I won’t reveal too much about that at the moment, in case anyone reading this blog decides to steal my class’ ideas and prevent us from ever working on this project in the ‘real world.’

And then there’s all the ‘outside school’ stuff… and work…

Life is crazy!!!

…Just the way I like it.