Fallout Triumph

How epic was this Friday’s Improv Fallout?! The house was absolutely packed. There was a line-up to get in. A line-up! People came from out of town (read: another country) to see the show, to laugh with us and to celebrate.

The support from the community in Niagara has been absolutely incredible, and I mean that. Because I know what it’s like to put on a show, and to have it fall flat with low support from community. I know what that feels like when you put on a show that you think people will really enjoy, you assemble a great cast, and the concept for the show is really interesting, then for months, nobody shows.

Because I know what that’s like, and because I know how much the cast of Improv Fallout actually cares about getting up there and doing their best, supporting one another, and putting in the effort, judgement-free and enthusiastic, that’s why I feel a whole year of Improv Fallout is nothing short of a triumph.

That’s why I feel honoured when new audience members come to check us out. That’s why I feel proud when audiences return time and again.

This cast is an ensemble. They have grown together. They lift one another up.

No pretence. No competition. They prioritize learning, growing, friendship and in-so-doing, they make funny, funny magic.

I feel lucky to be a part of it.

Photos by Erica Sherwood. Except the one OF her. Who took that one?

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It’s Latin so it’s Gotta Be Good

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Last night I had the pleasure of hosting a fantastic comedy variety show at Musideum; that word, that name… you know any venue with a Latin suffix is bound to be awesome!  This amazing little space on Richmond St. was filled with hundreds of musical instruments, a beautiful grand piano and, in this case, a bunch of hilarious performers and a super-supportive audience.

The weekly show is put on by The Sandbox,  comedy troupe formed in the Second City’s Conservatory program, who’ve stuck together to continue their comic journey.  Damnit, now I’m describing the Conservatory program as a journey.  What have I become?

Anyway, The Sandbox kicked off the show with some great fun and lively improv.  They were followed by a musical comedy troupe called The Sour Keys, who were super impressive.  They performed songs ranging from adorably punny to really disturbingly cute.  Next on the bill was 2 Humans, a great little sketch duo set to perform at this year’s Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival (so go check them out!)  Finally, closing the billed show was a solid and hilarious improv set put on by well-known troupe Sneak Attack.  The night wrapped with an improv lottery jam, in which yours truly was invited to participate; and I was a dinosaur and a horned-up old lady at the LCBO hitting on a 19-year wine salesman.  Playing within my range, y’know.

Oh, did I mention there was a gigantic, awful, miserable snow storm yesterday?  And yet,  the Musideum was packed to the brim for the show with a warm and very supportive audience of people who just seemed happy to be there and were rewarded and delighted by the night’s hilarious performers.

What a fun night of comedy!  Even better, there’s a new Comedy Night at Musideum every single Wednesday, so next time – you can be there to experience the fun for yourself!

 

2013 Humber Grads Stand-Up Showcase aka Payback Time!


Last night I was asked to attend and “evaluate” the second night of a stand-up comedy showcase exercise put on stand-up guru Larry Horowitz, for half the graduating class of the Humber College – Comedy: Writing & Performance program.  An exercise I recall a little more than I would like.  In fact, when I went back to my blog posts from last year to see what I had to say about my own performance in the showcase, this is all I was able to extract:

 If at first you don’t succeed…swear & curse a bunch, have a good cry, insult others who did better than you then immediately regret your bitterness, jealousy and resentment, wallow in self-pity, do harmful things to your body and mind… and try, try again.  – April 5th 2012

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Suffice it to say, I wasn’t pleased with my performance. Nor was I please with the results I’d got back from the evaluators who, like I tonight, had watched the showcase. And therein lies the beauty of time and experience. Oh how the tables have turned! Get ready, class of 2013, to feel the wrath of …the evaluator; someone who is taking your art and judging it on a completely subjective basis.   And watch out! I’m gonna be REAL subjectiv-y!

In all honesty, there were a number of strong acts last night. A cut above the rest was Darren Springer, whose mix of the wonderful and the absurd is just such a delight.  The bit about his father’s tone as he’s been trapped in the trunk of a car in Columbia is the perfect contrast of the ordinary in extraordinary circumstances. A classic comedy convention, but so well-delivered with such ease and comfort; you get the sense Darren really loves being up on that stage.

Other great sets tonight included the closer for the evening, Ryan Dillon – who’s got storytelling embedded in his genes, I’m sure. (Ryan’s a Newfoundlander.)  Sitting on a stool, he took us on a sad, sad, hilarious, but very sad journey growing up without a father – with a little insight into the airline industry.  (Did you know that if your parent is an airline employee, and they die, you get a free trip to DisneyWorld?!) Sarah White knocked the crowd dead with her sexy Star Wars switcheroo.  Colin North also had me giggling about his dead dad.  Come to think of it, dead dads were a bit of a recurring theme tonight.   Dead dads, and being a socially-awkward, ill-at-ease, unable-to-maintain-relationships-with-the-opposite sex, relatively dysfunctional human being.

That and masturbating.  There was a lot of talk about jerkin’ it.  It was a Humber show, after all.

I was impressed by the variety of voice work – lots of fun accents by Samia Darkazalli, Liron Jacobs and Jay Freeborn, who went into an elaborate bit about Pokémon, which normally I would care less about but because of the energy of the delivery and the fun wordplay, it stood out to me.  I’m a sucker for wordplay.

Ben O’Neil and his musings on the Kraken fit perfectly into the realm of the ever-increasing market share of nerd humour/culture.  Love it or hate it, you can thank (or curse) BBT for that.

It’s no surprise that I wasn’t a fan of the comparing women to dogs elements of the show or the multiple bits about racism, even the ones that were meant to call racists out on their shit, it’s just… I didn’t see a fresh take on it, and until then, I’d rather stick to what the pros have already said on the subject, rather than the not-so-deep musings of early-twenty something suburbanites.

That being said, it’s no surprise the acts that stood out to me can frequently be found performing in dives around Toronto to work on and improve their craft.  There is such a striking difference in quality and in confidence between those who perform stand-up regularly, and those who maybe memorized their set a few hours before last night’s showcase.

So, for those of you who do work hard, and practise a lot, and still didn’t get the grade-result you were looking to achieve in this exercise, don’t worry.  Even if you don’t end up performing stand-up in the Industry Show, don’t worry.  I said Don’t Worry! If you work hard you can totally get in Fresh Meat, have a live and professional taping of your set available to pitch to festivals, get an agent, book a Fringe tour and get a full-time administrative position at the CBC.

Trust me.

Brieviews: Fringe Edition Part 2

I was finally able to check out a few more Fringe shows after a lovely improv class down at the Second City Training Centre.  I made my way over UofT’s campus for a switch from solo performances to an evening of ensemble casts.

Fringe Show # 3 ->  I will never listen to Annie Lennox the same way ever again.

A friend of mine highly recommended Tony Ho’s Sad People – and I was happy to find out it fit into my schedule last night because I never got around to seeing these guys during the last year’s TOsketchfest.  Finally, my time had come to be weirded out by their talent.   I chugged a beer at a nearby O’Grady’s Pub and proceeded to climb the many stairs up to the Robert Gill theatre for, I’m not afraid to say it, one of the weirdest and most wonderful performances I’ve ever seen.  They’re really nothing like other sketch comedy troupes in the city.  Though bizarre and hilarious, there’s a powerful humanity behind a lot of their sketches and monologues – as depressing as that may sound, particularly in the case of the guy who wanted to put his 51 year-old mother in a home.  I was impressed at the strong, very real emotions the characters could portray, for a comedy show, especially in the nurse/patient scene – even though one of the characters’ face was covered with gauze throughout the entire sketch.  (I’m thinking just the shy side-to-side movement on his wheelchair spoke volumes!)  My favourite sketch of the show had to be the time traveling one.

So many good ideas!  Such great performances.  And cool guest performances.  If you’re into sketch comedy, you should check out Tony Ho for sure.  Here’s what they’ve got left, Fringe-wise:

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Two days left!  Check ’em out!

Fringe Show #4 ->  Not the War of 1812 I learned about in high school!

I ran over from UofT to Spadina (not a very far run) to catch the National Theatre of the World’s performance of “The Soaps” A Live Improvised Soap Opera.  Another one of their formats I’d never seen before, but equally as hilariously entertaining as the Carnegie Hall Show and the Script Tease Project.  This edition of the Soaps had a background of the War of 1812, which had a certain fun significance for me because I used to give tours in a Niagara-on-the-Lake historic home that was used as a field hospital during the War of 1812.  If you live in Southern Ontario, particularly near or on the Niagara River, you’re gonna year a lot of stuff about 1812, at school and otherwise.  This year happens to be the bicentennial of the war.  (I really think they should take this production down to the Niagara Region – there’s huge 1812 hooplah going on down there this summer – I bet tourists would go CRAZY over it!)  But I digress.  The cast, composed of some heavy-hitting Second City alum, played British, American and First Nations characters as their stories entwined over issues of romance, betrayal, drama… and corn!  Every night is a new story with the Soaps, so I URGE you to see this one because if you like good improv, and I mean really great, nothing beats it kindof improv,  you will lose your SHIT over this one.  Only three days remaining at St. Vlad’s!

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(I can say lose your shit in a review right?  Whatever.  It’s my blog.  I’ll write what I want.)

Finally… A Different Kind of Review –

I’d like to post a review of the car break-in I experienced last night.  Nothing on the car was broken or destroyed, which is a plus.  Well done, jerkoffs.  (Which leads me to believe I may have left my doors unlocked, but that’s not likely.  It’s like, automatic behaviour for me to lock my car after paying for parking.)  I DID, however, leave the windows open SLIGHTLY so the car wouldn’t be stifling when I got back from my Fringe-hopping.  That must have been it.  When I got back to my car, all my CDs had been taken, as had my change in the ashtray.  I worry some of the former car-owner’s old mail was taken, but go figure, they didn’t take the shitty $15 fan I bought at Canadian Tire as a substitute for my broken car air conditioner.  Luckily, I’d just emptied my car earlier that day of some a pretty nice North Face jacket, and some other clothes.  Also, it was fortunate these creeps didn’t know how to open my trunk, because they might have liked some of the stuff they found back there.  (Like that dead body!!! Moohooohahahahahahahaha)  All in all, I give this crime a rating of: “Fuck you, you delinquent fucks.”

Funny, I never had my car broken into when I lived in Ottawa!  (Then again, I didn’t own a car in Ottawa.)