Blocked!

Nick and I recorded another episode of our podcast last weekend while we were home for my Mom’s birthday. It’s been nice to have a regular check-in the help keep up accountable to the projects we hope to be creating.

I’m in a bit of a funk today. I’m letting things bring me down that I shouldn’t. I feel this weird anger because I can’t convey enough how important improv is to me and how crazy into it I want to get and be, but realizing how little that matters to any decision-makers at the  end of the day, even if they’re not the reason I’m as into it as I am. I feel I’m not prioritizing the right things. I feel the FOMO, or more specifically a FOBeingLeftO. I feel all the feels.

Nick recently got out of his bout of Writer’s Block grumpiness so I’m sure my weird state of being will pass too. But still. Bleeeeugh.

But if you’re so inclined, you can take a listen to the chat we had over the weekend, when I wasn’t being a grumpy bugger.

Enjoy!

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New Episode of The Constant Struggle Featuring The Dandies’ Dale Wells

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.

http://theconstantstruggle.podbean.com/e/e12-follow-your-passion-with-dale-wells/

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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!

***
With GREAT shout-outs to:
ANDIE WELLS
NATASHA BOOMER
ROB ARISS HILLS
THE 404s
GARY PEARSON
MARK LITTLE
KEN HALL
ALAN LEIGHTIZER
TODD VAN ALLEN (COMEDY ABOVE THE PUB)
GILLIAN ENGLISH &
TODD GRAHAM
***
 Be sure to follow The Dandies on Twitter @TorontoDandies & catch the next edition of #HolodeckFollies at Geek Hard Live!
#StruggleOn everybody!

Intergalactic Women’s Day

I had a marvellous time last night at Holodeck Follies, the monthly Star Trek-inspired improv and variety show put on by The Dandies. Dale creates this wonderful sense of community in the show, which brings together two of my favourite subcultures; the improv world and the world of Trek. This month, he kicked it up another notch by putting the emphasis on the women of Trek by inviting many talented women improvisers, and other female comics to perform on the show in honour of International Women’s Day.

In a community where we see things like ‘the token woman in an otherwise all-male sketch troupe’ or the ‘obligatory one woman on a stand-up show line-up,’ it’s wonderful to attend a show that not only features women, but celebrates them. Not that this is surprising for the Dandies, or people who follow and respect the philosophy of Star Trek in general, TBH. But The Dandies continually stack their shows with a diverse array of players; and not to fulfil any sort of tokenism, but rather because they know a tonne of fantastically talented and diverse performers.hf-mar15-jamillah-brie

A personal thrill for me was attempting to stick to my Captain Janeway character; stern and serious, while playing against a sassy and outspoken Lt. Uhura, played by Jamillah Ross, with whom I’ve never got to play, (unless you count on Twitter.) The low-energy, severity of her character is sortof the opposite of the loud-mouthed dweeb I typically portray!

Every woman brought something great to the set, and what a fantastic group of women they were: Tracy Rowland, Deanna Palazzo, Taz Collins, Dana Jean Phoenix & Marcia De. Along with the weekly cast of the USS Albatross and a roomful of trekkies, it was spectacular, supportive show, which I recommend to all; Trekkies and normals alike.

I leave you with the Holodeck Follies traditional exit greeting: Laugh Long and Prosper!

Le Workshop

Well blog, I’m sorry.  It’s been a while.  I know you’ve  been sitting here, waiting for me to feed you, but I’ve been busy.  I know that’s not a good excuse, but I’m here now aren’t I?  So let’s get to it.

Huge news.  I’ve recently been OFFICIALLY hired by The Second City to lead improv workshops in French and English as part of their Educational Company.  Last Friday, I lead my first workshop at a high school in Brampton and I was absolutely thrilled to go back to feeling the way I did when I was a tour guide, or a cadet instructor, but for something I like even more than First World War history and paramilitary youth engagement; improv!  Good old fashioned make-em-ups!  Hopefully one day I’ll have the same impact on a kid’s life as Daniel Ayotte did on mine when I was a young Rosario  Tanguayan in Welland; making things up on the spot and feeling tremendously free; even for an 11 or 12 year-old, who was already pretty void of responsibility.  Sure, I may have lost it for a while there after high school, pretending to be a very serious political scientist, but it’s such a joy to have it back and to now get to share it with others.

Le sit, le stand, le bend.

Le sit, le stand, le bend, mes amis.

Also great, my boss at el-dayjob  and I worked out an arrangement so that I can continue to work at both companies without conflict… of course I had to clear it with my team, the union and Human Resources, but that’s the joy of kindof working for the government.

In addition to that, I have a new comedy troupe in the works.  We’ve performed one improv spot to date, and we’ve got a few sketch shows in the works.  Right now though, we’re all very concerned about our Second City general audition.  After such a great year working on Conservatory material, it’s wonderful to start thinking about the next steps the Toronto comedy scene has to offer, and though that sometimes feels very scary and uncertain, it also lights a fire under one’s ass to get producing funny ass shit for the world (and mostly your friends, peers and family) to see.

On the home front, my Peanut has fallen ill with a bit of a weak liver.  She was hospitalized for two days last week and let out right before my birthday, which was a phenomenal gift!  Though I have to feed her myself these days because she’s not got much interest in eating, she is doing a bit better.  She used to hide under the bed all day, but now she surfaces up onto the bed and appreciates a good cuddle.  Hopefully she will become stronger (and hungrier) as the days progress.

Recovering Nut

Recovering Nut

As a result of the Nut issues, I had to cancel a gig this past week, and I feel absolutely horrible about it; they were very understanding, but there’s something about not-showing up for a gig, especially when the people who run it are awesome in every way, and it involves Star Trek cosplay, that really bites total butt.  Tina Fey talks about saying yes to everything, but at that moment, I had to say yes to making sure this tiny creature under my care survived the night off her IV, even if that meant omitting the strenuous process of putting a sock in my hair to simulate Captain Janeway’s awful hairdo from Seasons 1 – 3 ST Voyager.

Was there an on-board stylist?  Computer, hairstyle variation 372-D.

Was there an on-board stylist? Computer, hairstyle variation 372-D.

Writing  all this helps with stress.  I’ve been feeling it pop up a bit more frequently lately, maybe because so much seems to be happening all at once.  But it’s not as bad as this dude on the streetcar after the Blue Jays game who kept making really loud exhales whilst punching the side of the streetcar wall.  I suppose we all have our own techniques of dealing with stress, but I awful concerned this dude was going to have a total Hulkesque breakdown and just smash the back of the streetcar and go running down Bathurst Street jumping on cars and crushing them in his wake.

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Wait for it… SMASH!

Maybe he just needed a nap.

Speaking of which, the hour has arisen, I must bathe and retire for the evening.  Thanks for reading! 🙂

#geekomedy

Last night, I produced the first ever edition of Geekomedy, a show intended to incorporate aspects of media & technology into works of comedy.  I myself made a silly intro with the Voice Plus voice-changing app on my iPhone (my BROKEN iPhone!) and later incorporated the technological element of the George Foreman Grill to my show, by making an audience member a panini.

See what a difference technology adds to humour, folks?  Paninis!

The wonderful and dynamic duo Laura Bailey and Josh Bowman improvised a conversation on Facebook chat for a segment they called “IM-prov.”  Proof that some of the funniest writing people can produce is at home in front of a computer screen IMing to friends/family/ex-lovers recently escaping the confines of the closet.

I heard a comment from someone who walked into the segment late, about how strange it was to walk into a dark space lit only with a screen, to complete silence, and to still be entertained thoroughly simply through the act of reading a comic scene take place right before their eyes.

See kids, reading CAN be fun!

Next up was a PowerPoint presentation by Ashley Moffatt – hilarious as usual, Ashley incorporated elements of her regular routine, but added some flash to it with amazing photos of her famous plant wigs and, dogs.  Dogs everywhere.   I think PowerPoint stand-up is such a great idea, similar to the way SNL’s Weekend Update’s jokes are amplified by silly graphics, or Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert’s stuff – it adds to the joke.  The joke itself is funny, but with the right animation, it can take a chuckle to a full-blown guffaw.

Camille Côté was up next, regaling us with the tale of an incredibly awkward textual encounter she got in after meeting face-to-face and talking to him for a whole of 10 minutes, who later make very bizarre assumptions about her in txt form.  She made a good point about how some guys can be really brave, but only behind some form of screen.    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go back to eating my bagel now.  (wink wink)

Finally, the fabulous physical comedy of Jorge Viveros brought to the stage a real-life Angry Birds game, where members of the audience could throw Jorge, the angry bird, into stacks of cardboard boxes for FUN!

Many thanks to the audience members who came out to support the show, even though right off the bat, the host told us we all stunk.  (Thanks a lot, Bob Banks!)  It’s OK though, he was referring strictly to our hygiene and not to the quality of our comedy, which makes it better, right?  Right?…

Anyway, here’s hoping there’s more interest in tech-themed comedy down the line.  I think the next logical step would be installing a transporter directly in the Comedy Bar,  saving time AND the need to dress according to the climate. (And allowing for an easier stumble home post-alcohol-consumption.)

Robo-Brie OUT!

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!

  • July 12 09:15 PM
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  • July 15 02:45 PM

(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.)

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.