On Saturday, December 14th, my Second City Conservatory class completed our year-long training program at the Second City Training Centre teaching us how to improvise and develop premises for scenes used to create a Second City-style production. We performed it on the Main Stage at 3pm. I arrived home in Streetsville at 3am. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my comedy career to date.
Because I feel this blog post won’t truly be able to describe the sheer joy, thrill, pride (the good kind), love and fun that resulted from that day’s performance, I thought maybe instead, I’d offer up a few things I’ve written down over the course of the last year that I thought were worth remembering, and if anyone else happens to stumble upon this page, maybe you’ll find it helpful in your own pursuit of improvisational nirvana:
- When you get lost, Stop & Explore;
- Really Listen – like, the way you have to when someone with a heavy accent is speaking to you and you want to make sure you don’t give them the wrong advice, or send them in the wrong direction, unless you do it on purpose for hilarious consequences, but seriously, listen up!
- Stuck asking questions in a scene all the time? How about using a little thing called your emotions. Be affected by the offers you’re receiving. If someone says something mean, be angry, DAMNIT! Don’t just try to think up some clever comeback. Stop trying to be so damn clever, will you?
- Learn the Dinosaur Game, because it’s fun.
- Be present in your scene.
- Like a fine wine, let those special moments breathe in your scene;
- Shut the fuck up backstage!
- If and when possible, use pyrotechnics.
- Play real life characters, give people something with which they can identify.
- Read Lord of the Flies;
- Don’t be afraid to kill your babies, (even if they are great songs you worked your ass off re-writing)
- Forgive yourself; the 2nd time you run a scene will probably be the worst. Know that, and run it until it works;
- Push your limits, and don’t rein it in until you’ve gotten as far as you can go – and then some.
It also helps to work with an amazing group of people who are all hilarious and wonderful; all from different stages in the game; all dealing with their own crap outside the classroom, but all of whom have had a remarkable impact on my comedic education thus far. I was really lucky to get to work with such a great group of individuals and at the risk of sounding corny, I’m ridiculously sad that we only get to play together once more.
Oh that’s right, I didn’t mention the REMOUNT? Well, for those of you who didn’t make it out on the 14th on account of the absolutely awful weather conditions, book off Friday morning from work because we’re boarding The Bipolar Express one last time on Thursday, January 23rd at 11pm at the Second City Main Stage and trust, you do not want to miss this party.
What a year, CCC readers. I can’t wait to see what’s next!
I was feeling a bit frustrated the past couple days because I really wanted to check out the opening of the new Second City main stage show, We Can Be Heroes, but tickets were sold out and short from showing up and sneaking in, I couldn’t really afford to go anyway. I attended one opening when I worked there and it was such a great atmosphere among the crowd, which was filled with Second City alumni and friends of the community just buzzing over the accomplishment and excitement of putting on a brand new show.
So, I wondered what I could do that would be comedy-productive, since checking out the new revue wasn’t happenin’. I decided trying to get on at Yuk Yuk’s that evening would be that thing. It feels like it’s been a century since I last performed stand-up comedy.
I signed up for Humber night and was put on the stand-by list. I pretty much swam to the club in yesterday’s crazy downpour and enough people hadn’t shown up that I was given a set in the middle of the line-up. The sent went really well. The club wasn’t packed, but the crowd was so into it, they were laughing heartily. Ahhh… music to my ears! Granted, I was a little out of practise, but – I was still pleased with how it turned out. It was also great to see some Humber folks, past and present still going hard at working on their craft.
When I got off stage, I checked my watch and realized there was still time to make it to the Second City Training Centre Tuesday night improv drop-in that I normally don’t drop-in on on Tuesday nights because I typically have class. And after 8+ hours of work and 3 hours of improv, I’m normally pretty pooped. Anyway, I went – attended, participated as “The Mighty Cheese” (which is now my wrestling name) and had a fun time playing some silly improv games in what is admittedly far to close to an actual WWE wrestling format for my comfort. But we gotta break out of those comfort zones, n’est-ce pas? I played a game working on emotional levels, and another sortof confusing larger group scene which was… shall we say… interesting?
What a fun and productive day! New jokes were told, new improvisers were met, new underwear were worn (I wish – I’m broke!)
Next on the agenda: I’m getting new head shots! Sidenote: I’ve been meaning to get this done for MONTHS! (It’s FINALLY gonna happen!!)
This is the look I’m aiming for!
I confess it was somewhat of a weird night at the Black Swan, where a friend/colleague of mine just started what will hopefully be a successful regular half booked show/half open mic. It was run by the wonderful Amber Harper-Young, who unfortunately had to absent herself mid-way. Nevertheless, the show is called “Hardcore Girls” and it seems as though the premise is about getting mainly women (and some dudes) up to perform in an encouraging space where they feel comfortable enough to talk about what terrible human beings they are… um, in a good way. In a funny way! The show doubles as a fundraiser for “Because I Am A Girl” – a charitable organization set to empower women in Canada and around the world.
The audience was composed of performers and maybe one or two of the performers’ partners/friends. It was not a particularly receptive crowd – but it could be because they were so few in numbers. OR the heat. Yeah. Let’s blame the heat.
I took the bullet, which I (and every other comic on earth) hate – although it did lead me to realize that I need to try taking it more so I can get better at pumping up a crowd very early on in the night, because it’s a really tough thing to do. Part of me feels responsible for the low energy of the room tonight. Part of me blames the heat.
THAT being said, the chairs! OMG, the Black Swan has some comfy ass chairs, which is highly unusual for a comedy venue, considering it seems the venue owners seem to want their clients to feel as uncomfortable physically as they do internally when they see a comedian bomb on stage.
It was nice to catch some performers I’d never seen before too. It’s nice to broaden the social network. Speaking of which, Erin Rodgers will be pleased to know that I did engage in an incredibly awkward conversation afterwards with the sound guy because I’d admitted to absolutely detesting the song he played when I was brought up on stage. (Seriously, KT Turnstall makes my stomach turn. She’s awful. Fuck!! She’s bad.) … I didn’t need to bring it up again after my set. Why did I bring it up again? Sometimes I just don’t know about myself. It’s almost like anxiety medication permits you to say things you wouldn’t otherwise say – both in a good way AND in a terribly humiliating way. And to Natalie Norman, who also performed tonight. I hear you loud and clear about the chair sweat.
Here’s me wishing best of luck to Amber on her Hardcore Girls project! I look forward to hitting the spot up again soon and hopefully the word will get out and more and more people will come check out this awesome show!