Some more thoughts that sprang to mind directly or indirectly based on nights 2 and 3 of Mprov:
- Bilingual improv: it’s a neat concept. Ultimately, the show has to stand on its own merits, but the language switching does inject a little extra fun off the top. That being said, after a few scenes, the effect does wear off. In the end, it’s just words you understand (or not). I would classify bilingual improv (at least the formats presented) as a fun idea, no more, no less. That said, Improcrastination did a good job, and so did the All-Star bilingual squad that followed. I thought Isabelle was particularly good.
- Performing in the bilingual show was rather fun–I hadn’t actually improvised in French before–but performing in improv jams is not my favourite. It’s fun to play with new people, but it’s also hard being on the ice with new line mates for what will prove to be a single game. The results are never as satisfying. Still, I got to make fun of Ontario–”C’est pas des mafias, c’est des rednecks”. I had a bit more chemistry with Josh, despite not having performed together in years, and Anders is very easy to play with as well.
- Block of the night:
A – Sir, permission to speak, sir!
B – No.
Admittedly, it’s petty to bring up a block committed against oneself in a show, but as Obama might say, we can use this as a teachable moment. Blocks tend to happen for 3 reasons: obliviousness (I didn’t realize I blocked you), obstinacy (I blocked you because my idea is better) or vanity (I blocked you to look good or get a laugh). Of these, vanity is the worst because in improv, your aim should be to make others look good, not to make yourself look good. This flows directly into one of my Deep Improv Thoughts: Look to please your fellow players, not the audience. Unlike stand-up, if people don’t like playing with you, you won’t be able to perform (unless solo.). Plus, vanity blocks are easily converted into grudging acceptances:
A – Sir, permission to speak, sir!
B – No.
B – Fine, soldier, what is it?
I probably block people all the time. But I purposefully do it obliviously.
- Avi is an interesting guy. He says a big part of musical accompaniment is about when to start and when to stop. He suggests starting on an emotional reaction, and ending when the the suspense ends. I’m going to be paying attention to him tonight.
- A successful show depends on enthusiasm, dedication and talent. If your show isn’t going the way you want, dropping your enthusiasm is practically inevitable, but isn’t going to help. Soldier on! Johnstone formats let you bail on a scene, but most long-form formats won’t. Johnstone says trying harder is like trying to slam a revolving door. I say trying less hard is like trying to make sense of the hazy musings of a codger.
Gold medal performance: Vinny and Marc from Improv Montreal. Very tight, very funny, very playful.
Saw a scene that just wouldn’t die and thought, I’ve been in this scene. Just. Kill. It.
I felt more comfortable in solo scenes than in group scenes tonight. Looking forward to Andy Eninger’s workshop.
If you don’t know if someone was named, it’s more likely you missed it than they weren’t named. Don’t give them a second name.
My harshest critic complains about black shirts blending into the background, but white shirts are worse. They just make your eyes bleed all show.
Montreal Improv is selling t-shirts with a witty slogan for him and her. I want the her slogan on a him shirt.
Uncalled For is also selling t-shirts, $4 cheaper
Didn’t know the girl performing with Uncalled For was the most famous person in the room–I don’t have cable. She has chops.
A shot from a recent corporate workshop with a fun group. That’s me, pointing.
We’re all very busy and excited getting ready for MPROV. As a result, we don’t have a monthly Nest show this month.
10:30 Comedy Nest — check the shows page for more details.
Only $6. We perform in a zero inflation zone.
Brian and I used to walk home together after improv workshop and debate the finer points of improv theory. Here is one of the classics from back in the day. What is your take?
During the scene setup, it is established that there is a hunting rifle over the fireplace. Must this rifle be used during the scene?
Point: Yes. Failure to use the rifle is a failure to “yes, and” the offer of the rifle. An offer as big as a rifle cannot be ignored
Counter-point: No. The rifle can be useful to add colour to the scene even if it is not used per-se. For instance, the presence of the rifle might suggest the home’s owner is outdoorsy or an alpha male.
I’m teaching a Level 1 class for Montreal Improv, which will be held on Saturdays from 4-6pm at Eastern Bloc, a short bike ride from Mile End and the Plateau and also accessible by Metro. Class starts Sept 26. More details here.
Some improvisors routinely name characters in scenes after the actors playing them. I find this practice lazy.
This isn’t a beginner mistake; it’s a conscious strategy. Some folks think that by naming the character after the player, things will get less confusing if several characters get introduced. You’ll never forget a name if you never create one! So Jimmy always plays Jimmies and Sarah always plays Sarahs.
Names are inspirational! Would you play the scene the same way if your name was Elvira Godfried rather than Trace Jett? Ulf Parksson rather than Steve-o Barnaby?
A name is often the first gift to your partner; don’t give him socks on Christmas.
The Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) Theatre is in town for Zoofest playing different formats on different nights, culminating in the majesty that is ASSSSCat on Friday and Saturday.
On Wednesday, I caught Facebook, a show regularly performed at UCB Theatre in LA by transplanted New Yorkers, most of whom were in the now defunct Respecto Mantalban. Only Chad Carter from that crew is in Montreal, joined by Chris Gethard (who also has a solo Zoofest show, Chris Gethard’s Magic Box of Stories), Lennon Parham (who also has a solo show, Lennon Parham: She tried to be normal, and 3 improvisors (from LA?) I hadn’t seen before.
Facebook the improv show, is much like other UCB shows in that it begins with real-life biographical info solicited from an audience member and follows with lots of scenes riffing off those ideas, strung together long-form style. I’ve seen a UCB troupe rifle through someone’s wallet asking them about their cards and receipts, I’ve seen a UCB troupe ask an audience member for an interesting story; the Facebook show is very much in the same vein.
The Facebook hook involves getting an audience member up to log into their Facebook account. Monsieur Carter (he’s in Quebec now) then clicks through their wall, profile and photos rooting for unusual information. He’s very good at gently poking fun at people (Is this a photo of your cleavage smoking a cigarette?). The only real problem with this hook is that it’s lengthy and rather low energy. It took about 5 minutes to get good source material and he still had to prompt the audience member for information that wasn’t on Facebook. Admittedly, his first subject was impossibly stupid and unforthcoming.
Still, the Facebook hook works to draw in a crowd–attendance was good.
On to the show: the improv was good–that’s the important part. The style of improv is unabashedly funny. It isn’t silly; it’s clever. It isn’t story-driven; it’s game-driven. It’s also direct–initiations are to the point, exchanges are quick–let’s get down to the business of making people laugh. It’s not two people enjoying a park car delighting in their own company; it’s two people enjoying a parked car because they’re not at the “blowjobs and weed party”. Or something.
UCB are performing every night at 8:30 at Mainline Theatre until Saturday. Recommended!
Sidemart Theatrical Grocery’s’s Whiteman’s Whiskey Comedy Revue (photos) is an exceptionally well-written and tremendously well-performed send-up of variety shows from tv’s golden age.
I wish this was a real show. By that I mean, I wish I could go to the theatre and watch this group put on a variety show every week. I would be there every week. This was more than a spoof; this felt in every way like the real deal. It’s only a shame that the venue is a bar, not a proper theatre or cabaret.
There was not a misstep from the cast. Graham Cuthbertson’s portrayal of high-status chain-smoking Dick Powell (think 30 Rock’s Alec Baldwin) was mesmerizing. Kyle Gatehouse’s telephone dance number is the highlight of the show. Someone give that man a phone commercial!
Complimenting the cast at every turn is a smooth four-piece jazz band. The mood was just right. (And hey, the bassist would appreciate some applause after his solo in the opening. Seeing him mouth the words “wtf?” was kinda funny, though.)
I want to have water-cooler talk with others who have seen the show, so that I can go “Remember the part when…”, “Remember the part when…”
I did not go to bed thirsty. The Whiteman’s Whiskey Comedy Revue is on nightly at 9:15 at Le Gymnase (Rachel/St-Denis) until July 26th. No show on the 20th. Highly Recommended!
The Bitter End is a serialized improvised sitcom playing at ZooFest. The cast is a who’s who of local improv talent, including our very own Marc Rowland. I shall make the rather obvious disclaimer that I know everyone in the cast and sometimes get invited to their brother’s apartment after shows. But being professional, I decline.
The sitcom follows the lives of two brothers. On this night, there were two main plot lines, one following each brother. While the brothers are the same from night to night, the secondary cast play all the other characters. And much like a tv sitcom, you don’t need to have seen the previous installment to follow the show.
The cast’s pre-show mantra is “be normal”, a positive reformulation of Johnstone’s “be more boring.” The approach allows for stories that mirror those from the audience’s life–relationship troubles, boss conflicts and so forth. It’s just like your life, only more funny. And sometimes, the normalcy will lapse and the boss will transform into RoboCop, but against the staid backdrop, this transmogrification will be super cool, not just wacky improv as usual.
The show clocks in at 40 fun minutes. It whizzes by while you are laughing. Make an evening of it and stick around at the same venue to catch the Whiteman’s Whiskey Comedy Revue. Alternatively, if you are less professional, go to the brother’s apartment. You can review that.
The Bitter Ends runs every night at 8:20 until July 26th. No show on July 20th. Recommended!
Kate Micucci is a singer/songwriter and actress living in L.A. She brings a show to Montreal that is a delight. People don’t use the word “delight” enough, but I’m not most people. In fact, I will say this show was downright delightful. Micucci’s shtick isn’t really shtick at all. She plays a self-aware version of herself in a show that lets her sing songs and tell stories, two things she does delightfully.
She doesn’t write funny songs per se; she writes quirky songs. They contain story, punch lines and startlingly, genuine feelings. They have more sophisticated rhythms and chord progressions that you’d expect from something as petite as a ukelele. Refreshingly, unlike most comedic musicians, she is too clever for the dirty stuff. You can bring your parents out from Kirkland to see the show.
I’ve been giggling about her last name ever since I planned out which shows I would be seeing. I only realized today that she called her show “Playin’ With Micucci”. Innocent sounding but with a subtext–maybe that sums up her concert.
Kate Micucci plays Theatre Ste-Catherine as part of ZooFest, every night at 7PM until July 25th. No show on the 22nd. Recommended!