Back row: Andrew, Clare, Bryan, Alex
Front row: Amy, Vinny, Nikki, Marc
The Montreal Mirror, a local freebie paper, interviewed me because of our new improv school, Montreal Improv. I was pretty worried that I’d sound like a moron. My wife and I were once interviewed for The Gazette’s Home section and we sounded incredibly dull when I know for a fact we are more awesome than a kitten made of chocolate.
This time around it was a 30 minute conversation distilled into five or six snappy paragraphs so a lot of the nuance in what I was saying was inevitably shorn but the final text manages to make my neural damage sound minimal. You can check out my shrill and shameless self-promotion here.
Oh, and Level 1 beginner classes start up again on January 26 check out the site for more details or just email me at contact hat montrealimprov pot com.
|The One Thing People Are Talking About Today:
Terence from OTS and I were on What’s Up Montreal last Sunday, hosted by Natasha Hall. She had us on to plug our upcoming joint-show, Ultimate Improv Championship, and to talk improv. We also played a few games.
Natasha was a pleasant and welcoming host. You’d never know she’s only been doing this for only 2 months.
The interviewing went well enough. I think I adequately described our long-form show, Uno. (Clip) When asked if there were any times I didn’t enjoy improv, I meant to speak in general terms about turning scenes and shows around when things aren’t going well–that moments of despair can turn to triumph, that this is one of the glorious aspects of improv. But in the moment, the example I was thinking of was that heckler-from-hell from a few months ago. (Clip)
Terence and I also did some on-air improv which was, shall we say, forgettable. We did a 1-word story about a guy in Shaghai, a 1-word story about a big monkey (Clip), and a game of More Specific.
My favourite part of the interview is included in that last clip. After a fairly choppy 1-word story, Natasha interrupted (fortunately!) and we had this exchange:
N.H: “Is this a passing of the buck? Is that the goal? Is the goal to screw your partner up, to like, try and give them as little as possible to work with?”
BJ: “Ah… Not usually, no.” [laughter all around]
N.H.: “But that’s what’s happening?”
TB: “If you’re picking that up…”
Yeah, um, in improv, you generally want the opposite. You want to make others look good. Looks like Natasha caught us making each other look bad! Oopsie!
Thanks to Natasha and Terence!
Oh, inside the newsroom, there’s a sign that says: What is the one thing that people are talking about today? That’s indeed a fairly concise way of summing up talk-radio for you. Still, I find corporate instructions on the wall to be a tad demeaning. Don’t tell my Joe Cannon what to do! He’ll wash his hands before returning to work if he sodding well wants to.
Until next time, keep drinking that Kool-Aid!
I’ve been keeping myself busy these last few weeks. Not too long ago I went Alan Marriot’s Narrative Weekend Workshop. This was a special three-day event where Alan’s thoughts on creating a strong narrative were explored. Unfortunately, I missed the first day, which was an exploration of tone in a scene but the rest of the weekend was really stellar. On saturday we looked at the structure of a Hero’s Journey and examined the differences between types of Helpers and Hinderers in the Hero’s story. This kind of exacting work may seem to be counter-intuitive to the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants form that improv usually takes but I think that having all the players on the same wavelength can be very helpful for many types of shows. Shows like TJ and Dave, which I understand to be quite loose and free form, will often benefit from the performers just letting go of all preconceived notions. However, a troupe may know that they want to create a certain type of story before they even walk on stage, such as a murder mystery, documentary, etc. In this case, the show is still heavily improvised but there are certain beats, characters or events that should take place in order to achieve the desired type of show.
Actually, now that I’ve taken these workshops, I think that Murder, You Wrote and Improv, Lies and Videotape, two of our earlier Fringe shows, could have benefitted from having just one protagonist in the show rather than five (or sometimes none). Having one or two people that audience feels sympathetic with and is rooting for gives them a strong connection with the story and it helps the players to find an anchor around which to base the story. Radio Daze, despite the difficulty of being done in the dark, created some really satisfying shows, and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that all the players were helping to support the story and not just their own character.
On Sunday, we worked on three longform styles: the Harold, Improlab and the Impro Musical. All of these were really fun. I’d like to try all three of these forms again in the future, but the Harold and Improlab seem the most likely for now. I’ll explain these forms in another post, perhaps.
I also had my last show in London on thursday. It was truly grand. We had a full house (50-60 people) and a great crowd. The energy was excellent and the pace was snappy because we ended scenes at pretty much the right times. The setlist was:
Story Tell or Die, Subtitles for the Hard of Hearing (I understand the way to do this game now. The first time I saw it, I didnt like it, but now I have new respect for it), Questions Only, Open Scene, Detective, Flashbacks (my fave of the night I think. Andrew and I in a zoo), Slide Show, Opening of a Musical, Break.
Then— Bedtime Story (Andrew and I have brought this game to London), Emo Coaster (it was only about eating grapes, but still, it was awesome), Slo-Mo Commentary (I was a commentator and I feel it was my best bit of commentating evah!), Open Scene, World’s Worst (not the best so we swept it fast), Smote (Andrew and I. Slow to start, but picked up speed) and Finale of a Musical.
I would say that open scenes generally require an introduction like, “and now a scene” because there was a bit of confusion when we went straight from Questions Only to an Open Scene. I heard a few murmurs from the audience. But, anyway great show! You can see some pics of that show and the workshop here.
I went to Grand Theft Impro’s final show of the summer season last night. The performers from left to right were Alan Marriot, Drew Leavy, Phil Whelans, and Dylan Emery, all very seasoned improvisers. Their hearty seasoning was required last night to keep a boisterous, nearly unruly, audience in check. There was a group of 17 people that would shout “Diiiiiiiiinooooooo!” if they were prompted by the magic word, which was usually”Dino“, but could actually be anything. Improv soothed the savage beast that evening, and everyone had a good time. The show felt very fresh and it moved along quickly so that the few not so fresh parts were quickly forgotton.
The show had an interesting structure or semi-structure. The first half was a short form set and the second half had very little structure at all. During the second half, the players got fairly obscure suggestions from the audience and performed scenes without a predetermined game. Often, the players would find the game in the scene. The second half was by far my favourite part of the show.
Although I may look skeptical, I recommend this show when it starts up again in September. See pics from the show here.
I went to see the preview of Scratch Impro’s Reduced Edinburgh Fringe Impro Show tonight with Andrew Ladd at the Pentameters Theatre in Hampstead. The concept of the show is quite good and I think its a great hook for a Fringe Festival. The majority of the suggestions come from clippings of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s programme with shows circled by audience members. The show titles provide the subject matter for each of the scenes. The games that the team play are varied and I really liked the execution of the one story continuing over three sections of the show. I had a great time and I recommend the show to all. Check out some pictures of the night here.
PS Can you tell I just bought a camera?
The Comedy Nest Frankies were decided by six people:
Without Annette Improv
Without Annette Improv
Unhinged Short Play Festival,
Without Annette Improv
As Bryan previously mentioned, between us we saw every show eligible for the awards. Deciding the winners was a pretty long session but not as long as I feared. It was very cordial and efficient considering six people of varying tastes had to choose the best show in each category (which, admittedly, did not adequately cover all the comedy shows we had seen). In the end, we were all happy with our selections and everyone was professional from start to finish. It was genuinely gratifying to work with these folks* and I’d jump in without looking if the same opportunity came up again. [Fringe Pics Here]
* Except Bryan.**
** And Nikki.
New pics added to our set.
Check out the rest on our new Flickr account. Welcome to 2004, Without Annette!