Our guest is Marcel St. Pierre, the Artistic Director of Toronto’s Bad Dog Theatre. He’s studied and performed with The Second City [Toronto] and The Groundlings [LA] (among many). He has written and produced for The Comedy Network, YTV and the CBC. Marcel is also gluten-free so you can safely digest him if you have allergies.
A TORONTONIAN’S THOUGHTS ON THE MONTREAL IMPROV SCENE
Ah, improv. That beast with 1,000 offers that has kept me in it’s warm embrace for nearly… 17 years now. I added the “…” to illustrate the point that when people ask me how long I’ve been improvising now, I need to actually think and count.
This is for several reasons. One, I’m bad at math. And two – holy crap! It’s been a long time! And three… holy crap, has it really been 17 years? Yes, it has. So how does somebody go from tinkering with improv for fun to discovering it has become their life’s work?
In my case: I blinked and it just happened. There really was no other choice I wanted to make.
The year was 1991. I had just returned from a trip to Europe to ‘find myself’. I wasn’t there, so I came back. I moved out to Toronto from New Brunswick with a teaching degree, ostensibly to find a job teaching (duh!). Instead, I opted to take an extra year to again ‘find myself’, and do stand-up in the big city. I chanced upon an ad for free ‘Theatresports Toronto’ classes and took them because:
a) I had no money and
b) I figured improv would help me write better stand-up material
c) see reason (a).
And nearly two decades later, I’m still at it… and somehow, magically, I’m lucky enough to be the Artistic Director of an improv company that I run with many of my friends. But these days I sometimes shake my head and ask, “How did I get here?”
At many points in my life I have given anywhere from 1 to 3 to 5 to 7 nights a week to the artform. (Yes, improv is art!) And like some art, I sometimes make money from it. Mostly, I don’t… but I still do it. I still teach it. And I still take classes. I’ve taken classes and seen improv from all over North America – Toronto, Chicago, Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles – and met improvisors from all over the world. And I know improvisors – my mentors, and possibly some of yours – who have been doing this thing for 25 years and more.
So what does all this have to do with you?
Well, if you’re reading this blog, you’re at least somewhat interested in improv. And probably from Montreal. I’ve lived through an explosion in the Toronto improv scene that is still growing and I think I’m seeing the same thing beginning to happen in Montreal, and I’m excited about it.
So here’s a few words and thoughts for the Montreal improv scene. If you’re already doing these things, DON’T STOP!
a) In the spirit of improv, work together, even if you’re from different troupes. Support each other’s shows. Cross-promote.
b) You’ve hopefully figured out now (or you should start figuring out) that free workshops are great to get you going, but advanced classes you pay for with seasoned improvisors and instructors are even better. This keeps great improvisors employed, and able to keep honing their craft and teaching you better and better skills. It’s a ‘trickle-down’ culture that each and every one of us helps keep alive and get better by supporting it financially. If good improvisors are broke, sometimes they have to quit improv. So continue to give/take free classes, to get people interested and initiated, but don’t be shy about charging/paying for them, especially if you want the state of improv in your city to get better and better.
c) Import/export improv ideas, teachers, formats and games. Travel outside your borders. Go to festivals in other cities.
d) Workshop often. Play even MORE often. Even if it’s just for each other. The audiences will come.
e) GROW improv in Montreal by teaching more improvisors. By creating more improvisors, you will create more audiences. And these audiences will create more improvisors. And so on and on.
f) If at all possible, involve a dolphin.
Previous Guests: Charna Halpern, Jill Bernard