I’ve been asked by several people what I think about what’s going on at Second City ( I’ve been waiting to see if any other info has come out, but it’s mostly the rehashed story attached.

Here’s my take: There are parts to this story, and there are parts of this story I don’t know about. There are events that took place backstage that I don’t know about. There are events that took place in producer’s offices that I don’t know about. There are internal politics involved that I don’t know about (which doesn’t make SC any different than any other business, and, yes, SC is a business).

When I was told that I was cast in the Second City National Touring Company, the first place I went to was The Old Town Ale House, to, yes, have a celebratory cocktail, but also to tell my friend and teacher Donny DePollo that I got hired. His response to my hiring stuck with me for my entire tenure (1989-2012) at Second City: “Do your job, don’t get involved in the politics.” That missive became a talisman for me. I left Second City before I got bitter, feeling SC never owed me a dime, and that everyday I was there I was grateful for the experience. I still feel that way, all things considered.

In regards to the audiences spewing indignities at the actors: Satire is subversive. We ask the audience for suggestions that come from their hearts. More often than not the suggestions from the heart ranges from mundane to beautiful. Oftentimes that heart is cold and closed and quiet and scared and ignorant and mean. When the heart is allowed to speak honestly under those conditions there’s bound to be an awful shattering to all those within earshot. It’s an awful sound to hear. It’s a terrible noise. The actors who heard that noise were understandably shocked, rocked, stunned, and temporarily paralyzed. It happened. It really happened. The question then becomes, “What do we do with that which just happened?” That question was asked on 9/11 and 9/12. The answer then was: We take it and we use it. We use it as a cudgel, we use it as a sword, we use it as a firecracker, we use it as the tool for change and awareness that made it appear in the first place. We take that suggestion and we build on its bones, covering it, creating a structure that does not deny its foundation, but rather shows that hate received in the right hands can help create, that truth inspires, that expressions of hope dilutes the rantings of the desperate. That humor can teach.

There hasn’t been an issue that SC has been afraid to tackle. Satire, like rust, never sleeps.

Wishing SC another speedy recovery. I can’t wait to see what they’ll create.

Photo © Kevin Thom

Photo © Kevin Thom


Photo © People and Chairs

Last night something huge happened, and no, it wasn’t the Jays game (boo-urns): Toronto’s Big City Improv Festival opened with the motherlode of great line-ups.

Fan faves and natty dressers Bonspiel got things rolling at 7, followed by an all-star Catch-23 featuring Office Funeral (Jason DeRosse and Stacey McGunnigle), Just For Laughs Montreal Quebec (Kirsten Rasmussen and Matt Folliott), and headliners The Boys a.k.a. Susan Messing and Rachael Mason (as if we needed to tell you).

The Boys took the stage again at 11 pm with a no-holds-barred long-form set that encompassed “womyn’s” stand-up, a testosterone-fuelled locker room rant, abandoned children, and a recovering alcoholic Santa.

Tonight features another stacked line-up of A-listers: That Moment When, Ze Jonas Brothers, Sex T-Rex, Yas Kween, 2-Man No-Show, and Mantown. Tickets are available at the door, or buy here, before they sell out.

Huge props to Mark Andrada, Brendon Halloran, Norm Sousa, Erin Conway, Mat Mailandt, Sam Roulston, Kevin Whalen, Samantha Adams, Martha Stortz, Nelu Handa, Adrianne Gagnon and all the volunteers behind the scenes who’re making this 5th anniversary the best BCIF yet. You done made this city proud.

The Boys, Photo © People and Chairs

The Boys, Photo © People and Chairs

(Oh, and ladies? If the election doesn’t go the way we’re all hoping, we’d love to have you.)



Mr Doctor

Li’l Dumpy

Rémy Martin

Turtleporridge Vacuum the Fifth



Bacon Smith

Maskie, Capey and Captain Spandex


Greg, I mean Chris, I mean, Chris-Greg


Potato Jones

Jenkins “Get in here!” Johnson

Clorox Bleachman

The last thing you bought at Ikea

Photo © Cameron Wyllie

Photo © @cameronwyllie


Photo © Kevin Thom

When one of Canada’s longest-running improv teams-slash-shows makes changes, it’s big news.

When one of those changes involves adding more X chromosomes to a show called Mantown, it’s even bigger.

Founded in 2006 by Adam Cawley, Jason DeRosse and Rob Norman, along with former Big City Improv Festival Artistic Director, Bob Banks, Mantown has been hosted by Rob Baker for the past seven years.

Now some of Toronto’s rising stars are joining in the debauchery: Sharjil Rasool (Second City Touring Co), Andrew Bushell (Bamboo Kids Club, Fake Cops), Carson Gale (Moist Theatre), Leanne Miller (Bae Watch, Abra Cadaver), Geoffrey Cork (Orson Whales) and Noemi Salamon (Chakra Khan, Orson Whales).

We trust that they’re all legal drinking age.

You can enter the city of Mantown the first Friday of every month, 10:30 pm at Comedy Bar.

Image © Mantown

Image © Mantown

David Lynch is one of the most celebrated and, for those who still remember Dunevilified creatives of our time. But through all the epic highs and lows of his career, his vision has remained intact.

This video uncovers not just Lynch’s creative process, but every artist’s. You can learn more about it in his book, Catching The Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity.

Improvisers aren’t just creative on stage. They’re also artists, musicians, photographers, filmmakers, dancers, writers, podcast hosts and more.

Some of these things turn into new careers, but for most, they’re a chance to shift gears, experiment, and try something completely different.

Like Austin Kleon says, “Side projects and hobbies are important.” So we thought we’d showcase some of our favourite improvisers’ talents, starting with Second City alum Kirsten Rasmussen’s hilarious doodles.

You can follow Kirsten on Instagram and Twitter.



All artwork © Kirsten Rasmussen

All artwork © Kirsten Rasmussen

“No one who grew up watching comedy says, ‘One day I hope to do openings.’” – Matt Besser

Whether you agree with Besser or not, openings are a fact of longform life. If you’ve been on a Harold team for any length of time, you’ve probably grappled with what form your opening should take, how long it should be, and what (if anything) to take from it.

We’ve all seen – and God knows I’ve been in – plenty of terrible openings. They’re instantly identifiable by:

• “whooshing” sounds

• players standing in a semi-circle, waiting for someone else to make a move

• one player making a move while everyone else watches

If you find yourself struggling with openings, here are some tips to help you get more out of them. Whatever you do, it’ll be exponentially better if you commit to whatever is happening right now.

Standards & Practices are known for their high energy, character-driven openings. They start with a word and quickly generate ideas, characters and situations using physicality and soundscapes. These may or may not come back later in the show.

Watch how they go from zero to 60, forming different points of view while staying connected in this opening:

Sometimes their openings are so physical, they go into their first scenes out of breath. The opening isn’t a separate entity; it’s an integral part of the set. And check out that time: just under two minutes, or about the length of a good youtube video.

Get Cooler Gets

The drunk guy in the third row has been waiting all night for this. If you just say “Can I have a one-word suggestion?” odds are he’ll yell out “Fuck!” or “Shit!” or the more imaginative “Dickwad!”

Instead of making them go through their mind dictionary, help the audience by narrowing it down. For example:

“Can I have a location that would fit on this stage?”

“What’s your favourite sport/colour/product?”

“What’s something you would never pack on a vacation?”

“What’s a tattoo you’ve always wanted?”

It doesn’t really matter what the question is. Just keep it as short and focused as possible. And if the first suggestion is “shit,” wait for another. There’s nothing set in stone that says you have to take the first suggestion. Be choosy.

“If we’re on the same stage, we’re on the same page.” – Joe Bill

It sounds so basic, but the most important thing you can do in an opening is agree. However many players are on stage, your opening will be stronger and more dynamic if you build on each other’s ideas right from the start. That means really listening to whoever initiates, yes-anding and either matching or heightening their physicality, behaviour, voice, and whatever else they put out there.

Like scenes, your openings will be so much better if whatever you’re doing, you commit, fully and joyfully.

Information, Sound & Movement, and Stage Picture

Too much stand-and-talk is boring. Look for ways to add to what’s being created. You can:

• Narrate the action

• Scene paint

• Use your environment to create a more interesting stage picture. If the suggestion is “baseball,” maybe you take up positions on the stage like a baseball diamond.

• Become an object. Someone taking the form of a physical object is always more interesting to watch than an empty stage.

• For bonus cool points, use symmetry. If someone moves on one side of the stage, mirror them.

Go Deep, Not Broad

It’s easy to go on a tangent and start listing things (“salad ingredients,” as Jet Eveleth aptly calls them).

Player #1: We see a ball.

Player #2: It’s a colourful beachball.

Player #3: There’s a man holding it.

Was Player #3 listening? Absolutely, and you could argue he yes-anded. But in openings you want to go deep, not broad.

Explore the first thing until you’ve exhausted it, before you move on to something else. Is the ball made in China? Is it partly deflated? Does it have shark toothmarks on one side?

A Word About Length

During a rehearsal, my team got the suggestion “shining.” I initiated with “Heeeeeeere’s Johnny!” One of my teammates stepped out and said “Heeeeeeere’s Dave!” Others joined in: “Heeeeeere’s Marcie!” “Heeeeeere’s Donna!”

We went on to a second and third beat of that opening, but our coach pointed out that we could have ended it after the first. “Your set could be about exploring each of those characters you initiated.”


Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.

“Decide what you want from an opening. Once you’ve got that, you can end it.” – Cameron Algie

In other words, you don’t need three beats, and it doesn’t have to be five minutes long, unless that’s what the team feels like it needs.

Finding Your Own Style

After you’ve performed as a team for a while, you’ll probably find yourselves gravitating towards a specific kind of opening. Then you can really have fun exploring it.

Mantown is another team with a signature opening style. They stand and face the audience, beer in hand, and deliver short monologues based on a word or topic. But really, they’re taking turns trying to make each other laugh. The audience goes crazy for it. Here’s a sample from one of their shows:

Adam Cawley: Sega Genesis was the better Sega.

Bob Banks: Better than the master system? Of course. It was the second generation of the master system. That’s like saying Super Nintendo is better than Nintendo. Yes!

Jason DeRosse: Genesis was the second-coolest book in the Bible.

Bob Banks: It was also the second-best time in Phil Collins’s life.

Like S&P, they throw out tons of information that they can use to inspire the set – or not. The monologues are fun in and of themselves. You can see a Mantown opening by clicking here here.

For another, thoughtful take on openings, check out this guest post by Erik Voss.

Photo © People & Chairs

Photo © People & Chairs