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Posts from the Live Shows & Festivals Category

Photo © The Assembly

Winter is coming, and so is one of the hottest shows this season. The Harold Experience features some of Canada’s favourite improvisers, January 3-14 at the Next Stage Festival.

The Harold Experience gives long-form fans and non-improv audiences alike a chance to enjoy The Harold performed by pros. Comedy A-listers Rob Baker, Ashley Botting, Adam Cawley, Matt Folliott, Ken Hall, Becky Johnson, and Paloma Nunez weave together real-life stories and made-up madness for a show as unique as it is hilarious. Directed by Rob Norman, it’s unscripted theatre at its best.

This is the first festival piece for Toronto’s newest long-form company, The Assembly. Less than a year old, The Assembly is already home to 14 long-form teams, four monthly shows, and a thriving education program. (If they maintain this pace, they might just have their own festival next year.)

Whether you’re a Harold enthusiast, a fan of great storytelling, or just want to see Toronto’s funniest people make shit up (brilliantly) on the spot, The Harold Experience is sure to sell like hotcakes.

Show Details:

The Harold Experience premieres January 3, 2018 at the Next Stage Festival

Factory Theatre Studio (125 Bathurst Street) – Tickets $15

For show times and tickets visit fringetoronto.com or call the box office at 416-966-1062

I spent a good chunk of time in San Francisco. One night I had a choice whether to see a circus show at one venue or an improv show at another. I called the improv venue to find out more information. Convo went something like this:

Me: Hi. I’m curious about your show tonight. What kind of improv is it?

Box Office: The funny kind.

Me: Hahaha right on. I mean what style is it?

Box Office: It’s the funny kind.

Me: Cool. But is it like… short form or long form?

Box Office: It’s the funny kind.

Me: Yeah, OK. I get that part, but are they going to do, like a Harold? Or is it more like theatresportsy games?

Box Office: The funny kind.

Me: Yes. OK. Sorry. I’m just trying to figure out whether or not you’re gonna make me sit through an organic opening. Because if that’s the case-

Box Office: Have you ever seen the TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

Me: Yes.

Box Office: It’s like that.

Me: Oh. I see. So, it’s a bunch of short form games.

Box Office: Ya. The funny kind.

Me: Gotcha. Amazing. Thank you.

Box Office: No problem.

I hang up and purchase tickets to the circus show.

Photo © Mark Andrada

Mark Andrada is a Canadian Comedy Award winning performer/writer/director. He has also worked as a puppeteer for The Canadian Opera Company, and as a clown for Canadian Stage, Zero Gravity Circus, and (with a terrific amount of unsuccess and irony) at a comedy club called Clownz in Quezon City in the Philippines. Mark has performed sketch and improv comedy as a member of The Second City, and The Annoyance Theatre in Chicago.

Artwork © Kurt Firla

We hitched a ride with Chad Mallett a.k.a. Matt Folliott and Ted Hallett to talk about touring, the unreliability of pants, and their new Fringe show.

P&C: Your show is about two characters on vacation. Any stories you’d like to share from your travels together?

Matt: On a trip to Montreal, Ted fell down trying to put on a pair of pants. His excuse was that there was too much room.

Ted: Yes! There was! I didn’t have anything to grab onto. Honestly, there was too much space.

Matt: The sound of Ted hitting the floor was deafening. Like being next to a bomb going off or when someone drops a sack of hammers.

Ted: Here’s a fun story: every night before bed, just before I hit the light switch, I’d whisper to Matt that I was going to masturbate on his shower towel.

Matt: Yeah that was a lot of fun for me.

Ted: Me too.

P&C: What’s the most memorable show you’ve done?

Matt: It was one we did in Kensington Market. About 20 minutes in to a really fun show, Ted split his pants. Now if you know Ted, you know he never wears underwear. The audience may or may not have gotten an eyeful.

P&C: We’re sensing a theme here. Your show is inspired by an audience members’ vacations. What is it about real experiences that audiences love?

Matt: I think the audience enjoys seeing how we use specific details of their travel experience to inform the comedy.

Ted: It’s relatable. We all have crazy travel stories and I think an audience is invested in the performance when it’s connected to something they’ve seen, experienced or dreamed of themselves. The crowd will always give us a cool travel destination to go to, but for me, the fun is playing the multiple characters in the world we’ve created based on their memories.

Matt: What Ted said.

P&C: You’ve been a duo now for five years. What’s the secret to your longevity?

Ted: The secret is to just keep doing it, ’cause what else do we have going on? That and we also make great roommates. He drives me nuts sometimes but I genuinely like Matt and that’s important when you pair up with someone. They have to be able to stand your strange habits. What do you think, Matt?

Matt: It’s a secret and I’ll never tell.

P&C: Toronto Fringe is a great way to expand your audience. Do you think it’s getting easier or more difficult to attract people to improv?

Matt: I think we’re in a golden age of improv. I know that sounds corny but people are just excited about the art form whether they’re watching shows or taking classes.

Ted: I agree. Improv is hugely popular with a younger crowd which helps a lot. It’s in the zeitgeist. I think TV shows like Key & Peele, Drunk History and Rick & Morty which cast improvisers and use improv to create content have really made the art form an intriguing dish to sample for all ages.

Matt: Intriguing dish? What is it with you and food?

Ted: I love food more than life itself you little meatball.

P&C: The show is directed by Mark Andrada. What does he bring to Chad Mallett?

Matt: I trust Mark’s comedic mind 100%. He shares our vision for the show. He just gets what’s funny and his experience as a comedian, director, and theatre tech are invaluable. He’s our Filipino Yoda.

Ted: What Matt said.

P&C: You’ve both been part of the improv community for more than a decade. Who inspires you, either here or in the U.S. and abroad?

Ted: I love The Sufferettes and hero worship people like Bob Martin, Linda Kash, Paul O’Sullivan, and Lisa Merchant. I’m also really into David Razowsky, TJ & Dave, and that whole slow style of improv that developed over the years in Chicago. I’m also into S&P, a group right here in Toronto that Matt is a part of.

Matt: That’s nice! Thank–

Ted: –Don’t interrupt me. Okay, I’m done. Carry on.

Matt: Thank you Robert. I love local duos like Coko & Daphney, RN & Cawls or local shows like Matt McCready’s $12 Beer Beer. On the national scene, I’m really into The Sunday Service and anything happening at Montreal Improv Theatre is a pure joy to take in. Internationally, I adore IGLU Theatre from Slovenia. Peter, Vid and Jus from IGLU are just some of the funniest dudes you’ll ever meet. Also check out Ted & Lisa. They’re pretty damn good.

P&C: Any plans to take your Fringe show on the road?

Ted: If the road calls we will answer.

Matt: I like that Ted.

Ted: Me too. High five.

Matt: I can’t reach that high.

Catch Chad Mallett at the Toronto Fringe Festival, July 7-16. Get tickets here and Follow them at Facebook: Chad Mallett • Twitter: @ChadMallett • Instagram: @chadmallettcomedy

In this interconnected age it’s easy to believe anyone can find you. Like that creep from summer camp who keeps sending you friend requests.

But products are different. Just because you have a great product doesn’t mean people know to look for it. And in the case of improv, they may not even know what your product is.

With few exceptions, improvisation just doesn’t attract many outsiders (i.e. new customers). When the host says “Clap if you’ve never seen improv!” and someone claps, you can feel the amazement ripple through the space.

People aren’t coming out in droves to see improv. So what are they coming out for? Lots of things, it turns it out. Here are some tried-and-true ways to create a show that packs the house.

Have a party!

People like to party. Party Hard, Hard Party even sounds like an invitation. If you mention beer in the name, like BeerProv, they’ll get what the show is about. BeerProv is so successful, they’ve expanded beyond Canada to the U.S.

Non-improviser: Hey, you wanna go to this show? It’s a comedy show with beer.

Steal an existing following.

People like TV shows and board games and comic books. Shows like Holodeck Follies, Improv Against Humanity, and Riverdale: Improvised come with a built-in following. Facebook groups, online forums, festivals and conventions can help spread the word. Just don’t go there to spam them; interact with other fans. If they’ve been to your show and liked it, nothing beats word of mouth advertising.

Non-improviser: Hey, you know that TV show we like? You wanna go see a comedy show based on that? I hope they have beer.

Steal an existing style.

The Improvised Shakespeare Company made improv accessible to fans of the Bard, and vice versa. Anthony Atamnuik and Neil Casey’s Two-Man Movie uses film techniques to tell an improvised story. And Edmonton’s Die-Nasty is an improvised soap opera with recurring characters and a continuing storyline. (They even do a 50-hour soap-a-thon where performers go without sleep. Props.)

Show off your other talents.

Build a show around your other skills, like the singing sensations of Mansical and Showstopper! The Improvised Musical. There are improv shows based around puppetry, poetry, and true stories, to name a few.

Have a cause.

Laugh in the Face of Fear is a show where anxious people can enjoy a night of anxiety-themed comedy in a safe environment. They get a chance to perform, if they choose, and profits go to mental health charities. You could build a show to support your own favourite cause, charity, or non-profit.

Make it a competition.

Theatresports, Catch23 and Rap Battles use elimination as a hook to build an audience and keep ’em coming back. The audience tends to skew towards improvisers, but long-term shows like Cage Match and The World’s Biggest Improv Tournament round up family and friends to rig the votes…uh, cheer on the victors.

Have a POV.

People love to flout taboos, and Filthy: The No-Rules Improv Cabaret pushes boundaries to the limit. Other improv shows with attitude centre around feminism, politics, or specific cultures.

Make the audience the star.

Try involving your audience vs just entertaining them. Blast From The Past, Blind Date, Matt& and Neil +1 use audience members as an integral part of the show.

Non-improviser: You wanna go to a show where it’s about us? Hell yeah, I love us. Beer!

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *     *     *     *     *     *     *

You can probably think of more categories to explore. Whatever your premise, put in the time behind the scenes and make your show something the press could write about.

Two more thoughts:

Find a new space.

You may need to go beyond your community to get noticed. Think outside the theatre for ways to expose new people to your message; people who wouldn’t normally set foot in a theatre.

Look for potential partners or or sponsors. Let’s say you have a coffee-themed show. You could promote a local cafe on posters and during the show, serve their product, put up signage in their establishment, or even perform in their space.

When advertisers talk about “white space,” it means identifying potential gaps in existing markets. You can define a new white space in improv by taking some of the steps above.

A word about form.

Formats are fun, no question. You might get excited about doing a Deconstruction or Harold, but the truth is most audiences don’t care. (And unless they’re improvisers themselves, won’t have a clue what that means.) The form you do is pretty much window dressing to them. All anyone really cares at the end of the night is, did they enjoy it?

Don’t have a form, have a “thing.” If you don’t have a thing, you probably won’t have a following. When you have a thing you’ll not only find your audience, over time they’ll find you.

The audience is listening • Photo © Simon McCamus

On March 28, improv powerhouses Mantown and Notorious (featuring Ashley Botting) come together to use their power for good, with a hilarious night of comedy to benefit Haven Toronto, a drop-in centre serving homeless, marginally housed, and socially isolated men age 50 and over. Producer Mat Mailandt described his experience working with the men from Haven:

“Every day I walk by homeless people. I never know what to do or say. Do I make eye contact and smile? Do I apologize for not giving any change? Do I ignore them completely? I’m confronted on a daily basis by my privilege, and saddened by their lives. Generally I feel hopeless and overwhelmed; truthfully, these interactions make me very uncomfortable.

It was with this sense of discomfort that I visited Haven Toronto for the first time. I’d arranged to train some of their guys to improvise. Walking in, I was incredibly nervous. I didn’t know what to say, if I’d act in a way that would offend someone, or if the men would be open to doing improv.

The second I walked, everyone turned and looked at me. I clearly stood out. Someone said ‘You look like a lawyer!’ I replied, ‘I’m not, but I’ll take that as a compliment.’ I smiled, took a deep breath and reminded myself that everything worth doing is scary.

The first class started like any other: chairs in a circle, eye contact, introductions. I expected the process to be difficult; I figured these guys would have built up some walls, understandably. I thought some of them would get up and leave the workshop with no warning.

What I discovered pretty quickly was these men were some of the most open, kind and supportive students I’d ever worked with. Within minutes we were laughing and cracking jokes. They all entered into exercises with enthusiasm, took feedback well, and told stories about their lives. They shared things they loved, like one former truck driver who missed meeting women on the road, especially in Kansas. Another guy talked about his struggles trying to find an apartment amongst the waves of Syrian refugees looking for the same thing. These men seemed to have so little, but they still have an incredible ability to create. Their perspectives were diverse, touching and shockingly, full of hope.

Now I’ve completed my training sessions with them. On Tuesday, they’ll perform in a fundraiser show for the organisation that supports them. I’m excited to raise some money for a worthy cause. But equally important is that these guys are going to get the chance to get onstage. Our goal is to shine the light on elder homelessness. And we’re going to do it. Literally.

A friend of mine told me we’re all one life event away from being homeless. That really resonated with me. For most of my life I’ve felt sympathy for those less fortunate, but basically I’ve done nothing to help. My excuse was always that I’m broke and so what could I give? I can barely pay rent, let alone donate to charity. What I now realize is that I do have time. And I know how to listen.

The whole experience at Haven was less about improv and more about sharing. I shared my expertise and time and they shared their experiences, their struggles and their joys. What I realized is that in that room, the one with the most walls was me. The hardest part was walking in the door. The rest, I improvised.

About the event:

A night of improv to benefit Haven Toronto, featuring top Canadian comedians and a very special performance by Haven members. Hosted by comedic duo and real-life bothers Freddie Rivas (Rapp Battlz) and Miguel Rivas (The Beaverton).

Tickets are $20, available here. For more info visit: www.notimprov.com

March 28, 8:00 p.m., Comedy Bar Cabaret, 945 Bloor Street West

 

You’ve trained. You’ve rehearsed. You’re ready to rock’n’roll. But where?

In the past, improvisers performed where they studied, or looked for existing shows to be part of. Now a new breed of players is getting creative in the ongoing pursuit of stage time.

Pop-Up Improv

Image © Countdown Theater

Image © Countdown Theater

Retailers have pop-up spaces, why not improvisers? The idea “popped” in my head last year. But while I was still musing, Kelly Buttermore was making it happen. Countdown Theater is a pop-up improv space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (Could it be any cooler?) It opened February 1st this year, and closes April 1st. In her words, it’s “an ephemeral space for an ephemeral art form.”

Do what Kelly did: keep your eyes peeled for potential locations, then get in touch with the landlord or lease holder. Invite other teams, and maybe even collaborate with other artists in your community (musicians, dancers, painters, etc.) It’s a buzz-worthy way to showcase talent, and who knows where it could lead? To learn more about Countdown, click here.

Podcast Your Passion

There’s a podcast for practically everything nowadays, from modern love to mental health to mostly made-up movies. Most podcasts are two people and a mic in a basement, but why not do it in front of an audience? Here are three podcasts that do just that.

Improv Nerd is a show, a podcast, and an improv master class rolled into one. Host Jimmy Carrane has interviewed and performed with the cream of comedy, including Key & Peele, Scott Adsit, Rachel Dratch, TJ & Dave, and The Improvised Shakespeare Company to name a few of his over 200 guests. If you can’t make it out to a live show, you can listen on iTunes.

Comedy Bang! Bang! The show that launched a thousand catchphrases, Scott Aukerman’s Comedy Bang! Bang! has been making fans laugh with improvised nonsense since 2009. While it started on Earwolf and later aired on TV for five seasons, the core players have also performed live. Last year they toured North America, as well as four stops Down Under. Regular cast members include Paul F. Tompkins, Lauren Lapkus, Jason Mantzoukas, Andy Daly, Ben Schwartz, Matt Besser, and Bob Odenkirk. All joking a salad, we heart CBB. 

Illusionoid Nug Nahrgang, Paul Bates, and Lee Smart have been bringing their brand of sci-fi comedy to audiences for almost a decade. Past guests include Colin Mochrie, Sean Cullen, The Templeton Philharmonic, and Scott Thompson.

According to Nug, “The show is like Twlight Zone or Tales from the Crypt. There’s a host, and it’s this man from the future, the last surviving human, and he’s sending these stories backwards in time in hopes that we’ll prevent these horrible things from happening.” (We can think of something we’d like to prevent, Nug…)

They’ve just signed with Antica Productions, the folks behind Gord Downie’s Secret Path. If you can’t catch the show in person, subscribe here.

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Find A Sponsor, Create A Form

If you really want to think outside The Harold, go beyond improv and appeal to a whole new audience. Abra Cadaver met in the Second City Longform Conservatory program, and have gone on to perform for packed houses across the city. We asked them about their signature show, Bunz Live.

P&C: Your show is called Bunz Live. How did you come up with it?

Molly: Cameron Algie was our coach at the time–

P&C: Terrible.

Molly: (laughs) He was really encouraging us because we’re a very theatrical group, to kind of use our bodies because we’re all really comfortable “movers,” to try and find a form that would encapsulate that. And there’s also this burgeoning community called Bunz. It’s an online platform where you can trade items for anything. Like, if I have an extra shoe, I can trade it for some ramen noodles.

Robbie: Of all of the examples, that was not the most amazingly descriptive example, but…

Antonis: Let’s say this: someone can teach you piano, but they won’t ask for money, they’ll ask for a sofa because they really need a sofa.

P&C: That’s one of the things about Bunz, no cash is allowed, is that right?

Molly: Yes, exactly. No cash, only item for item.

Robbie: Side note: it ends up being a lot of people asking for tokens and beer, and subway tokens are kinda funny because it looks like money, people treat it like money, so why don’t they just give each other money?

Antonis: Plus it has an exact monetary value.

Robbie: Maybe they haven’t heard of this thing called “money.”

Dana: Another interesting thing in coming up with the form was that Cam kind of wanted to expand us to the idea of thinking outside of just the Conservatory. Thinking like, OK, if you’re gonna take the time and you want to explore something and make a show, really think about, “What’s something that hasn’t been explored in Toronto?”

That was something we weren’t necessarily thinking of when we were making our form. It [went from], “What hasn’t been done [in long form]?” to “What’s happening right now that hasn’t really been explored, that might have an audience?” And there’s a huge Bunz community.

Molly: I feel like we got lucky. In Toronto there was this online start-up company, and we were like this online improv company (laughs) no, live improv company. It just kind of worked; we were both coming up at the same time and a lot of people we knew were also involved in that community. And it was an audience outside of the comedy audience.

P&C: That’s what’s so interesting. As you know, improvisers often end up performing for other improvisers. We’re always asking “How do we get people from outside the community to come and see a show?” Especially when the players are at a certain level, performing to a handful of people, you think, “Aaaaahhh, if only more people could see this!” Get more people into the cult. (laughs) And I find the vibe in the room can be really great when there’s new people.

Molly: Absolutely. We’re just starting out, but even connecting with the Bunz team at their headquarters was so great to say, “We’ve got an idea, we’re trying something new. You’ve got an idea, you’re trying something new.” It’s awesome.

P&C: So how did you approach Bunz?

Molly: I’ve played in bands in Toronto, and I had played with Emily who started Bunz in a new year’s show at the Silver Dollar. She played in a band called Milk Lines. I was friends with her on Facebook and then noticed that she was starting Bunz. So when we started playing with the idea, I got in touch with her and it kinda went from there.

P&C: You said you’re a theatrical group. What do you mean by that?

Antonis: We all have differing backgrounds, in theatre, in film, in dance. I personally started in music theatre, I have a lot of dance background, and I try to bring that out in my comedy. I think that’s something about Abra Cadaver and Bunz Live that is really fun, is that we all have diverse talents and we all work hard to bring those talents out.

Dana: It’s all about becoming those objects or those people, so when we all started doing it together it was so wonderful to see other people jump into the form and really do it.

P&C: You’re a very physical team compared to “stand and talk” kind of shows that are more common. As an audience member it’s very cool to watch.

Robbie: All but one person have some kind of theatre background.

Antonis: That’s Jason, and he works at a museum, so that’s equally as fascinating, so I feel like his frame of reference is huge.

Robbie: And we need that difference. Also Jason’s a physical actor.

Antonis: He’s a very, very funny guy.

Molly: He’ll be an actor when we’re finished with him. (laughs)

Catch Abra Cadaver (Kate Fenton, Molly Flood, Robbie Grant, Ross Hammond, Leanne Miller, Dana Puddicombe, Samara Stern, Jason Voulgaris, and Antonis Varkaris) at Bunz Live, SoCap Theatre, Monday, March 13. Admission: $5, or bring an item to trade and enjoy the show for free! 

Photo © People & Chairs

Photo © People & Chairs

Click here for Parts One and Two of this series.

bcif-balloons

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.)

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

Bombaes-copy

“You’ve gotta learn to love the bomb.” – Stephen Colbert

It’s been 10 years since I performed for the first time at Second City Training Centre. I was on stage for all of three minutes, dry-mouthed and sweaty-palmed while I tried to remember what comes after “B” in the Alphabet Game.

Since then I’ve had various anxious moments, but rarely does my adrenaline spike like it did in that first year of improvising. Which is why I was intrigued (and terrified) by the notion of Bombbaes. I asked the show’s co-creator, Rob Norman, to explain.

P&C: What is Bombbaes?

RN: Bombbaes is designed for good improvisers to do something that they’re not good at: either stand-up, solo sketch, clown, a character piece, magic tricks… It really could be anything. You could write something and read it out loud.

P&C: What made you decide to start doing it?

RN: It comes from the idea of, improv is based on risk and danger, and if we’re not doing something that’s risky and dangerous then we shouldn’t be improvising. Every time we step into a scene there should be some kind of risk. And so for me and Adam, the other co-creator, co-producer, we were feeling very comfortable in improv, and so we wanted to do stuff that made us feel very uncomfortable.

There’s also a selfish element for me. I’ve been doing improv for a long time. I improvise with Adam in Mantown, I improvise with Adam in RN & Cawls, I have a podcast with Adam… It’s a lot of me and Adam in partnership on things.

[An improviser] came up to me the other day and said, “Hi, I know you’re Rob and Adam, I just don’t know which one you are.” I said, “I’m Rob.” Every time we see her she’s like, “You’re either the Rob or Adam, I don’t remember.” And so there’s this kind of pairing that happens in people’s minds, which is awesome, but I think as you get a little older too you wanna be able to say, “This is me, this is my voice, this what I do.”

And so the big push for me in Bombbaes has been developing some kind of stand-up act. I didn’t feel comfortable doing it in the stand-up community, just because of the way I’m wired and the way the stand-up community is. It’s a very harsh place and you have to have a very thick skin, and I do not have one, so Bombbaes is a good place for me to get good and figure things out in front of other improvisers who are going to support me before I get good enough to go out into the real world and suffer criticism.

P&C: And how’s that going?

RN: I just did my first stand-up show with a regular audience at Mullet’s Night Show on Thursday, and it was so weird for me.

Before I was always doing shows where people in the audience knew who I was; maybe might even be excited about [seeing] me as an improviser. So when I was doing stand-up, there was a little bit of protection I guess, because people knew who I was. So when I made a joke that tested some boundaries people were like, “Oh man, I know who Rob is, he’s pushing boundaries but I trust where he’s going.”

At [Mullet’s] I did five jokes and three of them were great, but two of them… This one woman in the audience called out and repeated back premises to me: “Where are you going with this?” “What are you saying?” “Are you a monster?!” And I was like, “No, no, wait for the punchline please!” So that was like a whole other world for me. I was out of my safety zone; no one knows who I am, nobody cares what I do, and so I’m kind of back to basics.

P&C: For anyone interested in taking part, Bombbaes is a solo show?

RN: Because improvisers work so well in ensembles and duos, the thing that most people are most excited about doing or trying is solo pieces. So there’s no rule about doing more-than-one-person stuff, but I think we’ve only ever had one person do a duo. Everyone else has done solo pieces.

P&C: And what’s the coolest or most memorable act you’ve seen?

RN: The best, weirdest thing I’ve ever seen at Bombbaes is a woman who was an owl for seven minutes.

P&C: Wow…

RN: There was no comedic element to it. She’d taken a clown class and wanted to experiment with something, so she was just an owl and she just interacted with the audience.

P&C: That’s incredible. And is seven minutes the average stage time?

RN: It’s five to seven minutes.

P&C: Awesome. Well, I guess now I’ll have to find the courage to try something.

Bomb Baes happens every other Tuesday, 9:30 pm at SoCap Theatre, 3rd floor.

Be sure to check out Rob and Adam’s improv podcast, The Backline, and Rob’s book, Improvising Now: A Practical Guide to Modern Improvisation.