Live From The CenTre is back…in Pod form. The satirical web series is now an improvised podcast starring Adam Cawley, Rob Baker, Dale Boyer, Chris Earle and Brian Smith.
The CenTre revolves around a non-profit incubator for small and socially progressive businesses. It’s the perfect platform for some of Canada’s funniest improvisers to unleash a plethora of hilarious characters. Think Comedy Bang! Bang! with a social conscience.
“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.
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.
“Everybody’s talkin’ at me, I don’t hear a word they’re sayin'” – Nilsson
If the thought of doing a silent scene fills you with nightmare visions of Marcel Marceau, relax. You don’t need to chew the scenery, and not everyone has to be mute.
Even one silent character can steal the show.
Second City actor Jason DeRosse played a baby in a five-person scene. The other performers were hilarious, but the audience was riveted on Jason. He didn’t make a sound; just lay on his back looking wide-eyed and innocent, occasionally grasping a mobile overhead.
When I asked him about it afterwards, he told me “Strength in silence!”
If you want to strengthen your non-verbal muscles, the following exercises can help.
To begin, choose four people. Two will be in the scene, and two will be Narrators. The Narrators stand on either side of the stage or rehearsal space. The other two ask for a location, then start the scene without speaking.
They can be sitting, standing, miming an action; it doesn’t really matter. The only rule is, no talking.
Allow the performers to settle in for 20 to 30 seconds, giving them time to get comfortable with their character and make eye contact with their scene partner.
One Narrator then voices a thought inside the head of the character closest to him.
The second Narrator then voices the other character’s thoughts.
Since all the dialogue is internal, the characters can’t hear what each other is thinking. For example:
Narrator 1: Look at Brad, sitting there all smug. What a d-bag.
Narrator 2: Cathy sure is pretty. I wonder if she likes me?
So we’ve established that Player 1, voiced by Narrator 1, is repulsed by Player 2. Meanwhile Player 2, voiced by Narrator 2, has a crush on Player 1.
From here, both the Players and Narrators can have fun ratcheting up the tension between them, since all of the thoughts – however outrageous they might become – are in the characters’ heads, while their outward appearance might suggest something else.
1 to 50
This exercise demonstrates the importance of tone and body language, and the unimportance of words when we communicate.
Two people start a scene, with or without a suggestion. Instead of words, they can only say numbers. The players take turns until they reach 50. For instance:
Player 1: One.
Player 2: Two.
Player 1: (quizzical) Three, four?
Player 2: (excited) Five-six-seven!
Notice how quickly we become emotional when we don’t have words to hide behind. In order to communicate your point of view, tone and physicality become much more important.
Good Morning Fucko
This exercise is great fun to watch and play. The Coach/Director may side coach, in order to keep players focused on responding to each other, while maintaining their own point of view.
To begin, place two chairs close to each other, facing the audience. This will be the bed.
Two players lie back in the chairs with their eyes closed. They silently choose a deal, or point of view, for themselves as they “sleep.”
After 10 or 15 seconds, the Coach/Director says, “Good morning, Fucko.”
Both people wake up, in character.
The scene plays out silently, as the performers discover where they are, and who these characters are to each other.
Are they married? Roommates? Was it a one-night stand?
Remind players to check in with each other as they go about their day.
Don’t race through activities. If your character makes the bed, don’t just flip the covers and walk away – unless that’s how that character makes a bed.
If you step in the shower, turn on the taps. Then grab the soap. Does it have a hair in it? Ewww. Find the shampoo, and so on.
Or maybe you skip the shower and find yourselves sitting across the table having cereal.
What is the vibe between you? That’s the scene.
(Thanks to Todd Stashwick, Adam Cawley, Rob Norman, Jason DeRosse, Susan Messing, Tom Vest, Greg Hess, and David Razowsky for their help with this post. Stay tuned for more exercises in Part Two.)
“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” – Mark Twain
For years, Chicago audiences have watched scantily-clad men improvise some of the dumbest scenes ever played on a stage. Now it’s Toronto’s turn.
Created by Mick Napier of The Annoyance Theatre, Skinprov is pretty much like it sounds: a bunch of guys do improv while wearing increasingly smaller pieces of fabric. Which makes the non sequitur scenes all the more hilarious.
Audience favourites Adam Cawley, Rob Norman, Wayne Jones, Kris Siddiqi, Dwayne Wilson and Matt Folliott bare their souls, or at least their flesh, next Wednesday, November 21st, 9:30 pm at Comedy Bar.
Imagine a place where beer flows like water, fearlessness is a way of life, and shirtlessness is always an option.
Welcome to Mantown, an improvised frat party featuring Adam Cawley, Bob Banks, Jason DeRosse and Rob Norman.
What began as a side project has turned into one of Toronto’s longest-running comedy shows. They perform to packed houses the first Friday of each month at Comedy Bar, from 10:30 p.m. till the last person is wheeled out from an overdose of awesomeness.
We caught up with them to talk about improvising, childhood heroes, and vuvuzelas for the inaugural All In interview…
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels…
No, not Einstein, Earhart or Ghandi; we’re talking about the people who make up The CenTre.
Created by Second City alums Rob Baker, Dale Boyer, Adam Cawley, Brian Smith and Chris Earle, Live From The CenTre is an improvised web series about, well, weirdos. It’s also laugh-out-loud funny.
The CenTre provides a platform for “alternative” businesses who want to make the world a better place, each in their own unique way. Things like GuyWhoBringsAGuitarToAParty.org. Parking Doctors. And the Animal Literacy Group.
Baker, Boyer and Cawley play a multitude of offbeat characters so convincingly, you’ll swear you’ve met some of them. Especially if you’ve spent any time in Trinity Bellwoods.
Smith meanwhile, plays voice of sanity and Host, B. Gordon MacKie. According to Smith, the series is “99 percent improvised.” Take that, Judd Apatow.
Since its debut March 1st, the show has already garnered over 40,000 views and is apparently a big hit in Europe. Which makes total sense really, when you think about it.