Posts tagged Becky Johnson

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Improv attracts some very smart, very funny people, each with their own unique style. You can learn a lot just by studying how your fellow improvisers perform. Here are some of our faves:

The Chameleon

Most of us have a go-to on stage; some back-pocket character we can pull out if we start to panic.

Not Matt Folliott.

He’s equally comfortable being low or high status, male or female, hyperbolic or grounded and real. What’s more, Matt’s talent for accents is nothing short of astonishing. He does Southern, New York, Jamaican, Italian, Liverpudlian, German, Australian, Spanish, and dozens more so flawlessly, you’d swear he was born there.

The Magician

Kurt Smeaton finds something playful in everything, no matter how small or mundane. His ability to turn straightforward scenes into something Spielberg-ian is awe inspiring:

• He once played an entire village of people running from an exploding volcano. One character saved the day by stopping the lava with his bare hands, then rolling it up like a rug.

• His motorcycles sound like horses. He once rode one into a scene, kicked it and gave a “Yaarrr!” to send the bike on its way.

• After initiating with “The end of the world is nigh!” he mimed handing things out to passersby. What would have been flyers in someone else’s hands became “Frisbees! Get your end-of-the-world Frisbees here!”

The Shapeshifter

Mark Meer is the king of transformation. Watching him perform The Harold of Galactus is a master class in character and physicality.

His characters are always strongly defined; once he establishes them, they’re instantly recognizable later on. In one swift motion he transforms from a stiff-spined butler, to a hunchbacked gnome, to a drug-addled lunatic and back again.

The Clown

Jet Eveleth, Becky Johnson and Isaac Kessler all have strong elements of clown in their playing style.

There’s a fluidity, vulnerability, and openness to whatever is happening on stage that characterizes their performance. Nothing is off limits, no move is too risky. (That’s him as a ribbon-twirling gymnast in the photo.)

The Imp 

Sarah Hillier has a childlike, mischievous quality that makes every scene sparkle. Her playfulness is infectious: she has an ability to make scene partners corpse like no one we’ve seen.

If you’re the kind of improviser who likes rules and order, beware. The only thing predictable about Sarah’s performance is that it’ll be wicked funny. (Click here for a glimpse of her as Arya Stark.)

The Wild Card

The Wild Card comes out of nowhere and fucks with reality. Andy Daly, Rob Baker, Devon Hyland, and Cameron are all Wild Card players.

On his improvised podcast, Andy Daly and Matt Gourley played water-skiers, with Andy standing on Gourley’s shoulder to form the top of a human pyramid.

“I got your foot tattooed on my shoulder!” said Matt.

Without missing a beat, Andy replied, “Yeah, I had no idea you were gonna get that till I saw you.”

With one small move, he shifted time and smashed preconceptions. Suddenly Gourley’s character had to justify getting a foot tattooed on his shoulder before Andy’s character stood on it, which is hilarious. When the world you thought you were seeing is turned upside down, you’re watching a Wild Card.

The Everyman

Some performers stand out for their ability to blend in. While everyone else is larger-than-life, the Everyman quietly plays in the spaces between, often the scene’s voice of reason.

That doesn’t mean the Everyman is boring. Far from it. Because he (or she) plays so many roles with ease, they can do weird stuff like this and be totally believable.

Jim Annan, Jameson Kraemer, James Gangl and TJ Jagodowski are all superb Everyman performers.

The Kraken

We had to make a category for this rare, sometimes terrifying improviser. Jason Mantzoukas is one. So is Alex Tindal.

The Kraken is fearless, owning the stage the moment they set foot on it. Like the Clown, they don’t flinch from what’s happening, but rather, turn it up to eleven.

We witnessed Mantzoukas play a psychopath at the Friars Club Improv & Sketch Competition. His character took Ed Herbstman’s hostage, raped him (in real time), then shot an audience member in the head. If that doesn’t sound funny, it wasn’t. But it was electrifying, honest, and completely unforgettable.


The intent isn’t to mimic your favourite performers, but to find ways you can bring as much commitment and passion as they do to every set.

Something funny’s going on at the Imperial Pub, hangout of Ryerson students and homesick Brits.

“I’m gonna explain to you in a few simple steps why I don’t believe in cunnilingus.” – Rob Norman (Mantown)

When Matthew Landry invited me to check out his curated comedy show, Pageant Feathers, I said, “Sure, who’s playing?” He sent me the set list:

Puns of Brixton

James Gangl and Rob Baker

Sex T Rex

Becky Johnson

The Templeton Philharmonic (fresh from winning Best Comedy Duo at the LA Sketch Comedy Fest)


Hosted by Allie Price

My first thought was, “This is all in one night?”

Normally I’d say “You had me at Mantown.” But c’mon: these are all Kick. Ass. Performers. The show did not disappoint.

“I’m like a fucking homeless Wolverine!” – Rob Baker

Highlights included Baker and Gangl as a heckling homeless guy and a metrosexual stand-up comic-slash-ice cream salesman, Sex T Rex’s uber-physical action adventure show, Callaghan!, and The Templeton Philharmonic’s spot-on skewering of “contempo” life in the big city.

With so much talent on stage, it was kind of like the comedy equivalent of watching The Stones play El Mocambo.

I asked Landry about the show.

P&C: Why did you decide to start Pageant Feathers?

ML: A bunch of reasons I guess. I was finishing up the Conversatory at Second City and wanted to stay active. The hustle to get stage time around the city can be exhausting, so it was a good way to ensure a modicum of performance time. Also, I’m still relatively new in the community and there’s so many performers I look up to – Standards and Practices, Mantown, Pondward Bound, to name a few – that it gave me a great opportunity to interact with them and more or less enjoy some sort of refracted glory. Like a talent vampire.

P&C: What’s your criteria for choosing acts?

ML: If they make me laugh, I’d love to have them. Sometimes I’m trying to balance sketch and improv acts, and sometimes I’m trying to include different styles and energies, but for the most part if they’re talented and they’re available, I’ll have them. A lot of improv shows are more for the performers than the audience, I find. It’s this wonderful, supportive tight-knit community, and that’s awesome, but sometimes it can be a bit beguiling to an outsider. I always want acts I know are going to entertain the part of the crowd who aren’t comedians.

P&C: How long have you been improvising?

ML: I’ve been improvising for about two years now. I met the rest of the Puns (Mickey and Mark MacDonald, Joe Delfin) early on in Second City and we formed our group a year or so ago.

P&C: Any other plans up your sleeve for the future?

ML: Nothing too diabolical. I perform with Marjorie Malpass in a duo (Babysitter) and we’re heading to Improvaganza in Edmonton this June. Other than that, I just want to keep improving the show, getting better as a performer and producer, and just enjoying my time. That being said, if anyone knows the gentlemen of Falcon Powder, tell them I’ve got a spot open for them anytime they’d like.

If Landry keeps booking this calibre of talent, Pageant Feathers will be the Next Big Thing in live comedy. (Are you listening, Falcon Powder?)

Photo © Christine Chew

“Can I have a vodka tonic with three shots and without the tonic please?”

“Can I get the same, but without the glass.” – Gwynne Phillips and Briana Templeton (The Templeton Philharmonic)