Posts tagged Big City Improv Festival


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.)

BCIF just unveiled the first in a series of videos created by Toronto’s improv community. This one features Cameron Algie, Steve Cole, Quentin Matheson and Chris Leveille, directed by Chris Besler. Click below to view.

In just one month, Big City Improv Festival will blast off at Toronto’s Comedy Bar. Check out the stellar line-up headlined by Jet Eveleth and Paul Brittain. For more information, click below.

Move over CIF, DCM and Out of Bounds.

You’ve heard of comedy in threes? Try a trio of improv festivals…all in Toronto.

This year marks the first annual Big City Improv Festival at Comedy Bar, October 15 – 20. Impatient Theatre Co’s Toronto Improv Festival meanwhile, runs from October 22 – 28.

That leaves one day in between.

It was a day of laughterlessness that Standards & Practices couldn’t let go unfilled. And so the October 21st Greater Toronto Improv Festival was born.

According to their facebook page, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the festival. While information has been cryptic until now, they just announced that improv heavy hitters Mantown and Falcon Powder will be performing. What started as a joke just got real, yo.

Some people are already calling it Toronto’s second-best improv festival. Only time will tell.

“The festival between festivals” takes place at Unit 102 on – you guessed it – Sunday, October 21st.

We can’t wait.

Looking for a fresh new festival to show off your team’s mad skillz? Fancy hobnobbing with the stars at Toronto’s famed Comedy Bar? Or maybe you just wanna perform with friends and get drunk after.

Whatever your thang, the folks at Big City Improv Festival don’t judge. But they do want you to know that the submission deadline is this Friday, August 17th.

With marquee acts from across North America, the line-up promises to be awesome. So don’t be left out. Get your cute little festival-submitting butt on over to their web site, at

Today marks the launch of Toronto’s new independent improv fest, Big City Improv Festival. We asked Gary Rideout Jr of Comedy Bar for the 411.

P&C: This is the first annual Big City Improv Festival. What’s different about it from festivals Toronto has seen in the past?

GRJ: I think the thing I’m most excited about is the production team. There are a lot of passionate improv people involved, and everyone’s not afraid to share the workload so that everything gets done with plenty of time and attention. As someone who’s been an Associate Producer with Toronto Sketchfest since day one, I know it takes great leadership and a solid support team to build a great festival.

Julie Dumais produced the Combustion festival for a few years and she did a great job. I think it took something like that to prove we could put on a world class improv festival here in the city of Toronto. Something that would help our reputation in other markets, and something that would show the international acts that we have great audiences who do support good improv.

P&C. Comedy Bar has become a hub for improv, attracting some of the best local and out-of-town talent. What kind of acts can people expect on both the main stage and side stage at this year’s festival?

GRJ: I can tell you that with the production team involved, cultivating submissions from the best local, national and international acts won’t be a problem.

That said, coming up with a great festival schedule is like coming up with a good running order for a sketch show, or composing a great piece of music. There’s ebb and flow, and there will be both massive highlights and hidden gems. There’ll be party shows and thought-provoking shows, all with the onus being on what is funny and now, and what, with this great opportunity, can we present to the public to get them coming out to see improv, not just every night of the festival, but year round.

Festivals are a great place to showcase local favourites or have a local show become a new local favourite. The lingering effects of a great performance here can translate into continued success for that act.

P&C: Are there any special guests planned?

GRJ: We’re tinkering with the idea of some special guests. Bringing in someone famous helps get press for the festival as a whole, and gives a bunch of improvisers the opportunity they might not have otherwise to perform with someone cool. That said, with this being our first year it’s also important to focus on all the already-great local acts that exist in this city, and help expose them to the general public and let them know they can see those acts year round.

P&C: There’s been an explosion of interest in improv in the last few years. What do you think accounts for this?

GRJ: It’s crazy. I’ve always had a theory that the interest in styles of comedy goes in waves. For awhile, everyone’s doing stand-up, then sketch gets big for awhile, right now we’re in an improv boom.

The Second City Training Centre expanded and always seems to be full, and everytime I see a Bad Dog class in the cabaret at Comedy Bar, it’s full. It’s a great time.

I think before Comedy Bar, there were opportunities to perform improv but you really had to be pro-active in terms of finding a space where you could produce an “improv show.”  In some ways improv was being looked at as an exercise you do just to get better at improv. So you go on stage for 25 minutes and then sit around and get told by someone else what they would have said or done in that situation.

With Comedy Bar, it’s kind of paint by numbers; you pitch a “show concept,” then you produce and perform that show for an audience. Bad Dog and National Theatre of the World have strived to put a focus on the value of improv as the presented artform, not just the vehicle to get to the content. Other acts see that and are doing the same thing in their own way. Improv is the show.

One of the first things I did with Catch23 when we brought it to Comedy Bar was move it from Mondays to Fridays. I wanted more people to see the show and the stories that come out of it, not just in the scenes but in the fake competition and relationships between judge, audience and players. It’s always packed, and almost always a great show. (I said “almost” there on purpose, I can’t help being a little bit critical.)

P&C. What’s the vision for the future of Big City Improv Festival?

GRJ: Big City Improv Festival has an opportunity to be the improv festival that properly represents the city, and all the great performers that call Toronto home. It’s something we’ve desperately needed for a very long time, and something that could go a long way to help Toronto’s reputation internationally

The festival runs October 15-20 at Comedy Bar.

Image © Big City Improv Festival