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.
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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
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?)
“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)
Julian Frid is an aficionado of the art of improv and the founding member of Sex T Rex. He’s performed on stages across North America, and is a student at U of T, focusing on the structure and cognitive effects of storytelling, specifically in film. He is proud to say he consistently pays improv teachers good $$.
Teaching improv at U of T, I’ve encountered many people who want not so much to be improvisers (in the sense of going onstage to improvise regularly), but to use the tools of improv to hack social sitches.
Does this work? Debatable. I don’t see the “after,” just the “before,” but improv games tend to loosen people up and teach all those Batmans out there to consider the question “Why so serious?”
The greatest thing I think these classes teach is respect for creative (weird) people. Teaching the course, I can see the status shift from being closed off and knowing what is “good” and what is “not.” At the end of eight weeks, these people wade into scenes and give their fellow performers wide-eyed attention. It brings out the child in them, though I’d never tell them that outright.
These students are less concerned with comedy than with possibilities of game, of exploration, and getting to do what they’ve always wanted to do. I had a student who loved the idea of opening up a closet and having a live bear inside. This was a frequent but hilarious occurrence.
For students like this, improv is a novelty. As an improviser, and after watching a fair amount of improv over five years, I wonder how much of a novelty it remains for some, when all we see is people and chairs.
Depressing? Hopefully not. After examining and practising an art like improv, one, even though they may not be able to articulate it, gains a nuanced and elemental understanding of the art. How to move the people and the chairs to make the most entertaining arrangement or dynamic possible.
Good film is best when it remains good even when muted. This is because elementally, film is images moving on screen.
Improv is elementally people with chairs. Our whole life is people with architecture, furniture, navigating and using these spaces. Improv requires exploration.