Adventures in the YYC Comedy Scene – Improv Guild & The Antarctic Show

I have grown tired of awaiting on company for Weekend Adventures and refuse to believe that Friday Night Spinsterhood consists solely of crocheting, Dateline and laundry. Lately, I have been feeling rather stifled by the rigidity of my mundane routine, 9 to 5 often lacks the adventure I desire. A lack of vacation days and income have tied me from traveling anywhere to seek something different.  However one can only see so many true crime shows before losing complete faith in humanity, so I thought it best to step out into the city to seek out my old friend comedy in hopes of injecting some laughter into my robotic life.

ImageMy sense of adventure once again took me beyond my beloved Loose Moose Theatre, my true comedy love in the city of Calgary, and found me trekking towards the Improv Guild. For years now, while traveling to work on the train or heading down south to visit my parents, I curiously noticed the weird small, purple building on McLeod Trail. It was not until post-flood that I found out that said purple building was where the Improv Guild performed. I was really excited to check out the insides of the purple building, so much so that I got to the venue in my regular fashion of awkwardly much too early. Luckily, the building was equipped with a cozy couch for me to sit on and take notes while the performers warmed up and socialized in a back room. The space was much larger inside than I had imagined it to be and I could not spot any real damage from the flood, which is great! As time approached, only a small spattering of people showed up. Young regulars, parents of improvisers and me, luckily before the show started I was joined by two of my favourite regulars to the comedy scene who agreed to check out the Guild with me.

The show started with the Artistic Directror, Rick, introducing his “nervous” class of novice improvisers. As a person who has taken many adult improvising classes and performed in only one class showcase (with an audience of 9, 7 of them people I invited), I knew how exhilarating and terrifying getting up on stage can be. To their credit this class of newbie improvisers were pretty fearless and provided me with some genuine laughs. Their showcase also introduced me to a new set games that I actually didn’t dislike as much as I do other improv games and it peaked my interest as an audience member and on-again-off-again improviser. The next part of the show introduced four regularly featured Guilders. There was no format that really brought the show together, so Rick kind of just set up the game for each scene and the improvisers would execute said scene. The four improviser were great and I got the chills of a great comedy discovery (similar to my first time seeing Ryan Belleville, Rob Mitchelson, Andrew Phung or Jackie Fries on stage) when I was saw Guilder, Heather Falk, perform. She has a great energy on stage, amazing timing and was not at all a stage hog and I found her to be the most engaging part of the night. Overall, the Improv Guild seems to have a really great and central space to work with but their show was very short. All other improv shows I have been to in Calgary and other cities run for about an hour to two hours but the Improv Guild Show was only 45 minutes and I think I accredit that to the lack of format of their Friday Night Showcase. However, I really liked the little bit I saw at the Improv Guild and would definitely be intrigued enough to go back for more shows.

Next we went back to the Moose to check out the late night show called the Antarctic Show, an experimental show developed by some of the newer Loose Moose regulars. The show was the idea of Josh Bertwistle, who has been all over the Calgary improv scene as of late, and is based off the concept of playing pretend and promises a new play every night set in the Antarctic. Yesterday’s play was about a cabbie who meets a time traveling scientist and a snowbot, it featured a soundtrack of improvised synthesizer. Overall, I enjoyed the concept of the show and I thought the improvising was stellar but once again, I wish that I got a little more time for my $12.

I think the best thing about my Friday Night Comedy Adventure was that I got to see even more doors being opened in Calgary’s improv scene to new experimental shows and I discovered a talented new (to me) improviser on the scene. What is great about Calgary’s improv community is that they consistently seem to collaborate and support each other, and regulars from rival theatres are more and more showing up on stage and in the audience at each other’s shows. I think this is a sign of great things to come in the Calgary’s comedy scene in 2014.


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