Obviously Notorious – Calgary serves up another night of laughs

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If you read my blog… ummm thanks and you would have also read my lovefest raves about Calgary’s best, worst and only comedy hip hop group Notorious. I have gone on and on about how funny they were but tonight their improv talent really shone through in their extended show at Café Koi. Previously I had only seen Notorious open for the all-star improv show Mixtape during Kinkonauts show week. Tonight I was lucky enough to see a bit more of their mad improv skills and fast witted talent. Not only did they drop sick rhymes but also created some awesome scenes that had the full house giggling in appreciation. It was another stellar performance by the ever consistent group. If you are looking for a unique entertainment experience in Calgary, I urge go check them out when they return to Café Koi, May 3 – it is totally worth it!

I was also lucky enough to catch the opening act from the newly formed Obviously Improv group, consisting primarily of former Improv Guilders (I think). The opening act was unique in just that it consisted of just female improvisers, which like never happens. They performed short form games that were pretty unique to most of the style that I have seen in the past anyways. My favourite scene was when they had one improviser read off a scripted play and had another player improvise the responses and of course the appearance of the famous improv baby doll. These were a bunch of badass women improvisers owning their stage time and it made me really excited to start my women’s improvising classes with super-talented Laura Tennisco, there are a few spots left in the class and I totally think it is going to be a blast, so push your limits and CHECK IT OUT!

The city seems a buzz with the amount of new fresh activity in the comedy scene and every venue, no matter how small or secluded, is filled up with eager and energetic audiences hungry for comedy and the boundless talent in the Calgary comedy scene continues to serve up a great variety of options. All you have to do to enjoy all the cool little pop comedy shows happening all over the city is keep your eyes peeled via social media and let the comedy scavenger hunt commence.

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Stage fright be damned!

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On Wednesday I had an all-day comedy writing and performance workshop with Kevin McDonald from Kids In The Hall. I’ve been excited for a month about this and also slightly nervous for a couple of reasons. Reason one is that I have a terrible track record of meeting famous people who I admire. In the past I have cried, said absurdly awkward things and just dawned a frozen faced grin. Johnathan Taylor Thomas, Miikka Kiprusoff and Adam Lavine – I sincerely apologize. Reason two for my nervousness was that there was word we would be performing our sketches at Kevin’s show that night Yuk Yuk’s and while I was working on my stage fright issues, I was not sure I had completely conquered them. But I was determined not to let my nerves take away an opportunity to learn sketch comedy from a member of Canada’s most successful sketch comedy show.

My class consisted of 15 people from all walks of life including advertising & oil and gas and even a few active members of Calgary’s comedy scene. For a man who has had so much success in his career, worked with Lorne Michaels and has been on Seinfeld – Kevin McDonald is the most down to earth, quirky and lovely man. He gave each of us detailed, helpful notes throughout process and he was really supportive of our work. And the fact that I did something that made Kevin McDonald who has written on Saturday Night Live laugh and say I was funny, was like the highlight of my whole life up until now.

We did indeed perform our sketches that night in Kevin’s show. The crowd was bigger than I thought, about 50+ people. Not only were our sketches to follow Kevin’s stand up set, it also was to open for some of my personal improv heroes and teachers. Before the show started I felt those old stage fright nerves bubble up, so much I would go to the bathroom to talk myself off a ledge every 10 minutes. Then I saw my instructor from the Kinkonauts Owen Chan and I sort lied and told him I felt ready to get up there, finally. And he asked me what changed and as I was explaining to him how in his class I really started to understand how it not as nerve wrecking when you know you are not alone on stage and your job is not to make yourself look good but to make your stage partner look good – I somehow completely felt focused and calm. I also asked Owen what he does before he goes on stage and he said he just acted normal. I don’t why this concept blew my mind as much as it did. I always thought you had to like pump yourself up or like warm your vocal chords or something but I actually think those things psyched me out before. So I took his advice and just enjoyed the hilarious sets before our turn on stage.

I was so consumed by the comedy before I was supposed to go on that when I made my way on stage it was just like oh yeah, it’s our turn to go up in a another class. So we went up and we did our scene and we got a few laughs. Was it my best work? In my opinion far from it, I think held back a lot but I did it! I tackled one of my New Year’s Resolutions and I got on stage again. I was exhilarated and then the night was capped up off my watching some of my favourite Calgarian improvisers do some hilarious scenes with Kevin. I was really proud to be a part of that night and it is a day I will always remember.

I feel like I got this part of myself back that I thought I had lost. I never thought I would have the kind of bravery I had to go up on stage that I had when I was teenager. But even just performing in my classes had reminded me of a kind of joyfulness that I have only found in my life when I am on stage being ridiculous. And I don’t want lose it again. I am passionate about my pursuits in comedy performing and writing. And I hope that doesn’t come off as totally obsessive and crazy because I try to direct those feelings towards my cat. Anyhoo, I am pumped and excited and hopeful about what lies ahead! YAY!

Last night I sunk further into my comedy addiction

KinkonautsWell folks I have been hitting the comedy/improv scene pretty hard in 2014. The Kinkonauts have been offering a constant stream of classes that I am continually excited to take and explore. And I have to say, I’m totally hooked. The energy I feel in these classes is replicated when I find the time to check out a show, whether it be from the Kinkonauts or the Loose Moose. With each show it is more evident to me that Calgary is experiencing a comedy renaissance, and I am keen to be a part of as an audience member and eager performer.

Last night after a week filled with deadlines and bouts of illness, I was blessed enough to have a free night to check out the last show of the Kinkonauts’ show week. The opening acts consisted of two troupes and their scenes encompassed everything I love about the Kinkonauts style. The only way I can describe it is to like it to a human experiment on stage. Performers go out there, start a scene without the outside help of a director or a coach, go with their first instinct and work with their stage partners to create something. And when it works it is magic and the performers are rewarded with laughter but I have to say that I have mad respect for the scenes that fail too. I respect that improvisers are brave enough to try different things out on stage and that they are given the rope to do so. Not only does that look fun to a wannabe performer but I really do believe the audience appreciates the effort and are rooting for the next scene’s success.

The next part of the show was Much Ado About Nothing, improvised Shakespeare. I have to say, I did not know what to expect and how well it would go over. Often improv audiences are younger and sillier and appreciate the gags over … well, Shakespeare. Plus, improvising in verse – come on that had to be impossible, right? Well, as another testament to Calgary’s rich comedy scene the “Royal” Kinkonaut Players used their quick wit, experimental improv style and hilarity to create a truly complex and engaging play called the “Wolf’s Bane”.  What was so cool about this show was because the space was so small and props so limited, the audience could see the players put the complex story together on stage and on the sidelines. Whether they were being curtains in a scene or making plans with fellow players on the sideline for the next scene, the audience was privy to it all and that really added that spur of the moment feeling that improvisational theatre promises you. It was indeed, magic!

The night was capped off by a few of my favourite things: Calgary’s best, worst and only comedy hip hop group – Notorious, Boy Bands and of course stellar improvisations.

I know I have praised Notorious on this blog before but I am going to do again because this my blog and I can! Each member of Notorious – Mat Mailandt, Ryan Hildebrandt, Aaron Ranger, and Ryan Sheedy – bring a totally unique persona to the group but also work so well together, like any successful boy band really. They are just so quick and consistent with their comedy and I’m a huge fan! If you have not checked them out, DO IT! They’re playing a show March 22nd at Café Koi at 8pm – GO!

Next was another one of my favourite shows in the city, Mixtape and last night show was dedicated to boy bands (15 year old Andrea was ecstatic!). This show is one of my favourites because it brings together improvisers from different groups in the city and you can see their styles work together. Plus it has those magical long form looping of stories that just excite me so much and all to a boy band soundtrack! *swoon*

To top it all off I snuck my way into the after party. I’ve been a fan and student of improvisation for a while now and I have never felt more welcomed and encouraged to participate in the community as I have these past few months. So if by chance you are thinking of taking an improv class but are feeling intimidated, please don’t. The instructors and performers are really great people who want to see you succeed and most importantly, I promise you – you’ll have a good time!

The week ahead promises more good times with comedy! I have a writing class with Kevin McDonald from Kids In The Hall on Wednesday (eek!) and I am working on a special podcast project with a fellow comedy lover at the end of the week. The boundary-pushing styling of the Kinkonauts has really inspired me to experiment with how I can participate in comedy and I am ever so grateful for that!

Check out more Kinkonauts Show in April and get more information about upcoming classes, visit their website for more information.

Picture courtesy of Cassie’s Camera.

Adventures of a 31 year old wannabe improviser…

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When I was 19, I had an audition to get into the theatre program at Mount Royal College. After a lot of success in drama and theatre in junior high and high school, I was a bit cocky. I was comfortable on stage, probably more so with improv than scripted monologues, like the one I had to perform for the Mount Royal audition. We were required to perform a monologue and song. I memorized the monologue the week before and I chose my favourite Gershwin song to sing. I read over my lines over and over again, while my nerves increased as I saw people go in ahead of me. And then it was my turn, I entered the black painted theatre room, stood in the spotlight and squinted at the panelists in the shadow. A big voice boomed, “Andrea Marston please begin…” Please begin… my mind heard it but my mouth and brain could not coordinate the words of that monologue and for a second I was thrown but then I thought, “Screw this I am making up my monologue”. I remained in the intended character and made up the whole damn thing but I thought I pulled it off with my improvising. And then the big voice boomed, “That was off script. (long pause) Do you want to sing your song?” I choked out a yes and belted out “I Got Rhythm” with tears running down my face and my ever-so pathetic performance was received with a weak applause and, “Maybe next year Amanda.” Yeah, they called me the wrong name as I left the room to really dig that knife to my heart.

After that dastardly performance, I did not step on the stage again until 9 years later at a level one Loose Moose adult improv class. I remember that first class and how effing nervous I was. I was performing at a theatre I loved so much in front of a teacher who I had seen perform countless times and I was terrified. And then I got on stage and realized I get to use that door, that revolving wall, that window and that legendary couch I had seen in countless scenes at the Moose. The phrase that comes to mind when I think about that feeling, “A kid let loose in a candy shop” because all those old feelings of goofing around in drama class while doing improv in high school came rushing back to me. All that fearlessness that I lost was found and along with it was the awesomeness of being an adult and really not giving a crap what you look like when you are being funny and caring what people think of me.  After about three level 1 classes, I moved up to the hard to find level 2 classes at Loose Moose. Those classes really elevated me to the next level by allowing me to perform with people with a little more experience and getting to step a bit away from the theatresport games and more into scene work. Plus, along the way I got to be taught by some of my Moose favourites like Rob Mitchelson, Andrew Phung, Dave Lawrence and Dennis Cahill. The place where I had been a loyal audience member since I was 15 years old, brought me back to my love of performing.

Unfortunately I am a girl with a little too much on her plate these days with working just about two full time jobs and all. My schedule has not allowed me to work within the Loose Moose’s volunteer for company classes and the chance to get on stage system. There has also have been no level 2 improv  classes at the Moose for a while. So I have not taken a class since the summer and not having a creative outlet while dealing with life in the corporate world makes me a bit psychotic. So when I saw the Kinkonauts were offering level 2 classes, I jumped in! After really enjoying their last couple of show weeks, I was really optimistic about the class.

The last four weeks have been amazing. The Kinkonauts style is different from the Loose Moose in that it does not involve games, other than warm-ups, and the instructor does not jump in and give you notes until the end of most scenes. I feel like this style of performance let me experiment with my stage partner and gave us more power to see where the scene goes. This freedom on stage has really let me feel more confident and less afraid of making a mistake. My instructor Owen Chan, who is a wonderful performer with the Kinkonauts, was supportive and constructive in his criticism and his boisterous laughs ensured us all, we were on the right track. The icing on this sweet Kinkonauts cake was that I got to perform with old friends from other classes, people I have been lucky enough to have seen perform and was introduced to some awesome new friends. In the end this Kinkonauts class has inspired me to make more time for improv in my life because it makes me happy, and while money is great, happiness just makes life sweeter. Who knows maybe I will one day even be brave enough to perform on a stage in front of more than 10 people too?

Go check out the Kinkonauts unique style of comedy at shows running at the end of the week! For more information visit the Kinkonauts website.

Until next time, keep finding reasons to laugh everyone because it makes the world a little bit brighter!

Lots of love!

A