Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Sportsnet with Bill

I got to live a dream, albeit too brief, of announcing a sports highlight. As readers of this blog know, sports is probably my number two passion. I was initially hesitant, though why I'm not sure. But I vowed last year that I was going to smash my comfort zone, or at least dent it a little. So into the breach I went. The dialogue was written and displayed on a teleprompter, and there was a human teleprompter as well. How hard could it be?
It wasn't hard, it was easy, and after an initial stumble I think that I acquitted myself quite well. Wish I wasn't looking so hunched, but the words were a little difficult to see (GET GLASSES!) Evanka talks over me at one point.
I left feeling so happy and energized. I wanted to go back and do more. Hopefully I will get to experience this again.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

I Did A Show And They Laughed (Mostly)

I did a corporate stand up gig last night for a local business's staff party. I have been marketing myself as a "Comedian For Hire" for just over a year, posting ads on UsedVictoria and Kijiji and promoting on LinkedIn. It's tough going. I also have ads running for "Cleaner" and I receive double the responses for that one than I do for this one. (That one will be pulled.) I get queries from potential clients who never respond back after I send a link to myself on You Tube, which is mildly disconcerting. Or they come to see me live, as happened last year, but clearly do not like the environment I am performing in. (It wasn't me; I killed that night. Made sure I would.) Or they don't like my price. Or don't quite understand what it is I do. ("So you tell jokes? Are they funny?")
But this one had a good feel from the outset. The client and I chatted on the phone for over a half hour; the longer the conversation the better, I'm discovering. She had taken improv classes and attended open mikes. She knew who I was talking about when I mentioned Stephen Wright.
It sounded great. And it was.
It is not a requirement that I be provided food and/or drink. All I ask is for a mic, an introduction, and to not be shunted to "mop up duty" at the tail end of the evening when everybody is blasted or bored. I'm not a diversion, I am the entertainment. But the offer of refreshment is a good sign to me. It tells me that I won't be ignored or treated like "the help." It permits me the option of mingling if I choose and relieving the pre-show nerves. I was handed a drink ticket from the staff - who knew I was coming and had my name in the reservation book - met the client, who was lovely and lively (and not hammered) and was introduced to a veteran of the comedy stages, now retired, who offered me advice and support.
The atmosphere was low-key, friendly. When it was my turn, I was relaxed and ready to go.
I did okay. Not great, I'm not there yet. But I had their attention and I didn't lose it. A few jokes bombed (blame the writer.) Some were hits. I decided to change my style, combining my usual one line observational and word play (NOT puns) humor with story telling. I've written and performed longer bits recently, and I like it. It give me more options, and pads out the time if needed. My closer, a story about mishearing "tp" for "tv" and the hilarity that ensued, was listened to and greeted with laughter and applause. I was scheduled to do 30 minutes, had timed it out at 28, and I felt that it was only 20. But a quick check of my phone told me that I'd done 30.
Time does fly when you're having fun.
I stayed and chatted for a while afterwards, got paid (yay!) and thanked my client.
Not everybody in the room was interested. But those that were listened and appreciated. Nobody was falling down wasted, nobody held a long conversation over my set, and I saw no one checking their phones.
I still have much to learn; I still felt the need to use my notes as a crutch, as I've written about in an earlier post; I could have used the room more.
But I left feeling confident. It was a fitting end to a whirlwind nine days in which my life literally changed for the better forever. (More on this in future posts.) I will continue to learn, to promote myself, to write, and to experiment.

Happy Holidays!
This is me in front of a big tree. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Improv: First Blood

Still far apart 20 years later, but this time I brought a weapon.

Surrounded and protected.

6 Degrees.....
Today I want to go back in time to an incident from my early years as an improviser. I was fairly reckless then, not always taking the time to think about the potential danger that flailing arms and leg kicks can be. I was unaware of individual player's different comfort zones - though I was very cognizant of mine - and I'm fortunate that nobody was damaged in the process.
In the second season of The Impromaniacs, we maintained an open door policy; we did not hold auditions in the traditional sense but let it be known that new members were always welcome. One of the newbies on this particular Saturday morning was Robert. Unlike many newcomers, Robert had a strong background in theatre and was not showing any signs of trepidation or hesitation at jumping right into the midst of it. At one point, he and I ended up together in a game called "Role With....", which entails four improvisers playing a scene in four styles, be it emotions, film genres, accents, or pretty much anything else. When each player enters the scene, those on stage adapt that player's style. Then it goes backwards, each player exiting until one is left. If this sounds complicated to read, try writing it, or introducing it.
Robert enters. His style was "Woody Allen." I was excited because this was also a style I could do well - I struggled with some back then - and I was ready to "Woody it up." What the scene was about I do not remember. Here's what I do remember: my elbow coming up and landing on Robert's mouth. I carried on. There was a collective gasp. I turned and saw blood streaming from Robert's lip.
I'd split his lip open. While doing improv.
I stopped, stunned at what I saw. I am not squeamish about blood, but I'd just met the guy an hour ago, and now he was never coming back. Because I'd split his lip open. While doing improv.
But I'd not anticipated what we would all soon come to know: Robert's quick reaction time and laser wit. Far from panicking or stopping, he used his injury, in true method acting style. Never breaking character, never hesitating, he declared:
"I just came out for an improv audition and I'm bleeding from the lip!"
It was perfect. It broke the tension and let everybody know that no serious damage was done. The scene went on, though I remember nothing of the rest of it. That hardly mattered. Robert had created an indelible and legendary moment in Impromaniacs lore. Today, twenty five years later, I still relive this moment with him and with others. Yes, Robert stuck around. That's a mild understatement, as he went on to produce some of the greatest improv moments, lines, characters, and scenes which still sound fresh and exciting when I relive them. He and I have become great friends, both on and off the stage. He returned to Victoria several years back and leaped right into scene. I was pleased that he'd never stopped, performing improv and "serious theatre" while he was living elsewhere.
For the past five seasons, the two of us have played together in "Sin City," Victoria's live improv serial. He still does killer accents. I still do not. We are among the last of our ilk: forty-something improvisers with a link to the past. We are sort of the "wise old men" of the improv community, but we have kept our youthful enthusiasm and maintained our love of and for the art.
Robert was always an idol of mine; I'd always wanted to be like him: to be able to think so quickly and effortlessly on my feet, to say and do things which delighted players and fans.
I've been told that I'm a good improviser. I like to think that's true. If it is, perhaps some seeds were planted that day at The Fernwood Community Association, when an errant elbow met a lively lip and formed a blood bond.

***Robert is in all three of the photos at the beginning of this post. He is at the far left staring at the ground in the first picture; dressed in green with a pseudo-bowl cut in the middle pic (that was for Sin Season: Kingdom Of Thrones) and looking suave at the far right in the last one. Note that in the first and last shots he and I are separated by a buffer of actors, which I don't think is a coincidence.

Friday, October 2, 2015

"Why, Yes, I'm Still Doing Improv

  Every so often I meet people who have seen me on stage in the past, enjoyed my performances, and are happy to tell me so. I am happy to hear it.
I also encounter those of whom, based on their avoidance of direct eye contact, it can be safely assumed did not enjoy my performances. Of them we shall not speak another word.
In nine out of ten of the former moments, THE question is asked of me, and the following conversation - or a facsimile of - ensues.
 Them: "Are you still doing improv?" (sometimes asked with wonder and hope; other times with a shaking of the head and and a different vocal emphasis, as in, "are you still doing improv?")
 Me: "Oh, yes!"
 Them: "Wow!" (again, with very different inflections and tones. It's interesting how many ways a three letter word can be manipulated to denote attitude.)
  Me: "Oh, yeah. I'm never gonna stop."
  Them: "That's ....cool." Or a word like that. There is always a small pause before the word, whatever it is, as if the speaker is flipping through their mental thesaurus to find the one response which will denote mild interest without being too committed to the cause. The encounter ends with a "good to see ya," with maybe a handshake or complimentary (?) pat on the back/shoulder.
 And again I am made to ponder this particular life choice.
 For about FOUR SECONDS.
 Yes, I am still doing improv. I will always still be doing improv. I love it and it loves me. The marriage began twenty five years ago. We've had some bumps along the way, some frustration and, yes, even tears. We've even separated for brief periods. But we always come back to each other. We were made to be together.
In a future post, I will explain how discovering improv saved my life, how it gave me a purpose and a self-respect I had not been able to find.
 Why the Hell would I ever give that up? Why would I want to?
 I know that many consider improv to be a "young person's game," that at age 47 maybe I should have outgrown it, or grown tired. But I am not your grandmother's 47 year old. Only my birth certificate says how old I am: my attitudes, goals, and sometimes my thoughts and desires are those of a much younger person.
Somebody still well suited to do improv. Somebody who (hopefully) is able to communicate and get along with people of all ages. Somebody who has dedicated many years of his life to performing, teaching, and studying this often very misunderstood art form.
 Why the Hell would I ever give that up?
It's true that most of those with whom I 've worked over the years no longer do improv. Some have chosen other careers in the performing arts; some grew bored or frustrated; others - the great majority, in fact, - opted for "real lives."
I have no life mate. I do not have children. Or a mortgage. I'm only truly responsible to myself. Improv has helped me to love myself.
 Why the Hell would I ever give that up?
So, yes, I am still doing improv. Still growing and learning. I do many other things, too. Stand up. Shakespeare. Character Roles. I love it all. Admittedly, improv has taken a back seat to these often in the past several years.
 I always return to my first love.
 I always will.
 Why the Hell would I ever give it up?
Here I am doing improv

Still doing it. Sometimes I get to wear a costume.

I'm not doing improv here. But I am drinking a beer and wearing a scarf, two things which, in my experience, improv inevitably leads to.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Gotta See It: Subban’s hilariously accurate Don Cherry impression

This is a comedy blog, after all, and as I am also a sports nut, I figured that I would combine the two. PK Subban is one of my favorite NHL players, and he's a good guy, too. His recent donation of 10 million dollars to a Montreal children's hospital adds to his legacy. Don Cherry is, of course, one of pro sport's most colorful and controversial personalities. He and PK are buddies.