A Place Where Anything Goes
Think of the world’s worst improviser. These folks are far from that, but they can probably act as an amazing awful improvisor. Last Friday night I attended Improv Kingston‘s monthly show at the Tett Centre. Comedians Chris Jackson, Derrick Schoen, Lucie Girard, Jaime Maitland, and Patrick Ireton are there to entertain, led by their teacher Dan Walmsely. The gist of the show is simple—they play a multitude of improv games culminating in multiple scenes and short skits.
The beginning has many famous comedy games. My favourite is the game “World’s Worst”. Dan asks the audience for a list of occupations, goes through the suggestions, and the other comedians take turns acting like the world’s worst employee. The game goes over well as it encourages audience interaction while highlighting the comedians’ quick-witted nature. It also doesn’t put anyone directly on the spot—as other improv games do—since any comedian can jump in at any time. This allows them some time to think and those who believe they have the best action will jump in and act it out.
After a halfway break, the comedians transition into a longer form of improv. This begins with Dan asking the audience for some prompts, which are used to create multiple cohesive scenes. The improvised story mainly consisted of two competing 50/50 ticket salesmen, both raising money to help a loved one. One was raising money to help his father with lung cancer while the other was trying to get his daughter breast implants. I found this to be a very funny scenario and it got a decent amount of laughs out of me. With that being said, I had mixed feelings about this part of the show as it didn’t hold my attention as much as the start. There is less audience interaction and these long-form scenes are more difficult than quick improv games given they need to make each scene somewhat cohesive with the next. Nevertheless, I still found it funny and entertaining at times, I just found the first half more engaging.
The show was on the bottom floor of the Tett Centre in a fairly small room with around 15 audience members. This made the performance feel more intimate and allowed the entire audience to get in on answering prompts and participating when necessary.
This brings me to the fantastic crowd work done during the show. Why I love improv is because it encourages and relies on audience interaction to give the comedians prompts such as a situation or a setting. There was one game which I loved in particular. It’s called “New Choice” (I think). In this game, the comedians act out an improvised scene. During the scene, any audience member can yell out, “New choice,” and the comedian who is doing an action/saying something at that time needs to do/say something new. This gives the audience full control of the scene and anyone can join in.
There is also a game called “Questions Only” where the performers need to improvise a scene while only talking in questions. If they do not speak in questions then the audience needs to yell, “Dead!” and that performer is out of the game. This encourages the audience to truly pay attention. These sorts of games really kept me engaged.
Friday was a great night out full of fun and humour. The improv starts off strong with many games in quick succession and ends with a longer form. The crowd interaction is a highlight as they get everyone involved in the fun. If you are looking for a laugh then head on over to their next show! They perform every first Friday of the month at the bottom of the Tett Centre.
Find more information about Improv Kingston’s Friday night improv here.