Thinking On The Spot: Seven Quick Questions with Wilding

Poster for 'Wilding Way Improv Workshop'. The title, date, time, and location are noted. People in frames appear on the poster.

Wilding is one of those hard-working, energetic people who seems to be everywhere, supporting everybody, at any given moment. When we first met last spring, I was immediately impressed with their quick thinking and cheerful, quippy demeanour. It came as no surprise that Wilding’s art form of choice—when they’re not busy making things happen behind the scenes—is improv comedy. 

With both of us juggling a million obligations—this week alone, Wilding is teaching an improv class at Bottle Tree Productions (Jan. 17) and performing at the Firehall Theatre (Jan. 19)—I thought it might save us some scheduling chaos to conduct this interview via email. In classic improviser fashion, Wilding said yes—and in the spirit of the genre, I came up with some quick questions on the spot and hit ‘send’. Here’s what Wilding sent back. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

When did you first get into improv? (Have you always been funny, or did you have to practise?)

What a fabulous question to kick this off! I first got into improv in Grade 2! My teacher introduced me and my class to improv. She was often using it as a palate cleanser or a distraction tool. LOL. She also had a claw foot bathtub full of pillows and books in the middle of the classroom. It was a ‘time out’ sort of a spot. So, guess who spent a lot of time in the bathtub? Hint, it was me. (And I like to think I have always been quite funny. I do, however, get up every day at 5:00am for training—I call it ‘Working out the funny’. Hee Hee.)

Who are your comedic inspirations?

Some of my biggest comedic inspirations are: 

a) Ellen Degeneres, of course! I started performing standup comedy when I was 21 years old, and Ellen was one of the only queer people I knew doing comedy—and really funny, relatable, observational comedy, too. Aside from being a comedy mentor to me—even though she still to this day has no clue how much of one she has been— [she’s] also an incredibly tireless trailblazer. She has consistently helped pave the way for folks like me.

b) Robin Williams, because he was just out of control, unpredictable, spontaneous and very much in the moment funny! He will now and forever make me laugh out loud.

Maybe it’s impossible to choose, but just for fun, what’s your favourite type of character to play?

This is an awesome question! I love extremely weird and physically wacky characters. I enjoy playing characters that are high-energy and over the top. All my characters are outside-the-box kind of people, sometimes creatures—it really depends. I love to take a character and dial them way up! 

I also love gender-bending characters. Being queer and non-binary and exploring both female and male characters, or maybe not gendered at all characters, and how they might live and love, is such a free-for-all space to be able to perform in.

You work with a lot of props! Tell me about a time when a prop changed an improv scene in an unexpected way.

I do love props and wigs and quick costume changes! One time that a prop changed an improv scene in an unexpected way was just this past summer, actually. My improv comedy duo partner Tony [Babcock] and I, All-Inclusive Comedy, were in the Theatre Kingston Fringe Festival, and we had a super fun sound effect from a phone. Every time the phone rang (and we never knew when it was going to ring, thanks to our awesome sound/light [technician], Tessa), one of us would answer it and the other person would go backstage and become the character on the other end of the call. When that character came onstage, it was just as much a reveal to the other [performer] as it was to the audience!

You teach an improv workshop series at Bottle Tree Productions. I’m sure your students learn a lot from you—what have you learned from them?

Another fabulous question! I have learned from the folks taking my ‘Wilding Way — Adult Improv Workshop’ that there are so many different lenses to look at improv through. Some people are taking my workshop because they have always wanted to give improv a try. Some are taking it because they realized they loved improv in high school and want to reconnect with it. Some people have their friends gifting them the class. This reason truly warms my heart—besties taking my workshops together as a way to connect. Other folks have said that they work with children all day and realize that they don’t have a creative adult outlet. Some folks want to meet other folks, and this is a fun, silly way to do it.

You’re an improv coach, live event producer, technical director, and production manager, just to name a few of your many roles. How has improv helped you when you’re offstage? 

Improv helps me in so many ways in all my other roles. I always say that improv is not just a form of performance, it is also a life tool. We are all improvising all day long, no matter what we happen to be doing, and most folks don’t even realize how much they are improvising. Improv is constantly helping me make quick decisions in the moment and trust myself when thinking outside the box. Improv lets me step back and see what a situation needs. Improv as a life tool allows me to pivot on the fly and really listen to what other people are saying, because the answer doesn’t have to come from my idea and my idea alone. Improv is a great way to collaborate organically with others. 

What’s bringing you joy these days?

What is bringing me so much joy is the fact that I am able to share my love of improv in all its forms with more and more people every day. Improv = laughter, and we all need to laugh, especially right now. Improv is in my blood, and I am so passionate to both perform it and teach it as much as I possibly can. All-Inclusive Comedy is an improv comedy duo and education company, so right now Tony and I are working on creating more of an improv community in Kingston, Odessa, and beyond, as both a form of performance and a teaching tool!

Wilding is an improv coach, live event producer, technical director, production manager, and member of All-Inclusive Comedy. Their workshop series ‘Wilding Way — Adult Improv Workshop’ takes place on the third Wednesday of every month at Bottle Tree Productions. More information can be found here

On Friday, January 19th, Wilding and Tony Babcock present ‘All-Inclusive Comedy featuring The G.S.S. Drama Students’ at the Thousand Islands Playhouse’s Firehall Theatre in Gananoque. More information can be found here.