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Crushed! 6 Years and Counting

In Improv on November 27, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Time’s a funny old thing.  It seems like barely a year since the last CRUSH IMPROV anniversary extravaganza, and here we are again!  And if ya thought last year’s shindig was a good time, well, you’re correct.  Pat yourself on the back, why dont’cha?  But more and gooder times await this Friday December 6th at the CRUSH IMPROV SIXTH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL at Academic Hall!

The CRUSH IMPROV lineup: Glen Gower, Brooke Cameron, Dan Lajoie, AL Connors and Tim Anderson.  Yay!

The CRUSH IMPROV lineup: Glen Gower, Brooke Cameron, Dan Lajoie, AL Connors and Tim Anderson. Yay!

There have been changes to the lineup of Ottawa’s premiere Improv troupe over the years, and even since last year some new blood has been added as Ottawa Improv fav’rit Brooke Cameron was asked to join long-standing Crushers AL Connors, Dan Lajoie, Tim Anderson and of course, Glen Gower on keys.  They’ve had an amazing year in 2014, finding a new home for their super-successful Bout Time monthly event, relaunching their SPOTLIGHT ON…shows, and hosting an amazing series of shows and workshops at the MY SUMMER CRUSH series that I’m still glowing over.  The gang will be getting together on the 6th for some major anniversary party fun and games, bringing back some former team members to make the night extra-special indeed.  Jordan Moffat, who has since taken up with the great Bad Dog Theatre in Toronto, will be live and in person for the festivities, while legendary alumni Cari Leslie (playing these days with Boom Chicago in Amsterdam) and the Brad MacNeil (grooving with Instant Theatre in Vancouver) will appear through the magick of televisuals, or some other such wizardry.  Those last two will be engaging in a rarely seen cross-continental game called the Doppelganger effect which, trust me, you want to come out to see.  And naturally, there will be a few other special guest stars coming out to play as well (Jordan may be bringing a Bad Dog bigshot along for the ride…)

But wait a minute, you ask, panicked like a small child…this show sounds like it might be kinda long.  Am I supposed to just sit there, watching and laughing, and NOT playing on my iphone?  What am I, a god-damned statue?

Well fret not, oh attention-deficient masses, Crush Improv has heard your sad pleas, and will not only be quite happy to accommodate your relentless in-show texting, sexting, and Angry-Birding, but will be providing an onstage Twitter wall to help those improv suggestions flow fast and free through the ether and onto the big screen.  Ain’t technology grand?

These people. On a stage. Being funny.  What else have you got to do with your life?  Pix by Andrew Alexander.

These people. On a stage. Being funny. What else have you got to do with your life? Pix by Andrew Alexander.

But wait.  Just wait one damn minute!  This show is on the 6th of December you say?  But it isn’t the 6th right this exact minute!  Just what the FUCK am I supposed to do with my life until then?  Huh?!?  Has Crush Improv thought of a clever dicky answer to THAT?  Oh God, it’s all so POINTLESS!!

Well, you just put that bottle of rat poison down, gentle reader, because Crush is still thinking of your best interests at all times.  If you can’t wait that long for the finest improv in the Capital, then come on out to Mother McGintey’s at the Heart and Crown Irish Village in the Market on December 2nd for the latest monthly installment of Crush’s epic ‘BOUT TIME series, and this one is one not to be missed.  Featuring the Bout Time return of THREE AND A HALF WOMEN (featuring Tim, Brooke and Kristine Shadid, who recently tore it up co-hosting the Fresh Meat Theatre Festival) going up against the all-star team of AL, Dan and Jeff Lawson in what will absolutely be one of the funniest nights of the year.  The fact that all proceeds of this event are going to the Ottawa Mission, well, that’s just good spirited icing on a hilarious cake.  Or something.  And knowing the Crush gang they’ve likely got workshops and spotlights and all sorts of other Hoo-Haa going on this month to boot.  Check their website and newsletter for all the facts.

And you know what else?  It’s the sixth anniversary special…and it’s ON the 6th.  I just got that.  Fucking genius.  Academic Hall.  20 bucks. Be there.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

The Five-Year CRUSH

In Improv on November 29, 2012 at 6:00 pm

So I think, at some point in the distant past, I went into how I finally got into Improv.  I was one of those folks who just had no interest in the ‘prov, didn’t see the attraction, and considered it pretty much a waste of time.  I no longer think these things.  What cured me was CRUSH IMPROV.  From the very first show I caught, an edition of their Arts Court jam MY SUMMER CRUSH IMPROV back in 2010, I was hooked.  Since then, they’ve begun their epic regular monthly show at the Elmdale Tavern, ‘BOUT TIME, a giddily popular three-vs-three improv showdown that has regularly been packing the joint on thee first Monday of the month for almost two years.  The event’s future is a little up in the air just now, as the Elmdale is due to be taken over and remodeled by the Whalesbone gang in the new year, but that still leaves time for one last December ‘Bout.  Featuring supper-winning-team TWO AND A HALF WOMEN (with Crush’s resident tall man Tim Anderson, and ladyprov masters Kristine Shadid and Brooke Cameron), up against the Crush gang themselves (which, I presume, will be Dan Lajoie, AL Connors, and Desiree Connors-Warmington), all to the inspired tunes of mister Glen Gower on Keyboards.  It’s a combo that’s proven to be a winner time and time again, and there’s a reason you have to get there early to get a good seat.

Come for the blank stares…stay for the laughs.    Andrew Alexander photography, yo.

This ‘Bout Time, taking place on December 3rd and starting at 8, features the usual pay-what-you-can door price (5$ suggested, payable to the lovely Jen Jarvis) has a twist for the holidays.  Crush is encouraging everyone to bring along a non-perishable food donation for the Ottawa Food Bank, which you will cast as your vote at the end of the night towards the team you want to win.  Personally, I challenge everyone who plans to attend RIGHT HERE AND NOW to bring more stuff than me!  Bring as much cans and pasta as you can carry, I say…that way your fav’rit team is SURE to win (or, you could vote honestly, and just donate extra stuff later on…entirely up to you, I’m sure)!  Also, it’d be a nice thing to do, and cool on Crush for doing this and warming up a chilly winter.  And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that earlier in the day AL Connors will be leading an improv workshop which you should totally go to (starts at 430 at the Hintonburg community centre).  That’s a solid day of Improv right there, folks.

But wait, there’s MORE!  Because somehow, incredibly, IMPOSSIBLY, Crush Improv has been around for FIVE WHOLE YEARS now!  And by golly, they’re gonna celebrate.  This December the 7th at Academic Hall, the gang will be assembling with a cavalcade of guest-talent in an epic Improv team-up that will be all the entertainment you need to tide you over ’til the New Year.  What’s the evening all about, and how did Crush get to where they are today?  I sat down with Crush co-founder AL Connors, and swell guy Tim Anderson, and they talked all about it…which was AWESOME, and then my phone deleted the interview spontaneously, so I’m just gonna copy some stuff off of their website now if that’s okay.  Okay?  Great.

Along with the current spectacular  Crush lineup of AL, Desiree, Dan, Tim and Glen Gower, the gang will be joined onstage by enough improv talent to choke the biggest horse in the WHOLE WORLD.  Hopefully they won’t be doing that, of course, but you never know where these things will end up.  I’m getting off topic.  Who’ll be there?  Kirsten Rasmussen, that’s who!  Recently in town to deliver a workshop that I missed because I suck, the amazingly funny co-founder of Monteal Improv is just the first of much monumental guest-starrage.  Crush alumni Jordan Moffat will also put in an appearance, which is great because Jordan is pretty goddam funny, and wrote the book on Elvis Costello jokes.  Plus ya got Micheal Grajewski who, from his writeup on the website, has worked everywhere and with everyone.  And Sean Tabares, who recently got paid to be funny on a cruise ship, and also won a Canadian Comedy Award…have YOU won a Canadian Comedy Award??  I bet not.  And CRUSH co-founders Cari Leslie, live from Amsterdam, and the Brad MacNeil himself, not-so-live via somebody else (or something like that).  Can you beat THAT for $25 ($20 in advance)?  Of course you can’t, you were dumb to even try.  But I forgive you, and so does Crush Improv.  So come on out and celebrate with the mightiest gang of improvisers in this town, and get yer funny on, because it’ the right thing to do.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

the Ottawa Improv Scene (yes, we DO have one!)

In Improv on September 22, 2011 at 10:51 am

A Week ago or so, I hit the Elmdale tavern for an extra-special CRUSH IMPROV show.  It was packed, and it was maybe the funniest improv show I’ve EVER seen, and that may be fitting, as it was Cari Leslie’s last show in town before winging it to be a superstar in Amsterdam.  She, Brad MacNeil, Al Connors and Jordan Moffat positively killed it that night, with the most excellent finishing move of dunking themselves in a bucket of water, repeatedly.  You had to be there.

But that’s history now, and the Ottawa Improv scene has a Cari Leslie-sized hole in it.  For a while now, she’s been the secret comedy weapon in both CRUSH and ‘Bout Time champions THE NEIGHBOURHOOD, and her shoes won’t be easy to fill.  Crush Improv has already announced that she’s being replace in the troupe by the dynamic duo of Jordan Moffatt and Tim Anderson, of which I wholeheartedly approve.  But there’s plenty more besides just Crush goin’ on in ottawa Improv, and I thought I’d take a few moments to blather about it now, if I may.

For instance, just last night I took in the inaugural GRIMPROV show at the Imperial Tavern on Bank, and the lads (Jordan, Mike Kosowan, Drew McFadyen and Joel Garrow) absolutely packed the joint.  Using their own patent-pending ‘Cul-de-Sac’ long form schtick, they kicked off what they hope will be a regular timeslot at the Imperial…although from the opening night crowd, they might already need more room!

Not far away, you can also take in some INSENSITIVITY TRAINING at Yuk Yuk’s on Elgin, every odd numbered Sunday of the month (next show on the 25th), for a mere 5 dollars.  And back on Bank, the Atomic Rooster hosts Jody Haucke, Thea Nikolic and the CRYSTAL BASEMENT kids, the last tuesday of every month…which is coming up fast as well, so clear your calendar.

And this Saturday night (the 24th), over at the Legion Hall on Kent, you can catch an extra-special CRUSH show (starring Brad, Tim and Jordan), which is totally gonna be an excellent time.  Legion halls=Fun, and that’s the truth.  And of course, they’ll be back hosting ‘Bout Time at the Elmdale, first Monday of every month.

I’m sure there’s plenty more going on (or at least a LITTLE bit more), and if anyone has any hot leads, feel free to drop ’em off in a comment.  After all, with Miss Cari gone away, improv in this old government town needs all the help it can get.  Happily, they seem to be off to a good start.  Now go out and have some laffs already.

Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Cleopantrony!

In Company of Fools on July 28, 2011 at 10:03 pm

I’m not actually that big a fan of the outdoors.   There’s no air-conditioning, bugs everywhere, and that giant ball of fire in the sky is constantly trying to cook you, or give you cancer, or whatever it does (ESPECIALLY in summertime!  And you can’t even keep your eye on it, or it’ll blind you! Fuckin’ sun).

But every now and then, there comes along a reason good enough to lurk cautiously out of my Visitorium and into the harsh light of fresh air, and that now and then is now, friends, because it’s Theatre in the Park season here in O-town.  Actually, it has been for a few weeks now, but as I’ve mentioned in the last few posts, I’m slacking off something awful these days.  But I did my level best to cut that shit out last nite when I ventured into the wilds of Centrepointe Park, risking life and limb and a possible ant bite or two to check out A Company of Fools and their annual Torchlight Shakespeare show.  Last year it was the dee-liteful MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, which I adored, so expectations were high and happy for this year’s entry, ANTONY & CLEOPATRA.

It looked solid as solid could be from the outside…Richard Gelinas and Catriona Leger starred as the titular lovestruck power couple, with the other roles being filled as need arose by Katie Bunting, Cari Lesli, Geoff McBride and Stewart Matthews.  And once the show got underway, well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the fools don’t fool around with their Shakespeare (HAVE I said that before?  Maybe not…not bad tho, eh?).  Well, all right, they DO fool around with it, quite a bit actually.  But that’s kind of the point of a Fools show, turning the potentially dry and stodgy Shakespearean productions of yore and making them something that literally the whole family can squeal with delight to.  There were a pair of red-nosed little girls seated next to me on the grass during the performance who couldn’t have been more into it if they’d been on stage (which I’m sure they wanted to be).

The story itself, based on real events (much in the same way, no doubt, that your average episode of Xena is rooted in historical accuracy ), tells of the manliest of men, Marc Antony, who has abandoned his duties to make time with foxy Queen Cleopatra down Egypt-way, and who could blame him?  Until he gets word summoning him back to Rome (dead wife, impending war and other pesky nonsense), where he has to marry Caeser’s sister to placate the Roman ruler, which irks Cleo to no end, ant then there’s that WAR, and then, well, things start to get complicated.

Gelinas does his usual smashing job as Antony, and is especially good at jibing with the audience during the performance.  And Cat Leger goes from Beer Tent Goddess to just regular old Goddess (Cleopatra is pretty much close  enough to a deity, in history’s babe-loving hindsight), vamping and camping it up with a wicked gleam in her eye all the while.  The others, as said, switch between a variety of roles, but some fav’rits of mine are:  Cari Lesli as the dread(-locked) pirate Pompey, rocking a toy xylophone like you only wish you could; Geoff McBride racing from one unlucky messenger to the next (and as a mush-mouthed Snake salesman); Stewart Matthews’ shrill Caesar, ever striving for the upper hand against Antony; and Katie Bunting as the perpetually sneering Agrippa, stalking around the stage like she’d love nothing better than to kick ALL our asses, just because they’re there.

It’s a fantastic and fun show, with all the attendant risks that come with performing an outdoor show with plenty of kids about (which is even MORE of the fun).  Director David Whitely done good…love the inclusion of the ancient Roman Can-o-Phone into the proceedings.  The show continues into August at a park near-ish you, with a pass-the-hat donation system footing the bill.  It’s as good a time in a park as you’re gonna have, folks, so get going already.  Unless you’re some kinda fool…the bad kind, not the good kind.

Peace, love and soul, Fools,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Ottawa Improv Fest ’11 – A hazy look back

In Improv on March 22, 2011 at 12:41 am

It’s been a pretty fantastic weekend here at the Visitorium…and I’m not only talking about the last post I made, that somehow drew more than 200 hits to the page yesterday.  Thanks for that, and hey, some of you folks reposting that page on Facebook..?  Friend me, so I can read what people are saying!  I’m a compete attention whore like that.

But there’s more, and it’s the kind of ‘more’ that means I don’t exactly remember how I got home on Saturday nite.  yes, that’s right, it was the OTTAWA IMPROV FESTIVAL this past week, and as far as I could tell it was a smashing success.  I only made it out to three events, but I still feel like that might be enough to make me need rehab.

My first night (of two) was on Thursday, when I darted there after the preview performance of ST.CARMEN OF THE MAIN at the NAC (about which I’ve already blathered).  I hustled on up to Arts Court Studio for a familiar scene…CRUSH IMPROV and their ‘BOUT TIME setup, although now afar from the usual Elmdale Tavern digs.  Not to fear, tho, the Beau’s was flowing on makeshift taps and I, patron of the Arts that I am, donated generously.  Which may be why I don’t exactly recall the name of the team squaring off against standing champeens THE NEIGHBOURHOOD (although I can tell you they were Mike Kosowan, Joel Garrow and Jim Davies, battling Ken Godmere, Cari Leslie and Tim Anderson).  Each team was dandy as per usual, occasionally receiving a guest-assist from UNCALLED FOR‘s Anders Yates.  Smokes were bartered for, Perogies were used as weapons of conquest, and by the end of it, the Neighbourhood stood tall yet again, , keeping their winning streak unbroken.  Myself, I enjoyed some after-palaver with Heather Marie and Al Connors, among several illustrious others (I TOTALLY got a ‘The Neighbourhood’ hat-trick on my Facebook the next day!).  A good day.

But the NEXT show I saw, this time on the Saturday…yow.  I made it for both timeslots this day, settling in to deep, dank SAW Gallery for the first half of festivities.  Saw Heather and Al again, yay, as well as Tim Anderson and man-about-town Sterling Lynch.  There was a French show on upstairs with troupes LA LIEU and L’ACRONYME, but down in the SAW it was time for MONTREAL IMPROV and SEX T-REX to shine.  There may have been a guest-performer or two in thereabouts, forgive me if I’m remembering incorrectly.  I don’t take notes, and did I mention about the beer flowing?  That’ll be important later.

The troupes were sweet to behold…a bit to start off about  a young fan meeting his shotput hurling idol in a grudge match of Guess Who? entertained, and Sex T-Rex floored the joint with their tale of Justin Bieber, Usher, and the importance of flossing.  A great show (although as Heather rightly noted, too short!), and quickly we all filed upstairs for part two, with EDGEWATER HOTEL getting things underway with what they say is their farewell performance.  Too bad, ’cause there was some talent up there on that stage in a show mostly about pretending to own things (and why not?).  Then the rather amazing STANDARDS AND PRACTICES took over, and damn, but that’s a solid bunch of weirdos right there!  A pretty incredible improv show that bust many guts.

As someone who hasn’t really seen much improv besides CRUSH, it was great to get to this festival and see some of the other talents out there.  I missed too many…INSENSITIVITY TRAINING, GRIMPROV, CRYSTAL BASEMENT, GENTLEMAN’S CLUB…but maybe I’ll do better next year.  Anyhoo, after the S&P lads finished up, it was right back to the hardcore drinking.  And chatting.  And…what’s the word..?  ‘Social…izing’?  Is that right?  Is that a word?  Is it anything like hanging out on the steps, listening to Heather Marie and Nick diGaetano have a heated discussion about theatre?  Or Brad MacNeil being true to his word and giving me a crash course in Questions (which I’m totally going to OWN next time we do it in class!)?  Whatever it was, it felt real good, and so, after all the beer was drunk and we’d made a solid dent in the Rye and Tequila rations, the mob of us headed out to the Red Room for more afterfun.  I got to finally say hi to Mike Kosowan (Red Noses, yo!), and…

…and, well, it gets pretty blurry after that.  I kinda ‘member Cari Leslie dancing, and me chatting with Chantal from GCTC, and precious little else.  Somehow I managed to pay the cabbie to take me home, and thank God Winston yelled at me in the morning, because I forgot to set my alarm.  Did I mention I worked at 8 the next day..?
I would have headed out to the final day, but I was just too wiped (I am kinda sorta getting older, it turns out), especially as it was a rather unforgivingly brutal brunch shift at work.  And yes, your Visitor was hurting.  But the good kind of hurt…well earned.  Thanks be to the organizers of this highly entertaining little festival, and I sure as shit hope there’s another one like it this time in 2012.  Not 2013, obviously, as time is slated to END in 2012, but hey, at least we get one more year, right?

Fucking Mayans.

Peace, love and soul, Improv fans,

The Visitor (and Winston)