I’ve always had a love hate relationship with improv comedy. I’ve never found Whose Line is it Anyway? terribly stimulating; however, I did enjoy watching my college roommate’s improv troupe. There’s nothing more topical than biting improv and sketch comedy, but they can be terribly painful to watch, if poorly executed. (That’s why Saturday Night Live is such a roller coaster lately, for three minutes I’m laughing my ass off, then for the next twenty I want to poke out my eyes. Thank God for PVR).
Attending Improv shows also freaks me out a little. I’m paranoid about getting called on to participate. It’s not that I’m shy of getting attention or don’t enjoy performing, but I need to be in the right head space. When I go to watch a show, I’m there to blend into the audience and not be put on stage. So it was with a little anxiety that Amanda and I went to see Scott Faulconbridge and David Pryde perform their improv show at the Empress Theatre.
Faulconbridge and Pryde are veterans of the Montreal’s improv scene and were performing in Moncton, as part of the Hubcap Comedy Festival. They took to the stage with lots of energy and quickly got the show started with a timed-game where they play a scene for sixty seconds, and then they repeated the same scene in 30, 15 and 7.5 seconds. It really engaged the crowd. There was a little local colour added in the scene, because to start, Mr. Faulconbridge asked for a public place to set the scene, and an enthusiastic audience member shouted “at Tim’s!” For a brief moment, the actor was little taken back, until he realized she meant Tim Horton’s. You could tell he’s not on a first name basis with Moncton’s favourite place to enjoy really bad coffee.
The show continued at a lightning quick pace, as the two went through a series of popular improv games. I was really impressed at how well both performers could control their bodies and contort their faces to create exaggerated characters. They also had impeccable comic timing and knew exactly when to stop a scene. There’s nothing worse than watching a scene that’s obviously going nowhere and they knew how to cut every scene with the audience begging for more.
Both Faulconbridge and Pryde were disciplined performers, who played off each other extremely well. You could tell there was a lot trust between them. They were able to take the suggestions from the audience and turn them into a series of entertaining scenes. They also taught the audience a valuable lesson about improv.
The actors ignored zany and obscene audience suggestions and instead chose ordinary or mundane topics. It’s important for audiences to realize that it’s the actors’ job to create the entertainment not the audience members. If you pick something nonsensical to start a scene, it’s difficult for the actors to create an effective sketch. The only scene during the 60 minute set to flop was based on an audience suggestion of “making a doody.” There are only so many places you can take a scene about having a dump.
Faulconbridge and Pryde’s fast paced, laugh-filled performance has given me a brand new appreciation for improv comedy. It was such an enjoyable hour of entertainment that I can’t wait to check out another Improv show. I hope the Hubcup Comedy Festival considers brining more acts like this next year, because it’s a welcome contrast to stand-up comedy.