Toronto Improv Festival Strikes Again!


By: Vanessa Purdy

Toronto Improv Festival Strikes Again!

Christopher Rhyspugh

We’ve all seen televised improv folks and their pre-recorded feats of funny such as those on Whose Line is it Anyway, but there’s nothing like a real live improv show to demonstrate all the talent, timing and tribulation it takes to be an improviser. The Toronto Improv Festival, now entering its ninth year of bringing international improv talent to Toronto, provides a showcase for our city’s cream of the crop. the newspaper got the chance to speak with local performers Chris Besler (Shiva Star), Julian Frid (Sex T-Rex), Mandy Sellers (Mañez), and Simon Pond (On Golden Pond), as well as the Festival Organizer Adrianne Gagnon, about going form improv student to improv star.

the newspaper: What can we expect from your troupe(s)?

Adrianne: Our line-up is incredible, so the audience can expect top-shelf improve, for starters. We’ve got musical improv, improv in the dark (The Bat), free form style from ImprovBoston, the hilarious Halifax darlings Picnicface, the improvised frat party MANTOWN, and more!

Julian: My troupe is Sex T Rex. We’re five guys who take a movie and recreate it on stage, and make awesome alterations. We’ve been a called the voice of a generation. Of course, we may have coined that phrase.

Simon: My group, On Golden Pond, is a duo act with my brother (who is a current U of T student). Although we both perform a lot, we have never performed together just the two of us, so it is hard to say what to expect.

How did going to U of T prepare you for your life as an improv superstar?

Chris: I would say that being an improv superstar prepared me for U of T. No one beyond an improviser can bullshit three consecutive essays on pre-1900s Literature. Don’t tell my professor that.

Simon: I joined and later ran the U of T improv team through Hart House. We travelled to Carleton and McGill and for a while ran our own festival for university improv teams from across Canada. Hart House gave us a lot of resources (money, stage time, rehearsal space, etc) that a lot of beginning improvisers don’t have the luxury of having access to.

How often does your degree influence your performances?

Julian: Well, I’m a cinema major, a minor in philosophy and paradigms and archetypes, so obviously there’s a lot of dick jokes.

Simon: My degree is Archaeological Science, so directly it influences my performance very little…On the rare occasion when scenes are set in the Stone Age I will crack on the knowledge.

Tell us about the Toronto improv scene.

Julian: Toronto is known for harvesting the best performers around Canada, we seem to be developing a reputation for being a hub – good for us, bad for Alberta.

Chris: I think you’ll get the best representation of the Toronto improv scene at the bars. I feel that exposure to the Toronto improv scene can be amazing, dare I say life- changing.

Adrianne: We tend to be a bit more fragmented here than in other improv communities, which I think works to our advantage. Toronto’s improv scene is like a puzzle, and when all the pieces come together it makes a beautiful picture of a dragon, or a couple of ponies racing through a field.

Any advice you’d have for aspiring improv students?

Mandy: See as many shows as you possibly can. And not just the shows where you are taking classes, but all around your city…Toronto has such a rich improv community.

Chris: I’ve been involved with improv for over eleven years. In my opinion, I’ve only been good for four, maybe five. Luckily, improv is a lot more fun to practice than a lot of other arts.

Julian: Oh yes. First of all, take my class: the Improv Creative Class at Hart House.

TIF runs October 18-22 at Comedy Bar, Student Tickets are $5-10. Visit for more details.

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