Sunday, November 04, 2007

Improv Summit Ottawa Edition

Last night marked the first edition of the Carlton Improv Association (CIA) Improv Summit in Ottawa.

Having participated in several summits hosted by McGill as well as one last year in Toronto, I was delighted to fight out that the McGill Improv team were interested in participating in Ottawa's competition.

This year has been a turning point for McGill Improv because of the great turnout of new members. over the past years, more and more members were leaving and not many new members were staying. At one point we had more alumni than actual students in the club. Last year, even though I had already graduated from McGill for 3 years, was still performing in the shows. However, this year a bunch of new people with some experience have joined our ranks and after only a few workshops and no real shows, decided to band together and tackle a summit! I was excited to, for the first time, watch as a bystander, the fury that McGill had to offer.

Overall the night was a success and I had a lot of fun (as the rest of the audience did) but I felt some things could have been better.

*DISCLAIMER: I had a fun time at the summit but have some feelings on the way things were run. In the following paragraphs, what i write is by in no means supposed to offend anyone. In the end I hope that whoever reads this can benefit from it for future events. If any CIA members read this, I love you guys and know that I myself couldn't have done a better job so please don't take my rant too personally.*

We were 2 cars, 10 people - 7 performers and 3 supporters. 5 of us were supposed to stay overnight while the other car was to head home after the show/after party.
We left after lunch that followed our weekly Saturday workshop and arrived in Ottawa around 6:30pm. The show was to start at 7:30pm so we had plenty of time to settle in and for the performers to warm up for the show.

My buddy Owen, a former member of CIA had come to watch and it was really good to see him. I felt really bad when I had found out he had planned a whole night ahead for me to accompany him to a mutual friends birthday party but had to decline since i came into town with a bunch of friends and felt awkward ditching them. Owen, you're still welcomed to Montreal anytime!

It turned out one of the teams dropped out last minute so the competitors ended up just being McGill, Toronto and CIA.

The show was being held in a room in a residence building which brought a large size of an audience (~50) which was slightly full for the size of the room.

7:30pm came along, the room packed and one of CIA's members, came on as the host. The format of the night was for each team to perform a 30 minute set and at the end the audience voted, ranking the teams from 3 to 1 (1 being the best). The order of performance was McGill, Toronto and CIA.

I've been to more than one summit and other kind of organized events and know from watching that the job of a host is to warm up the audience and get them excited for what they are about to watch. I didn't feel that at all with our host. After a quick introduction, she introduced the first team. Everyone cheered!... and then waited. McGill was warming up and no one got them to tell them the show had started.

After a few minutes of silence, McGill Improv came on full of energy with large thanks to Jeremy. He then transferred his energy to the audience by doing typical warm up/introduction bits like "on the count of three yell out a biblical name!".

During the set (and all the other teams sets) there were lots of laughs. Because there were no mikes, the players had to pause between laughs or else no one could hear them. I am not sure if this is always the case or because the room was small and the crowd was big, that the players had to do this.

McGill did a bunch of interesting games and ended on freeze. Things were going really well during freeze until all of a sudden the host yelled freeze, totally confusing everyone, came on stage and said that their set was over... I felt that McGill should have a had a better time warning so they could concluded their set properly.

I felt McGill did a good set and got a lot of laughs but after speaking to a member of the team, she was a bit disappointed stating that the scenes weren't so developed and that a lot of the laughs were due to cheap gags. That may have been true but after watching the entire show, I can say that the crowd was one that really liked cheap gags and sexual humor. There were no real great scenes that really stood out from the rest. However, going back to McGill, for a team who performed a show for the first time with those members, I thought they did a pretty damn good job. I'm sure they will learn to grow better with every next show they do.

After a 5 minute break, it was Toronto's turn. Toronto only had TWO guys. They decided to do ONE single long scene for 30 minutes. Now don't get me wrong, I laughed a lot and thought it quite amusing but also felt it was totally unprofessional what they did. It was basically the two of them just fucking around on stage. It felt a lot like in movies when there is a scene between actors and the scene has no point to it except that it was fun for the actors (like in 40 Year Old Virgin when the 2 guys are doing the "You know how I know you're gay" bit).

The two guys came on and sort of explained what they were going to do and then just kind of joked with each other. One guy was drinking an Arizona Ice Tea caned drink throughout his entire scene and even the "all-star" scene that happened 30 minutes later. Throughout the whole show, CIA members were awarded audience members candy for suggestions. These guys came up and just started throwing candy everywhere like it was no body's business.

The scene they ended up doing was about a Canadian journalist who was doing a story on a Ukrainian boy at a summer camp. The whole scene had sexual innuendo, implying that the Canadian was a pedophile and that the Ukrainian boy, Uri, had no idea and loved the man. Uri wanted to go back to Canada with him but couldn't for the obvious reasons that pedophilia is illegal in Canada (and every else in the world). This basically went on for 20 minutes, until they started talking about a book the journalist could write about. While talking about this book, which was basically a recap of everything we had just seen, the actors were talking about how the book would end, implying how they themselves would end the scene. An actual quote was "Maybe we can do a flashback!", followed by a flash back scene. The ending was very clever but then CIA told them they still had TEN minutes left, so rather than ending there, the characters were back the "writing the book" scene and came up with a couple of other alternative endings. It was quite funny but I think I appreciated it more as a performer than other audience members would have and I doubt I could sit through that again.

After another 5 minute break, it was CIA's turn to shine. They did a good set as well using a bunch of games they stole from McGill from the many times they've watched them perform (haha - it's an ongoing joke McGill and Carlton have, even though it's true).

After everyone performed, it was time to vote. During the counting of the votes, there was a short set with 2 members from each team doing a questions only game.

The moment of truth finally came when Carlton counted the voted themselves (which probably should have been done by an outside party):
McGill came in 3rd place, followed by CIA and the winners, Toronto.
I don't think anyone on McGill Improv really cared for coming in 3rd since they had fun and got a good reaction from the crowd, but I was surprised when I heard that Toronto beat Carlton. You'd think Carton people would support their own team (the whole crowd was just Carlton students) and Toronto's set wasn't that much funnier.

After the show we discovered there wasn't really much happening except the performers going for a beer at a local bar so we decided not to stay the night. We went to the Barley Mow, had a couple of beers, chatted with other players and even had a small run in with suicide. Suicide chicken wings that is. One member of CIA ordered them, ate 3 of them and then let others try them. I put one in my mouth and before even being able to swallow my bite, my mouth was totally on fire.

By midnight we were on the rad heading back to Montreal.

I think with a better turn out in number of teams and a bit better organization of the actual event, the CIA summit could continue to grow better and better in the upcoming years.

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