The Second City Toronto

The Second City Toronto's stage or, alternatively, the set for a musical version of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey

The Second City Toronto’s stage or, alternatively, the set for a musical version of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

Last night I saw a great show at The Second City Toronto! I had never seen a show at any of the three locations of The Second City but its influence has been felt in many places. Closest to me, is the similarity between The Second City-style and Improv Asylum in Boston. The show is largely sketch comedy, written using improv with some actual improv scenes sprinkled in.

During one of the improvised moments of the main show, I was selected as an audience member to get on stage, which is something that rarely happens these days (though I love shouting out suggestions). I was selected by a Tinder app (something that never happens) to spend some time with a few cougars (another thing that never happens).

After the main show was over, the performers came back out and improvised for about 30 minutes (admittedly to help come up with and home sketch ideas). In all, with two intermissions, the show was about two and a half hours. I doubt the shows are always this long, they said they were gearing up for a new main stage show and were probably making up for quality with quantity. Typing that feels crazy because the show was so good that I can’t believe it was a warm up to something better.

Tickets were a little pricey but that has come to be expected from my trip to Toronto. The venue was nice and big with table service and some light food options.

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Comedy Bar and The Sketchersons

Beer from Comedy Bar


Hello internet. I’m alive. I just moved to Brooklyn and spent the last month worry about and preparing for that, and I’ll write about it someday, but for now I’m on vacation in Toronto and I feel like talking about that.

Sunday night I went to Comedy Bar and saw The Sketchersons’ show, Sunday Night Live. It’s a sketch show newly written and performed every week. (Like SNL, hence the name.) The Comedy Bar is basically my ideal comedy club. It has a bar for a lobby, that can be used whenever, with separate stages for shows. The P.I.T. in New York City is the only other example I can think of that pulls this off.

I came to the show because I saw an all-female version of The Sketchersons at this year’s Women in Comedy Festival. We had talked for a while after their show and, knowing that I’d be on vacation in Toronto, said I’d have to see them in Toronto. I was also told by several people to check out Comedy Bar, so it was a win-win. The show was really funny and I recommend checking it out. It’s been running weekly for the past seven years, so that speaks to the quality of the show itself.

The Sketchersons

Two of The Sketchersons performing the (I think) opening sketch. This gives a good sense of the size of the stage. They have a house band sitting to the left.

Character Monologue at Comedy Bar

A character monologue with a view of the stage from the very back (I was returning from a pee break). Not a great photo but it gives a good sense of the size of the venue.

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2014 Del Close Marathon Postmortem

The Del Close Marathon (DCM) is an annual improv festival put on by the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City since 1999. It now offers several concurrent shows running across multiple venues for 48 straight hours with acts from all over the world.

When I took my first improv class back in 2011 at the Upright Citizens Brigade Training Center in New York, I was in awe from all the old posters hanging in the hallway from the fourteen Del Close Marathons that had already gone by. I had been a fan of the Upright Citizens Brigade TV show and theatre well before getting into performing improv so I had heard of the festival but didn’t really understand it’s significance.

Last year was my first year actually attending the Del Close Marathon and it left a lasting impression on me. I was never going to miss it again, I needed to be there every year. I needed to perform at it. I needed to be able to add that to my accomplishments: Del Close Marathon performer.

This year, I achieved that goal, twice over even! On Friday night at the New York Theatre Workshop, first Big Gulp performed at 7:15 and then the ComedySportz Boston based team,  Good Old Boyz, performed at 8:15.

Getting from Boston to DCM proved to be harder than I thought. We tried to leave Boston around noon, but that turned out to be closer to 1:00 with traffic. It then took us another five and a half hours to get to Manhattan (normally a four-hour drive). By then it’s 6:30 and we are waiting in line to get our performer wristbands. We bolt out of the place where we picked up the wristbands and three of us from Big Gulp were in my car as we tried to race over to the venue only to be stopped in solid traffic (due to some police activity). We got loose of the traffic, made it down to the venue, parked in a possibly illegal spot awfully close to a fire hydrant, and ran inside. It was 7:10 for our 7:15 time slot and they came close to replacing us with an improv jam. Lauren, Mickey, and I took the stage at 7:15 and at 7:15:30 Sara, Tao, and Emily come on stage. They had literally just gotten off of a pedicab and walked onto stage, backpacks and all.

Matt Aromando, Emily Laverdiere, Sara Burns, Lauren Magnuson, Mickey McCauley, Tao Yang. Photo by Laura Miner.

Big Gulp at the Del Close Marathon (from left to right: Matt Aromando, Emily Laverdiere, Sara Burns, Lauren Magnuson, Mickey McCauley, Tao Yang). Photo by Laura Miner.

Next up was the Good Old Boyz. Since ComedySportz is a short form improv show and all the acts at DCM are long form, we needed to create something that none of us had really done before. A few days beforehand, we settled on a monoscene (a single scene that would last 15-minutes) with the ComedySportz-style modifier of Revolving Doors where each person has a word associated with them. If the person is offstage and hears their word, they must find a way into the scene. If the person is onstage and hears their word, they must find a way out of the scene. We rehearsed this for 20 minutes between Big Gulp ending and Good Old Boyz getting on stage.

My word was Cheetos. The girl who suggested it apologized for giving is to me afterwards. I told her it was fine, any word works.

From left to right: Lauren Magnuson, Todd Page, Ben Lewis, Matt Aromando, Francesca Villa. Photo by Laura Miner.

Good Old Boyz at the Del Close Marathon (from left to right: Lauren Magnuson, Todd Page, Ben Lewis, Matt Aromando, and Francesca Villa). Photo by Laura Miner.

And then my performances were over. I had two and they were both in one night. In one hour and fifteen minute block. I couldn’t even soak it all in. I arrived, I performed, I moved my car. I  had an amazing time seeing all the acts and seeing lots of friends but I hope next year I’m able to appreciate performing a little more. It just went by so fast.

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Twitter #DCM16

Hot Chicks Room

Hot Chicks RoomWhen I first got out of college, I spent a few months doing practically nothing—my parents own a swimming pool, so I would use that pretty much every day—but practically nothing. Then one day a job recruiter called me out of nowhere to ask if I was still available for hire. (She said she found my résumé on Monster, which was strange because although I did post it on Monster several months earlier, I had since pulled it.) I decided I had waited long enough for a job, so I told her I was able to go in for an interview.

The interview was my first in over a year but it went really well. I guess they had vetted a lot of people out of the process because they asked me to come back for a second interview with the boss. I don’t remember what level of boss he was but busy enough that he only saw the candidates they were ready to hire.

Since the second interview was more of a formality, my recruiter let me know what I’d be looking at for a salary. After that, I decided to look up online how much I should get paid for the kind of job they were offering me. I realized the offer was for much less than what my research showed I deserved to make. This left me with a tough decision but I went on the second interview anyways.

The boss loved me. We didn’t even talk much about the job. (The one thing I remember talking about was him asking me if I liked the Red Sox—to which I said I did—and he revealed to me that he was a Yankees fan. I don’t remember his name or job title but I know his baseball allegiance.) He showed me around the office as if it was my first day. He was basically selling me on the place because he wanted me there that much. Then we went back to his office.

He offered me the job and told me how much I’d make. My gut told me that I needed to haggle with him to get the fairer salary but my brain isn’t good at negotiations, so I just gave him the figure that I read online as an ultimatum. That figure was 50% higher than the one he gave me. He then went through the five stages of grief.

First, denial; a quick “what?” on his face as the shock of me letting him down hit him.

Second, anger; telling me there’s no way I’d make that much money doing what I do (more on that in a minute).

Then there was bargaining. The saddest, most transparent bargaining possible. He tells me that we should take another walk around the office. I obliged. This walk took us to a different part of the office than before. It was a room where only attractive, 20-something girls worked (plus one guy, who was also admittedly handsome). I’m not even sure they actually worked in there or if the boss just corralled them in there to impress me. He had brought me to the hot chicks room (and there was also a ping-pong table in it). Strait out of the first episode of the Upright Citizens Brigade TV show:

I’m sure the boss went through the steps of depression and acceptance after I left but not before returning to anger briefly. On my ride home I got an angry phone call from the recruiter asking me what went wrong. I told her about the salary thing (though sadly, not about the hot chicks room) and she told me the same thing the boss did, that I’d never get the offer I was looking for. As it turns out I didn’t get the money I was asking for, instead of 50% higher than they were offering me, I got to 33% more and I was pretty happy with that.

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