Festivals no image

Published on October 2nd, 2009 | by Sharilyn Johnson


“Yes, and there’s another festival!”

Holy crap, improv community, when did fall become “improv festival season”?

I received a lovely invite to check out Montreal’s improv festival, Mprov, by the executive producer whose conversation I rudely inserted myself into between UCB shows during Just For Laughs (hey, when you overhear a “Del’s skull” discussion, you gotta get in on that).

Their official pitch: “Running this year from October 13-18, Mprov will feature six of Montreal’s best improv troupes and will host seven national and international improv acts over 6 unforgettable off-the-cuff nights of comedy.”

Lineup sounds pretty cool, particularly the improvised episode of The View. I unfortunately won’t make it there. Maybe you can? Info here: http://www.montrealimprovfestival.com

I’m discovering, though, that no matter where you are, chances are there’s an improv festival nearby. Calgary Improv Festival is on this weekend. Vancouver Improv Festival is on this weekend too. Same for Philly. Baltimore is coming up soon. These are just the ones I know about.

I’ve been writing heavily about improv over the past 2 months, surely to the annoyance of non-improvisors, but I encourage everyone to check out their local scene. Improv and standup communities are often so split from each other, and I like to see both sides make an effort to respect each other (it works the other way too, improvisors).


Speaking of respect, I sure hope the audiences for Vancouver’s improv festival are more evolved than some of the individuals who apparently attended last week’s Vancouver Comedy Festival. According to posts on the aspecialthing.com forums, many of the shows had drunken hecklers in attendance who caused major disruptions. This shouldn’t be happening anywhere, never mind at a major comedy festival. If it does happen, the idiots should be removed immediately (which they supposedly weren’t).

The lineup for Vancouver has always impressed me. Much like JFL’s Zoofest, they book exactly who I would book. After having a lovely conversation with Vancouver’s artistic director at Just For Laughs this year, I actually started pricing out flights in hopes of seeing it for myself, but I’m honestly glad I didn’t have to witness this. (Who the hell heckles Todd Barry?!)

Whether it’s partly the style of marketing that’s bringing these idiots to the shows, or the selection of venues, or the lack of training of venue security (or lack of security period), I have no idea. I wasn’t there. But finding the problem and fixing it is something the Vancouver fest needs to make a priority, for the sake of their image as a world-class festival among both artists and audiences.

This kind of crap being tolerated will only hurt the artists and audiences. People are showing up at the festival and acting like they would at any late Friday show at Yuk Yuk’s, so they aren’t there because they’re in awe of the lineup. Why should the festival continue to make these great bookings if they could just book a bunch of middlers from Portland and Seattle instead? Drunks will still buy tickets, right?

If organizers are going to justify building a comedy nerd’s wet dream every year, this has to stop. Really, people of Vancouver, smarten up. Festival artists like Paul F. Tompkins and Andy Kindler have fans who, above anything else, DO respect comedy. So you douchebags kinda stick out.

About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

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