- GROSS! loves taking risks
- Hotel room selife
- 'It's this guy again'
- capturing the beauty of the landscape on our way to philly
- happy & exhausted after our set
- Pizza-talk after the show
Our Improv group GROSS! has been founded in the beginning of this summer as part of the Montréal Improv ‘Threepio’ contest. Since then, we already performed in the Improv Festivals in Montreal and Toronto. Last weekend, we were super-excited to go to the United States in order to perform in the 9th annual Philadelphia Improv Festival.
Our show was scheduled for Thursday evening, 10pm. The 7, 8:30 and 10pm show started pretty much back to back, so we were able to catch the last set of the 7 o’clock show after we picked up our performer’s passes and T-shirts. When it got towards 10pm, we realized how thrilled we were despite our fatigue after the 9-hour-car-ride to perform in front of a completely unknown audience. A couple of people stuck around for the late show and we started of the block that featured two more groups after us.
Our set was based on the audience suggestion ‘cannibalism’ and covered topics such as aging and death, but also romantic feelings, family and growing up. The stage was very big and offered opportunities to play around and get wild. We had lots of fun and time passed in a flash. When the lights went down, we left the stage almost in trance and had a very intense moment of ‘it is something we did and not something we did not do’.
Luckily, we stayed for the last set, which turned out to be my favourite of the whole festival. Ranger Danger and the Danger Ranger is a male duo from Los Angeles, featuring the two real life best friends Drew and Luis. Their suggestion for a location that could fit on the stage was ‘time machine’, a suggestion challenging enough to worry the audience for a little bit. Luis told me later that they actually love to give the audience some time to worry before they start their set, instead of jumping into it right away. This seemed to be contrary to what I have learned and perceived so far, but it did work for them. Their journey in a time machine that was run by coal and squirrels was one of the most hilarious improv sets I have ever seen. Their piece wasn’t exclusively narrative though, sometimes a conversation between two characters would inspire a totally different scene in another environment, like the death of the protestant pope. They were extremely quick thinkers and played at the height of their intelligence at all times, which became obvious when they showed a quick conclusion of every decade while travelling back and forth in time. They also called each other out on every little mistake they made, which often inspired a new scene. Finally, I was impressed by their extremely precise physicality. Every part of the time machine was always in the exact same position, I have never seen an improviser holding a mimed baby in such a loving way and when Drew missed a step of the ladder when he climbed back into the time machine, Luis called him out on it.
At the party on Saturday we had the chance to talk to Ranger Danger and the Danger Ranger. Both of them have been doing improv for more than 10 years now and have been doing this format together for 4 years. They are best friends (matching tattoos!) and used to live together. Luis told me that he knows Drew so well that he can hear in his voice when he is done talking about something in a scene. When I asked them about advice for a newly founded improv group, like GROSS!, he told me that it is important to stop trying to invent stuff and pushing your own ideas, but to listen and support your partner instead. In fact, he said that only the very first thing someone says in a scene is invented – everything that follows is logic. Also, it is important to be patient with a group that just met – you have to figure each other out. And as important as coaching is, you should also workshop alone with your group in order to find out what you really like to do. Another helpful thing I learned from them is that they videotape every set and talk through it afterwards while watching it. In the beginning it might be frightening to see yourself on video, but it certainly helps you improve.
Thus, despite the tiring 9-hour drive, Thursday night was a successful start into an exciting weekend of Philly and Improv.