1) How did improv enter your life and how did you eventually wind up at Rapid Fire?
Unlike most, I didn’t encounter improv until after high school. I grew up in a small town, and Drama wasn’t offered as a class at my high school – I even had to take Art as a correspondence course. The closest thing to acting or improv that I did in school was playing Dungeons & Dragons… But I’d always been a big fan of sketch comedy like SCTV, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and Kids in the Hall. When I moved to Edmonton, I ended up auditioning for and being cast in a sketch show that Edmonton comedy troupe Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie was creating at the Citadel Theatre’s annual Teen Festival of the Arts. The Trolls were casting teens to write and star in a sketch show that they would direct. They suggested improv as a way of generating sketch ideas, and directed us to Rapid Fire Theatre. I loved improv immediately, and joined RFT later that month. I’ve been with the company for 20 years now, and have had the opportunity to travel around the world with RFT, performing at various improv theatre festivals and tournaments.
2) What are the keys to a successful improv scene?
Say YES, commit to your character, and always try to make the other people onstage with you look good.
3) What are some tips you can offer audience members about giving suggestions to improvisers?
Don’t worry about trying to come up with a hilarious or weird suggestion. Give us something simple – we’ll make it hilarious and weird, trust me.
4) What do you like about short form vs. long form and vice versa?
They use different improv muscles. Like many improvisors who’ve been at this for a while, I think I tend to gravitate toward longform. For me, longform is ultimately more satisfying because of the richer narrative it allows. Or maybe I just like taking only one suggestion…
5) Can you tell us a little bit about your CHiMPROV troupes?
Chris Craddock and I have created a form called The Harold of Galactus. It’s an improvised look at the entire career of a superhero we make up with the audience, not necessarily told in linear order. It’s like reading random excerpts from the entire published history of the protagonist – flipping through a comic book collection, if you will. We’ve toured the show to London, England and the Vancouver Improv Festival, had great success with it at the Fringe Theatre Festival, and recently performed it in the Del Close Theatre in Chicago at the personal invitation of renowned improv guru Charna Halpern. I consider it a loving tribute to the world of secret identities, atomic accidents, rogues galleries, and unbridled adventure! Excelsior! Nuff’ said!
I also serve as the Dungeon Master for Improvised Dungeons & Dragons: RFT Edition. It’s basically what it sounds like – some of RFT’s best improvisors playing D&D onstage in full costume, with weapons, equipment, etc. … Pure improvised nerdery!
And I play The Doctor in Doctor Whom, an improvised parody of Doctor Who. I was invited to Comedy Bar in Toronto by Darryl Pring, the creator of the format, to perform in their Doctor Whom Christmas Special one December, loved the show, and negotiated with Darryl to come out to Edmonton for a workshop with RFT to help us start our own version.
6) How would you describe your improv style?
I’m going to go with… awesome? I’m told by others that I’m good with narrative and characters, but it’s hard to tell from my vantage point here inside my own skull.
7) How did you become involved with Bioware, and what projects have you worked on with them?
The old-fashioned way – I went to an audition. It was for the role of an evil cleric that had a single line in the final cutscene of their Dungeons & Dragons-based game, Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn, back in 1999 or so. They obviously liked my work, because they called me back to play Cyric, the God of Murder and several other parts in Baldur’s Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal. After that, I worked on Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark, Neverwinter Nights: Kingmaker, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Jade Empire. More recently, I’ve appeared in all the games in the Dragon Age series and starred as the male version of the player character, Commander Shepard, in the Mass Effect Trilogy. I also did a number of additional voices for the Mass Effect games, including Blasto the Hannar Spectre, Niftu Cal the Volus Biotic God, and all of the Vorcha.
8) Can you tell us something about Commander Shepard we don’t know?
He fucking loves steak.
9) Tell us a little bit about your hobbies.
The list is long and geeky. Comic books, action figures, gaming, horror movies, Halloween, costuming, H.P. Lovecraft-based LARPing… It goes on like this.
10) What are some of your most prized collectibles? Can you give us some stats re: the number of action figures, comics you have etc…
I do have quite a large collection of nerdy stuff, but ALL of it has been read/opened, so it’s probably not worth much to anyone but me. I’m not a guy who can keep a comic book in a sealed bag or an action figure in a sealed box. Some of my favorite collectibles are my life-size prop replicas – things like Thor’s hammer, Green Lantern’s power battery, the Infinity Gauntlet… some have been purchased, and some have been built by me or my friends. A recent prized acquisition is a full set of Mass Effect N7 armor (and a replica of a weapon from the game) that my friend David Carpenter of Evil FX props made for me. I’ve got to wear it in the annual DragonCon parade in Atlanta the last couple of years, marching with a huge group of Mass Effect fans. Good times. An excellent silicone mask company from Louisiana called Composite Effects also recently made me a custom mask of the Vorcha, a race of aliens I play in Mass Effect.
11) If you could take away one power from a superhero to make them better in your opinion who and what would it be, and why would it make them better?
I’m more of a supervillain fan, so I recommend you take away ALL the superpowers from ALL the superheroes (cue evil laugh).
12) Can you tell us a little bit about some of your more dramatic acting such as playing Othello.
Yes, I also do what some would term “serious” acting. The production you’re talking about was for Free Will Players, who present Shakespeare in the Park here in Edmonton every summer. They do a tragedy and a comedy in rep every year, so I was also Antonio in Twelfth Night that summer. I also work with Teatro La Quindicina on occasion, and I’ve received an Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor for my work with Shadow Theatre.
13) What’s next for you (anything you’d like to plug)?
Right now, I’m working on the new season of The Irrelevant Show, CBC Radio’s national sketch comedy program. We record our episodes before a live studio audience, so if you’re in the Edmonton area, you can come see/hear us make radio magic! We’ll also be recording episodes in Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto. The new season will start airing on CBC Radio in January 2015. Info on upcoming recordings and free podcasts of previous episodes can be found at http://www.cbc.ca/irrelevantshow
I just finished shooting the third season of my TV show, Tiny Plastic Men which will be airing on SuperChannel in January 2015. It was co-created, written by, and stars Chris Craddock, Matt Alden and myself. It also features appearances by RFT members past and present, like Belinda Cornish, Amy Shostak, Jessie McPhee, Kristen Welker, Donovan Workun, Tom Edwards, and Lee Boyes. It’s a hybrid of sketch comedy and sitcom in which Chris, Matt, and I play prototype testers for a struggling toy company.
It’s exclusive to Super Channel in Canada for now, but I’m told we’re close to an international distribution deal, and we have some episodes and sketches up on our YouTube channel:
ARCH-ENEMIES WITH BENEFITS
I TOOK CARE OF HIM
And while we’re at it, here’s some of my sketches from my old APTN TV show, CAUTION: May Contain Nuts, which was also produced by Mosaic Entertainment:
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS
THE HALFLING’S LEAF
STOP PIRACY PSA
DOCTOR VON CHAOS