Paul is a Canadian Comedy Award-nominated writer, editor, and performer.
He has been improvising with Rapid Fire Theatre since 2006 and is currently the company’s Associate Director of Education (Youth). Paul has taught and performed improv and comedy in places like Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg, Seattle, Atlanta, and Chiang Mai (Thailand!). When he isn’t improvising, he loves to bake bread. Juuuuuust loves it.
TV Shows: Orphan Black, The Mighty Boosh, The Twilight Zone, Baroness Von Sketch Show
Movies: Hausu; Paris, Texas; Mulholland Drive
Books: Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai, Peter Reich’s A Book of Dreams, Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Other Minds: The Octopus, The Sea, and The Deep Nature of Consciousness
Music: Bjork, Bowie, Byrne, Carly Rae Jepsen
Places to eat in Edmonton: The Next Act, Padmanadi, Hoang Long, Farrow, Yelo’d
I will never feel more at home or more on the edge at the same time than I do when I’m on that stage.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH RAPID FIRE?
I started doing improv in high school in Fort McMurray. I auditioned for the high school team and did not get on, and then I auditioned again and got on. Then I moved to Edmonton and spent a year not doing improv before auditioning for RFT in 2006 and I’ve been with the company since then.
HOW DO YOU PREP FOR A SHOW?
I like to general warm ups to get my mind going. The Beastie Boys game is a rhyming warm up exercise that’s great because rhyming always helps prep your brain to go into overdrive. I also like to hyperventilate for a minute or so just to get a lot of oxygen into my brain just before I go out on stage.
WHAT ARE THE KEY ELEMENTS OF A SOLID IMPROV SCENE?
I sometimes feel simply declaring who you are and what you want gets overlooked. That’s important and works for both long and short form improv. You’re not only telling the audience who you are and what you want, but you’re also telling the other improvisers and that’s so important to get that information out – it’s important to have that foundation so the other improvisers can either help you get it or hinder you as the scene develops.
WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING ON STAGE?
Your mind is working in overdrive. You’re trying to be aware of what’s happening on stage and how it’s working with the audience. Are they with you? Are they connected to what you’re doing? If they aren’t you have to figure out how to get them to follow you. I feel the best improv doesn’t feel like you’re trying, it feels like you’re being drawn by magnets and you just know where you’re supposed to go. When it works it feels almost effortless. When it doesn’t work it feels the opposite of effortless.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS ON STAGE?
This is going to sound weird, but I don’t really remember improv after I do it. Sure, there are a few memories, but often when I get off stage I don’t remember what I’ve just done. You’re just in the moment. A couple years ago I went to Victoria with THE IMAGINEERS, which is a CHiMPROV troupe I’m in, and it felt really vindicating to be taken out of our comfort zone and perform in a different city and hold our own.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR MATERIAL FROM?
You need an acute awareness of pop culture. It’s important to be up-to-date on current events and to draw on the culture and history of whatever interests you. The best improv is personal. It shows your personality and that comes through what you reference on stage.
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT IMPROVAGANZA?
It’s the best. It’s like a congress of the modern improv in the world. It’s a way to take the pulse of what people are doing in improv. I’ve seen things at GANZA that have totally changed my perception of what improv can be and what can work for an audience.
HOW DOES IMPROV HELP YOU AT YOUR DAY JOB?
I was the arts and film editor of VUE Weekly. There’s a super amount of overlap: when you’re writing to a deadline and you have anywhere from one to seven stories to write, you just have to put words on a page. Likewise, with improv, you don’t have time to rehearse anything; you have to start doing something because there’s an audience waiting.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO PLAY WITH RAPID FIRE?
I will never feel more at home or more on the edge at the same time than I do when I’m on that stage. It’s both comfort and total fear at the same time, and that is a wonderful place to explore.