Unsung Heroes Of Improv: The Tech

By: Sally Smallwood & Cameron Algie

There’s nothing quite like the high you get coming off of a great set. But while improvisers get to bask in the spotlight, some of their funniest moments wouldn’t exist without the skill and support of a very special person: the Tech Guy (or Gal).

To the audience they’re invisible, but make no mistake: he or she can make or break your show.

“Pulling the lights on an improv scene is hard,” says Rob Norman. “You have to have a supreme confidence to know when it’s over. To find the biggest laugh of the scene. Sometimes 30 seconds in. Sometimes waiting for 17 minutes.

But also there’s an egolessness about it. It’s not about adding sound effects. Or playing ‘funny’ songs from the booth. You are highlighting success and distracting from failure.

When tech is done right, no one sees your invisible hand. But you have to be completely confident in your job. So egoless that no one knows you’re adding essential elements to what’s happening onstage.” ...Read more

The club that’s making comedy fun again

By: Lara Zarum

On the south side of Bloor Street West, past the woman who plays her guitar in front of the LCBO at Ossington, past Long &McQuade, the sheesha lounge and the hardware stores, above a wide set of carpeted stairs, "COMEDY BAR" glows in red neon lights on top of a modest marquee. Down the stairs, a line of people snakes around an L-shaped bar, leading to a set of black curtains at the back of the room. On the left, a hand-drawn sign is taped to the wall, shouting in big block letters: "WELCOME SPACEMEN." The curtains pull back and the line slithers into the dark theatre for Sunday Night Live, a weekly show featuring Comedy Bar’s resident sketchtroupe, The Sketchersons, plus a guest host. This week’s guests are Ajay Fry and Teddy Wilson of the Space Channel show InnerSPACE - hence the welcome banner. The Sketchersons open the show by assuring the incoming "spacemen" that they will be welcomed to Comedy Bar, and Earth, and have nothing to fear... Read more

It's kind of a funny story

By: Jane Switzer

When people think of comedy in Toronto, many can only cite big standup-focused chains like the Second City or Yuk Yuks as prime venues. But the city is also home to an ever-growing tight-knit community of amateur performers who dabble in non-traditional forms of comedy.

That’s where Gary Rideout comes in. Rideout has become somewhat of a rock star in Toronto’s comedy community within the last five years, and has quietly fashioned himself into a patron of amateur and up-and-coming comedy acts. In 2008, Rideout opened Comedy Bar (located at Bloor St. and Ossington Ave.) as an alternative to big-name bars that only put on polished acts that fit the standard bill. Whereas many venues are about the business of comedy-pushing a particular brand of humour, selling drinks and promoting big-name comedians-Comedy Bar exists to nurture a community of people who do standup, sketch and improv acts that don’t fit into a specific category... Read more

Pat Thornton, Comedy’s Marathon Man, Prepares for Another 24 Hours

By: Chris Dart

Stand-up and sketch comic Pat Thornton admits he didn't really know what he was getting into when he agreed to do "something" as a benefit for the Stephen Lewis foundation back in 2009. He certainly didn’t think "something" would consist of 24 non-stop hours of stand-up comedy, nor did he have any idea that it would become an annual event.

"They had just started the Dare to Remember campaign, and they were trying to get people to do dares to raise money," he says. "Someone who works for the foundation had actually worked as an editor for a TV show I worked on. He approached me, like, ‘Hey, you’re perfect for this. Would you do a dare?’ So I said, ‘sure,’ and then they kept calling me."

The Stephen Lewis Foundation is an NGO founded by Stephen Lewis, a former UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa. The foundation works with community-based organizations in 15 African countries to help fight the spread of AIDS. The Dare to Remember Campaign is the Lewis Foundation’s best-known fundraising effort. To participate, people accept dares, collect sponsors, and raise money for the charity by pushing their own limits. Thornton says his dare was at least partially the brainchild of Comedy Bar owner Gary Rideout, Jr... Read more

Best Alternative Comedy Club

Many of the city’s better-known comedy venues are so stuck in the past, there might as well be a fake brick-wall backdrop in front of the ubiquitous wooden stool. Are you with me, people? Which makes this ambitious brainchild of Sketchersons guy Gary Rideout Jr. such a refreshing change. Housed in a narrowish basement (at 945 Bloor West), the laid-back place feels like a terrific party you’ve just happened upon.

The acts include a mix of some of the edgiest stand-up, sketch and character work around anywhere. Rideout’s working on creating an online channel to be run out of the place. YouTube and Hulu, look out. Oh, and the bar also comes stocked with some decent snack food, doing away with a trip to the corner store for that mid-show sugar buzz. - NOW Magazine

Ask a typical Torontonian to name you some comedy venues and chances are they'll only be able to come up with two: Yuk Yuk's and Second City. This isn't because they're uninformed or somber, but because aside from these two usual suspects, there just aren't many venues in Toronto specifically focusing comedy, especially not edgy or 'alternative' comedy. And frankly that's a real shame. While Yuk Yuk's, for instance, tends to deliver high quality acts, they tend to all fit a certain "mould". If comedians don't follow the implicit rules of comedy, they'll have a hard time getting booked....More at Martini Boys

The Comedy Bar at Bloor and Ossington is finally having its grand opening this weekend. Even though it's been up and running for about five months, owners Gary Rideout Jr. and James Elksnitis think the venue is now completed at last, and ready to be promoted as such. Torontoist has been there on a handful of occasions over the past few months, and one of the interesting things about these visits"aside from the comedy"was seeing it progress through its renovation and development. We have never exclaimed "hey! They have a ceiling now!" with such sincerity before....More at Torontoist