By: Harris Bailey, IYA Producer
They say 'death is easy, comedy is hard'. I'm not sure if this saying is entirely true, but it's certainly a known fact that being funny comes more naturally to some people, while others can't even tell a good joke. Yet, as actors, we must find a way to acquire this skill in order to diversify ourselves for more opportunities.
As we approach our upcoming Comedy Intensive, I had the delight to sit down with our guest coach Victoria Kucher (@kuchecoo), who has worked extensively in improv comedy, sitcoms, and at The Second City, to ask her some serious questions about comedy, no joke!
IYA: Hey Victoria, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. Here's the first one: What does improv comedy bring to an actor's skill set? Why is it important to learn?
VK: No problem, my pleasure. Improv isn't just about being funny, it's an amazing tool to help all actors build a well rounded character, digging into the WHY of the scene and moments. Improv helps actors discover their character's true opinions on other characters, the world they live in, and actions they make. It can be used to build up the moment before, making it fresh in your mind, or finding better understanding of something you can't quite crack in the script alone. Improv is a tool that can build a solid relationship fast. Improv is an important skill because it helps unlock our minds from the "should" and reminds us to play and discover.
IYA: That element of play is so important. We have a lot of actors say to us "but, I'm just not funny". What would you say to them?
VK: Everyone is funny in one way or another. Some people are amazing at telling jokes, others are hilarious in the way they react to a situation whether it be a snappy remark or just an odd or interesting reaction. There are some age old comedy truths such as the rule of 3's or the power of opposites, but listening and reacting can go a long way. Some of my favourite comedic moments in film and TV are just actors having a full on over the top emotional moment. Once you discover your brand of funny it's easy to bring that with you into any role and bring people to tears of laughter. You just need to trust in you and own the weird things that make you naturally funny - commit to the bit.
IYA: 'Commit to the bit', love that! How do you overcome the fears associated with improv?
VK: I started my Improv journey because I was terrified of being told to be funny. I could make people laugh no problem when I felt like there was no pressure, but as soon as I got a script labeled "comedy" I froze. The great thing about comedy is that there are tricks and little things we can do as actors (and that writers put into our scripts) that help us bring the comedy to life. Not only that, when you aren't trying to be funny and just live in the moment THAT is when the laughs start flowing. Comedic Improv is amazing because once you stop trying to play for those addictive laughs, that's when the funniest stuff happens. Drama and Comedy are essentially the same story, the only thing that is different is the stakes for the characters.
IYA: You mentioned being terrified, what happens when an actor 'bombs' on stage or at an audition?
VK: One of my comedy coaches early on told me to LOVE THE BOMB. I thought he was crazy, but he was exactly right. When you fail, not only do you learn things, but in comedy people love a loser. We love to see a character fail and then fail harder. In fact, we want to see how low this character can go because it's not us, the audience. If you can commit to something wholeheartedly, an audience will still love the show and you might even come around the other side and make it funny again. Now when I start "bombing" on stage I forget the audience and start playing for me. I take the characters somewhere fun or play the highest stakes possible because I am no longer trying to please an audience (which was likely why I was "bombing" in the first place). A great thing about Improv is that you get to play whatever you want because everything comes out of the minds of the performers on stage and there is no 'right way' to do things. So make mistakes and fail harder and have the best time doing it!
IYA: Making mistakes is so key. Ok, last question: How do you turn improv comedy into a career?
VK: Improv Comedy is an amazing way to get on stage every night because Toronto is full of opportunities to perform. I host and perform in a monthly show called "Seeing Double" at Comedy Bar on Tuesdays at 9:30pm with my comedy duo "Two Girls One Trench Coat". With that duo I have been able to travel around North America performing in festivals, teaching classes, and working with other great comedians from around the world. We just completed our first web series "Brennan & Victoria Make Rent" which is to be released later this year. This humble brag is leading to a point - Improv opened doors for me because it allowed me to connect with more artists who I was in turn able to collaborate with in new ways. It helped me get out of my shell as a person and as an artist, showing me that I am full of ideas. I just had to trust in myself and find the confidence to explore those ideas. Those ideas soon turned into scripts which turned into new opportunities in the industry. Improv Comedy is a great way to start getting yourself involved in a very active comedy community here in Toronto, as well as getting yourself sketch comedy auditions and even eventually in writers rooms for comedic TV series, or you can just do live stage shows and make a little cheddar on the side.
IYA: Thank you very much for taking the time Victoria. I know I learned a lot and I am super excited to work with you this coming weekend for our Improv Your Comedy intensive. What can we expect to do over this two-day intensive?
VK: We will be exploring comedy scripts, comedic improv, emotionality, character work, objectives, comedic devices and so much more. I am pumped!
If you'd like to go deeper with Victoria into finding your funny, join us for Improv Your Comedy on July 6-7, 2019.
TODAY ONLY - Use coupon code IYA50 for $50 off your tuition. Register Now.
IYA Studio for Actors offers year-round actor training with heart. It is run by veteran actor/coach Tony Babcock and combines principles of improv with traditional acting training. To find out more visit the website here.
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