Toronto’s Beerprov Blends Two Of Our Favourite Things
BeerProv is an improv comedy competition where someone gets voted off the stage each round and the funniest performer of the night wins a prize. I attended the December 2014 edition and the deck was stacked that night as they had “special guest” Colin Mochrie competing. I don’t think anyone expected one of the younger and lesser known performers to win against Mochrie’s wealth of experience, but they each made a valiant effort. The prize is just an opportunity to drink a beer from the “BeerProv Mug of Champions”, so I don’t think any of the contestants were too bent out of shape about the odds. The large cast of comedians kept the crowd happy and laughing all night.
Each round consisted of a set of improv games using suggestions from the audience; we then voted for our favourite performers via the usual unscientific method employed in comedy – by applauding (and hooting and hollering.) The person with the least enthusiastic reception was booted off the stage and then the improvising began again. Host Jim Robinson and the disembodied voice of the technician also got special votes for who got to stay in the game.
While it must have been disappointing for some of the performers to lose their place onstage, at least no one had to suffer the ego-damage of lacklustre applause. The sold-out house was loud and friendly to everyone; it seemed like most people were taking the “beer” part of BeerProv to heart. The bar was busy and the crowd was full of hoots and hollers.
Some of the improv games were ones I don’t recall ever seeing before; for example, the trick of one scene was that the last spoken line had to be changed suddenly when indicated by Robinson. I don’t see tons of improv, but I’ve seen my fair share over the years and this seemed pretty fresh to me. There were occasions where Robinson asked us to shout suggestions for a scene, but he also relied a lot on ideas that audience members filled out on paper before the show. I didn’t see these forms, but it was already busy when I arrived. When we got there, my companion and I bought beer and then managed to find two seats together and stayed in them until the lights went down. The next time I go to BeerProv I’ll make sure to get there early enough to seek out the suggestion forms. Like most people, I am gratified when one of my suggestions makes it to the stage at an improv show!
I did feel conflicted whenever the time came to vote via applause. Improv is a team effort; it takes two or more people to make a scene and create the humour. It seemed counter-intuitive to pick out one person to lose (or to win.) I would love to say more about the specific performers, but there are no names/bios/pictures on the BeerProv site and, like most such shows, there was no program so I don’t know who anyone was other than Mr Mochrie. But they were all fine performers and BeerProv was certainly a night full of laughter.