Chris is incredibly generous, both on and off stage. As a scene partner he listens and supports everything that comes his way, but off stage is where he’s really making his mark on the improv scene. The regional director of the Toronto tournament for the Canadian improv games, Chris has brought improv to a generation of performers and put his time and efforts into making a memorable and powerful experience for teenagers.
What drew you to improv?
Improv has the amazing ability to change people into better versions of themselves. Or rather, it has the ability to allow people to find out what they’re truly capable without worrying about messing up. Improvisers are wonderful. I think I just always wanted to hang out with people who were way cooler than me, and get to do whatever it was that made them like that… Ok… I still want to do that.
What takes good improv to great?
Honesty. My favourite scenes to watch are those that are held together – however tenuously – with characters that have a vested interest in each other, and their world. It’s so important to live in the world you’ve created, and mean it. Being honest with in your scenes and with your scene partners is something that has such a giant payoff; it lets your scenes take-off, instead of living in the world of one-liners.
Who is someone you really admire as a performer?
Ok. I’m not just trying to butter him up because I get to perform with him, but Anders Yates is such a force on stage. It’s incredible to watch him craft scenes with such artistry. I mean, I’m pretty sure that he invented the idea of not asking direct questions on stage… conscious choice or not, the guy only makes declarative statements on stage, and every scene he’s in is the better for it.
Also, he’s tall, and I admire that.
What scares you as a performer?
To me, improv is often terrifying. Especially when I’m working with such talented people. But I think that’s a good place to be. Being scared motivates me to shut out the fear the only possible way I know how – and that’s to jump up, and get in a scene. When I’m out there, the fear goes away, and I remember how much the best improv, and anyone who improvises is.
I also have a completely irrational fear of tripping as I jump up onto a stage – any stage, no matter how high. Not because I’m afraid of making a fool of myself, but because I just hate banging my shins on stuff.
Any advice you’d give someone who’s just starting out in improv?
This is the best thing you will ever do, and trust me, you’re already good at it. Just. Keep. Going.