Host/improviser Brian Anderson on self-shredding art, Lego heads, loose chickens and the like. Trump? No thanks
TheatreSports Year in Review
When: Dec. 26-31.
Where: Improv Centre, Granville Island.
Tickets: from $10.75 at vtsl.com
What was the biggest news story of 2018? People will disagree, but some of your faves (or least-faves) are sure to come up at TheatreSports’ annual Year in Review. We talked to creator/host/improviser Brian Anderson about self-shredding art, Lego heads and loose chickens.
Q: How has the format changed over the years?
A: It’s evolved a little bit. It’s always been inspired by offbeat stories. We use those as jumping-off points and do particular improv games, like make the players speak Shakespearean English or French or backwards. But where it’s evolved is taking it much more free-form. We’ll take a headline or a description of something that’s happened and then we’ll create all the things around it. If there’s a story about a truckload of chickens that got loose and we hear about it earlier that day, we follow the chickens and their career aspirations later on.
Q: Has 2018 been an inspiring year?
A: It’s been fun. More than previous years, I’ve been tracking stories. There’s certainly a particular class of story that works well for the show. The devastation and angry-argument stories don’t play as well. It’s the fun, weird strange things. There’ve been some fun science stories this year. There’s a guy somewhere in England who’s was tracking how long it takes a Lego-person head to go through your digestive system. And art stories are often fun. The Banksy portrait shredding thing, that’s going to be fun.
Q: So you stay away from climate change and Trump?
A: We stay away from Trump generally. A couple of years ago we tried throwing in a couple of Trump stories. Oddly, it brings the room down. Folks who are pro-Trump get their backs up, folks who are not such fans would rather just an evening without him being mentioned. Though I’m sorely tempted; there was a headline the other day, congressional leaders were interviewing Google about potential bias in the search results. The quote that jumped out for me was: “When I Google ‘idiot,’ how come pictures of Trump come up?”
Q: You mentioned the story about the Lego head. How do you bring it up in the format?
A: I’ll share with the players and the audience stories we’ve collected. A particular scene would be: Here’s something from science. Then we’ll ask the audience, what’s another unusual thing you might study? Sometimes we’ll even set it up as a game show with the audience and the players — which of these things are actually true?
Q: The show probably gets its share of out-of-towners. Is there an attempt to make the show universal?
A: Yeah. When I’m picking the stories, I’ve always gone for a metric of a third Lower Mainland. stories, a third national and a third worldwide. When you look out at the audience, sometimes you’ll see a reaction like, what, that happened!? Or it might be a case of, ahh, oh yeah, and smiles and nods.
Q: You’ve been doing this show for nearly 20 years. Are there some years that have been easier or harder than others?
A: 2016 felt like a heavier year. There were a lot of celebrity deaths, and heavier stories towards the end of the year.
Beyond that, they really don’t stand out as individual years. There are certain stories, for sure. I’m a fan of art stories. There was one years ago, an art installation called Shedboatshed (Mobile Architecture #2, 2005). An artist (Simon Starling) built a shed, then took it apart, and used the wood to make a boat and sailed it down a river, then took the boat apart and made another shed. And I just thought, that’s weirdly insane. For some reason, that one’s stuck with me.