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Winnipeg’s Improv Festival turns 14

The Winnipeg IF Improv Festival has been going strong since the year 2000, making longtime fans of improvised comedy feel old and young improvisers feel more competitive. Spontaneously occurring from October 1-5 at the Gas Station Theatre in Osborne Village, festival founder/CRUMBS member Stephen Sim hints that it is the strongest incarnation of the festival yet, featuring the return of Chicago’s Joe Bill and Vancouver’s Alistair Cook, as well as your new favourite duo, Regina’s Business. 

“I love all of my children equally but I’m pretty excited that Joe Bill is coming back,” he says. “He’s great on stage and off - inspiring everybody with the workshops and bringing everybody up a level.”

Along with improv workshops, the festival is also offering a showcase format, differing from the usual ensemble shows featuring various improvisors. 

The biggest note of all is that Canadian comedy legend Kevin McDonald of The Kids in the Hall is guesting at the Big Stupid Improv Show on October 3. McDonald will tell “true stories” which the improvisers will use as fodder for the show. 

“That’s pretty exciting,” Sim says. “He’s been in the city for a couple of years now so it’s kind of cool to finally meet him and get him to do a show.”

McDonald’s presence has been felt throughout the comedy scene in Winnipeg - even though he hasn’t performed much, he’s a constant fixture in the audience.

“He came to a Crumbs show a while ago and it was like ‘I wish that I didn’t know he was there until after the show’ - especially with an improv show, you never know where the show’s gonna land,” Sim says. “You always want the show to be the best that it can be, but when your parents are in the audience or Kevin McDonald’s in the audience or a friend that has never seen you before, you want them to see you at your best. That’s the way the Improv Festival’s gonna be - every show is gonna be as if your parents or your long-lost friend is there. We’ll show off.”

Published in Volume 68, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 25, 2013)

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