Vancouver TheatreSports League's Dragons’ Improv Tank is a winner


At the Improv Centre on Thursday, April 26. Continues every Thursday to Saturday

While improv comedy by definition is always fresh and new, sometimes it gets a little stale when the same old chestnuts become the basis for a scene. We’ve seen the classic arms scene a thousand times. Sure, it’s always good for a laugh, but it loses some of its zip the more it’s trotted out.

With Vancouver TheatreSports League’s newest parody, Dragons’ Improv Tank (a takeoff on two similarly themed entrepreneurial reality TV series: Dragons’ Den and Shark Tank), we’re treated to nothing but new scenes and ideas for improvisation. Free enterprise pays off, because this one’s a winner.

If you’re not familiar with the original programs, don’t worry about it. Like all score-based improv, the game doesn’t really matter. But the basic idea is that various inventors approach a panel of three investors and pitch them their crazy new improv games. Then some sort of bidding from the panel of three Dragons determines who wins. That part was confusing but I’m not a venture capitalist.

On opening night, eight ideas were pitched and presented. One might wonder how this creative outburst will sustain itself over the long run, and whether any of the suggested games will stick around. But what I learned is that some of the most ridiculous and improbable proposals make for the funniest scenes.

If this were a serious pitching session, a game requiring the actors to stop, drop, and roll into somebody else’s character throughout a scene would be laughed out of the boardroom. What does that accomplish? Who knows, but it was damn funny watching the straight-laced Ted Cole rolling over welcome VTSL newcomer Caitlin Howden and veteran Elizabeth Bowen and pausing just enough for the ensuing bawdy hoots.

And then there was the scrawny Taz VanRassel’s idea of a Pants-Off Party. The idea, as you might guess, is that the actors would somehow switch pants during a scene. That’s got to be a nonstarter, right? Wrong. The idea piqued the paunchy Pearce Visser’s interest even though he was several sizes too big for VanRassel’s britches. They managed to accomplish the feat all the while telling a story of… I don’t remember. I was too busy laughing at the absurd physicality of it all.

Margret Nyfors made a great host and Michael Teigen got the biggest laughs with his angry female Chinese character, Samantha, pitching her Secret Word Emotional Switch game. And big credit to sound improviser Laura Skelton who consistently had the perfect song cued up and playing seconds after a suggestion from the crowd.

The only fault this crusty critic had with the production is that every single pitch was not only accepted by at least one of the Dragons, but also enthusiastically received by the audience. Maybe the “Loss/Break Even/Profit Meter” needs to be recalibrated so not every scene is a winner, and not every idea should pass muster with the investors.

At the end of it all, one winner is selected, but it doesn’t make any difference. It’s improv comedy. Everyone’s a winner.

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