When Comedy Inc. went off the air in 2009 after a five-year run, Roman Danylo had to get to work finding work. As a comedy triple-threat who performs improv, sketch, and standup, he had perhaps more options than many, but it’s still Canadian show business. He had to create his own opportunities rather than waiting for the offers to come pouring in.
Danylo started out mounting his own solo tours across the country. “Then I realized very quickly that producing’s not a lot of fun,” he said recently at a Kits eatery. “And also you could lose money. And I did, because I did it in the summer because I’m an idiot.”
Live and learn. Next up he took the David Caruso impersonation he did on Comedy Inc. and presented CSI: Your Town, a sketch show featuring a CSI–type crime set in whatever town they happened to be in.
Then came a variety offering called The Ultimate Comedy Show, which he still hosts.
Still, the wheels kept turning. Danylo was looking for a high-concept idea whose title alone would get people in the door. The comedy he can handle. But he was searching for a hook. Like Archimedes, his “eureka!” moment came while bathing.
“So I’m sitting in the tub one day and my wife was talking about watching a male-stripping show with some of her friends,” he says. “It sold out. And it just occurs to me: ‘What if we just did a parody of a male-stripper show?’”
If you think the idea is ridiculous, you’re not alone. “It’s an explosion of ridiculousness,” says Danylo. Six shirtless dudes named Chip, wearing nothing but tight black pants and coloured bow ties (“They’re like karate belts; you’ve got to work your way up to the purple bow tie”) breathe new life into standard improv games. And when music starts blaring, the guys start self-indulgently voguing to the beat.
But lest you think this is a ladies-only night—or a throwback to the topless improv introduced at a Vancouver strip club by Cheech and Chong in the late 1960s—Danylo assures The Comic Strippers is actually “squeaky clean”. He explains: “This is not a show with comedians stripping; it’s improvisers playing fake male strippers putting on a comedy show. We want to make sure guys come to our shows, too. There’s no reason they shouldn’t, because we’re not real strippers in any way. It’s not going to make you feel weird, that’s for sure.”
Danylo, who goes by Chip Rock in the show, is joined by a core group consisting of endomorphs and ectomorphs alike: Chris Casillan, Pearce Visser, Ken Lawson, David Milchard, and Michael Teigen. Regular staples include Teigen shooting Ping-Pong balls out of his mouth at the audience (and into Danylo’s mouth), a shower scene with water pistols, and, of course, the requisite private lap-dance segment.
Danylo’s big idea predates the release of Magic Mike, a movie about male strippers. The Hollywood film was released in June while Danylo first put on a two-man version of the current show last November.
“I wanted to do something nobody else was doing,” he says. “Now it looks like we’re parodying it. And that’s fine. But it’s not Magic Open Mike.”
The troupe will never pass for real Chippendale dancers, but exposing their torsos on stage every month has at least got these regular Joes thinking about exercise. At their last corporate gig, Danylo noticed everybody doing last-minute push-ups. “I started to run out of reasons to exercise. This is at least a legitimate reason to go for a run,” says the fit 42-year-old.
“My goal is to take this to Vegas and then go global,” he adds, laughing at the sheer audacity of it. “It’s a shirtless Blue Man Group. It’s Puppetry of the Penis without having to manipulate our penises. It’s perfect for people that don’t really want to go to a real stripper show; they just want to have a bit of campy twist on that kind of a night.”
The Comic Strippers plays the Improv Centre on Granville Island monthly. The next show is Friday (September 7) at 11:15 p.m.