Harold Nights – Wednesday's at Dog Theatre Company

By Alex Rayment

Away from the Numbers

The Bad Dog Theatre company is a place of improv.  Unscripted shows rule at this place, with different types on different nights.  Wednesday Nights are Harold Nights – “a show featuring improvisers of all experience levels teaming up and tackling . . . improvised storylines inspired from a single audience suggestion”.  So, I imagine you can tell where I’m going with this.  Let me tell you about last Wednesday…

The chilly evening wind ushered me inside and off the street. I shivered – from the cold or excitement I couldn’t tell. I sat near a huddle of fellow travellers and patiently bided my time. The wait couldn’t have been more than a couple minutes but brimming with anticipation, it seemed like forever. And then finally, to my great relief the moment I had been waiting for arrived.

“It’s ready” she said and then handed me my Big Mac and fries.

Wolfing it down, I walked a few doors over to the Bad Dog Theatre and the real reason I had braved to cold. The atmosphere was inviting and friendly and the theatre in the back was small and intimate, the best way to see improv in my opinion. Pockets of people were scattered among the thirty or so seats.

The with an energetic host up on stage to introduce the teams but also warm up the crowd and keep momentum going. Any night that starts off with a smile on your face has high hopes of being enjoyable and that goes doubly so for improv. The first team came up and energetically involved the audience immediately. This, combined with being no more than ten feet from the people on stage reeled me in – I almost felt like a part of the show, which was great.

Once the set started, it took a little while for the team to get into the swing of things. That said; I was still entertained and far from wondering why I’d come. Some bits would drag on longer than they should.  The energy in the room would lull for a few minutes, but just as I’m about to start twiddling my thumbs – someone pulls out a brilliant line or two that sparks a chain reaction of hilarity. The team would ride that wave of amusement until the next witty line minutes later. It reminded me a lot of listening to a song that you only like the chorus of. You bear with the verses because you know your favourite part of the song will be along shortly.

The other three teams of the night followed the same regimen, each one gradually getting better and better. By the last team I was laughing pretty consistently along with the rest of the audience. Had I seen more enjoyable shows? Yes, but the night ended on a high note and I enjoyed my time. Bad Dog is a solid foot in the door, for both performers and audiences alike. Improv really depends on whether you share the sense of humour of the teams performing so bear in mind that it can be a hit or miss experience but for five bucks you can hardly go wrong. I bet most of us spend more than that on coffee in a day [discreetly hides his empty cup].

If this is something you’re interested in, my advice is this: find a team you enjoy and see them or their various members on some other night and after a couple shows you’ll begin to recognize improvisers and get a taste for your likes and dislikes. There is a lot of good improv out there; you just have to take the time to look.

– Harold Night at Bad Dog Theatre – 138 Danforth Ave. (just east of Broadview)
– On now until Oct 29 shows start at 8pm with second entrance at 9pm
– Tickets are $5 and available at the door, online or by phone 416-491-3115