Travel Blog

29 Sep

The 12th Annual Vancouver International Improv Festival


The following post was contributed by Vikram Singh

I really want to meet the guy who doesn’t like to laugh. I know how I’d cure him: I’d expose him to a genre of comedy that is not based upon punchlines, one-liners, satire, or any of the other elements that pop in to our head when we think of funny. In short, I’d take him to see an improv show.

Not that I assume you, gentle reader, lack a sense of humour, but it’s important to understand the effects of improvisational comedy, and why you should see the Vancouver International Improv Festival (VIIF) at Performance Works on Granville Island.

Improv is more than your Whose Line is it’s Anyway B-listers trying to crack wise in order to get a group of middle-age couch potatoes to laugh. It’s performers dealing with unexpected or absurd situations. It’s about the struggle that an improviser has with his fellow performers. In many ways, it’s about how playing with the idea of trying to be funny is funny.

“Every large city now has a healthy improv scene”, says Kaitlin Fontana, one of the show’s Directors. She notes how improv is blossoming and increasing in profile, especially in North America. VIIF itself is on its twelfth year. While Festival Director Alistair Cook originated it as more of a tournament, eventually the Festival transformed into an event based on collaboration more than competition, and now it acts as a showcase some of North America’s best improv troupes.

Local heavyweights like Sunday Service sit along Canadian stars such as Picnicface (whose show just premiered on the Comedy Network) and American powerhouses such as ImprovBoston. Each troupe brings their own unique take and spontaneous creativity towards improv.

In many ways the design of the festival seems to reflect this unpredictability. “We like to be surprised with the performers we choose,” Kaitlin notes, who herself is a noted improviser, as well as a respected journalist. She notes that each year’s festival is not planned in advance particularly systematically – the variety and unpredictability of the performers are what is attractive to the festival’s organizers.

Two shows – 7:30 and 9:30 – will run until October 1st, so you still have some time to head down to Granville Island and enjoy some side-splitting humour, which is actually a needlessly gruesome way to describe the festival as tremendously funny.

Note that while ticket pre-sales are finished, there are still tickets available at the door. For more information, be sure to check out the festival site here –

So take some initiative, PVR your TV shows, and go laugh at some real comedians.

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