BLACKOUT Sketch Comedy
El Cortez Tequila Bar + Kitchen (8230 Gateway Boulevard) August 13 – 23
More information: grindstonetheatre.ca
An interview with Derrick Johnson.
Describe your show in five words.
Hilarious, sexy, clever, political, musical
Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?
We are a group of nine that meet twice a week. Our cast comes from all sorts of backgrounds: arts, accounting, law, design… and we even some entrepreneurs. We all have a strong foundation in improv, which is essential to our writing format. In fall 2014, Byron [Martin] and I met and talk about our desire to bring a new kind of sketch comedy show to Edmonton. We threw our net far and wide, and eventually ended up with our current ensemble.
Blackout focuses on creating sketch through improv. Pitching our ideas around the table and then getting right into an improvised scene. This has really allows for certain pieces to blossom in ways I believe we just would not achieve by writing alone. We aim to create sketches that can stand on their own and have something to say, rather than create a joke or a one-liner and fill in a scene around it. A good sketch should also be a great story, that’s why some of our sketches will leave you thinking and grinning rather than crying and laughing.
You say in your press release Blackout is inspired by workshops at The Second City Chicago and The P.I.T. in New York City. How did those workshops influence Blackout?
In summer 2015, I spent a month at the Second City in Chicago. It was there that I was taught to use improv as a tool to create sketches, and to use writing to formulate characters and their stories. Five times a week, for four weeks, we were given writing assignments. Exercises that not only improved my improv and my writing, but sparked my desire to bring a little bit of Chicago back home.
While Byron and the 11 O’clock Number crew were in NYC, Byron attended a P.I.T. workshop on sketch writing. What we found when combining the writing structures from our experiences, was not a clash but a formation of a hybrid of the two styles. A formula that has really seemed to hit well with our current ensemble.
You debuted Blackout at NextFest – how has the show evolved from your NextFest run?
NextFest was our warm up for Fringe. Since then, we have taken in a lot of great feedback from peers and audience members. Our sketches have been trimmed and groomed to reflect some of the comments. We also have some exciting new shorts (blackouts) and new killer opener and closer sketches.
Blackout is sketch comedy rooted in improv – how do those two forms work in (or to create) Blackout?
There are gems you can only get to through improv and great stories you can only get to through writing.
When you combine the two with an experienced cast, you start honing in on some real gold. Improv will always be spontaneous and in the moment. You aren’t just creating a story around you, you’re living in it. When the sketch has been taken to a certain point in an improv setting, we dive into traditional writing form and from there, it’s as if some elements write themselves. Only it’s not always that easy, and that’s a good thing!
Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?
We draw on current events and we are very inspired by our city. We love working, and we can’t wait to start performing monthly shows. This is a future goal of ours and we welcome anyone interested in performing and writing to come check us out in the upcoming year. If you’d rather just catch a good show, we need you the most.
Bonus question: Any names you want to drop who have been involved in your show (Edmonton arts people or otherwise)?
Brittany Balser and Brianne Jang of BB Collective. They have helped us record and photograph moments that would have been lost to memory but are now safely secure in the cloud. Trent Crosby, tech extraordinaire, he is top notch and we are very excited to have him tech our show. Steve Pirot and Scott Peters from NextFest. Without a doubt, our show would be a different animal had we not been engaged and welcomed into NextFest 2015, it was such a great experience.
The 34th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 13 – 23. Get your tickets at tickets.fringetheatre.ca.