A five-storey, 600,000 cubic feet industrial space is transformed for this walkthrough exhibit.
When it comes to improv, Ed Sahely has an important message. “Don’t judge,” the instructor tells students in his introductory class at Toronto’s Second City Training Centre. He asks one of the six novices in the room to stand in the middle of the group and hold a movement, like a statue. He then asks another to run in and hold a complimentary pose.
“Add to the picture,” Sahely says. “Waiting for a full idea will freeze you. The quicker you go, the better, so you don’t censor yourself too much.”
While the training centre has been operating since the early-1980s—offering classes in everything from writing to improv—Second City stage shows have cracked-up Torontonians since 1973. Past players include Dan Aykroyd, John Candy and Mike Myers, who performed a character called Wayne on the mainstage in 1986.
“Second City is the best sketch comedy in the world,” says Mark Breslin. A member of the Order of Canada, he co-opened Yuk Yuk’s comedy club in Toronto 43 years ago. Since then the business has been franchised and there are clubs in cities across the country. Breslin also co-founded Humber College’s School of Comedy in Toronto, which is one of a handful of degree-granting comedy programs in the world. “I would place the quality of what’s on Toronto stages against any place, including New York and Los Angeles.”
Breslin says there are a number of spots to make you laugh in the Toronto: large comedy clubs, visiting acts at Massey Hall and the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, and a number of places where events may take place once a week.
No matter where you go to watch a show, Breslin’s advice is simple: do your research. “There is no excuse for someone coming to a comedy club and saying, ‘I didn’t like that show,’ because you can go online and get a taste of what that headliner is all about.”
Mark Breslin’s stand-out cities for comedy
1. New York City
In New York, “the clubs are right in your face and there is a lot of back and forth with the audience,” says Breslin. “It’s very impolite, especially the clubs down by the village, and they are exciting to go to.” He recommends the Comedy Cellar, Carolines on Broadway and Upper West Side venue, Stand Up NY.
2. Los Angeles
“The Comedy Store is haunted by all the ghosts of the miscreants who have been there over the past 40 years,” says Breslin about this club, whose alumni includes Eddie Murphy, Sam Kinison and Jim Carrey. He also likes the Laugh Factory. “In many ways, it is the most exciting because they will take a chance on the fresher faces and it is more diverse.”
3. Halifax, Nova Scotia
The East Coast, which is home to This Hour Has 22 Minutes, pumps out the laughs each April with the Ha!ifax ComedyFest. “The Maritimes is one of the few places in Canada that has its own original voice,” says Breslin. “The Scot-Irish influence is strong, and of course, the people are very funny.”
Read more: The Scottish City Where Comedy Rules
[This story appears in the January 2019 issue of WestJet Magazine]
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