Taking your clothes off for a large crowd is – understandably – a stressful proposition for most people.
If that crowd were to burst into hysterics, the impulse to run screaming from the room, followed by plastic surgery and a name change would be equally comprehensible.
But a group of Vancouver improv comics in their mid-40s and 50s have chosen to embrace their self-described “comedy bodies,” all in the name of a good laugh.
The Comic Strippers show is coming to Whitehorse later this month for two shows at the Yukon Arts Centre. The first night has already sold out, so a second show was added.
On stage, troupe members Chris Casillan, Ken Lawson, Pearce Visser and Roman Danylo will be playing facetious male strippers who “have been in the business far too long and now they’re trying their hand at a different type of entertainment to get more respect in their lives,” explained Danylo.
They’ve decided to try out improv comedy. But old habits die hard, and whenever music comes on they can’t help but dance.
(For those wondering, nobody actually gets naked. Picture shirtless men in purple bow ties.)
When they’re not showing off their middle-aged man moves, the characters take the crowd through a variety of improv games based on suggestions from the audience.
“In some ways, that part of the show is like a shirtless SSLqWhose Line is it Anyway?’” Danylo said.
The show has been going on since 2011.
Danylo said his wife came home from a real male review show that year raving about how much fun it was.
“I was like, we have torsos, we can do that.”
Improv parodies have been recently created based on TV shows like Star Trek and Game of Thrones, but no one has tackled the male review genre, he said.
“I thought this is an exciting, fun, specific type of show that would be fun to parody.”
The other members of the troupe were surprisingly easy to convince, he said.
They’re all members of the Vancouver TheatreSports League, the award-winning improv theatre company on Granville Island.
This type of storyline did take some getting used to, Danylo said.
“The first few times we did it, definitely we were all giggling like idiots backstage about the ridiculousness of what we were about to do,” he said.
“People are, in a last minute futile attempt to get fit, doing one push-up backstage.”
Since then the actors are less self-conscious, he said, though they still stretch beforehand.
“This is the most physically demanding show any of us have ever done.”
Since they started, The Comic Strippers have played sold out venues in Canada, the U.S. and Australia.
“The U.S. has Chippendales, Australia has Thunder From Down Under and, you know, Canadians are known for their comedy internationally,” Danylo said.
“So I think it would be really funny if our version was this sort of ironic version of that genre.”
Audiences have embraced their role in the show from day one, he said.
“Everyone’s pretending that we are superstars of sexiness right from the get-go. So the reactions are great.”
The Comic Strippers are coming to the Yukon Arts Centre on April 29 and 30. Both nights start at 8 p.m. and last for about two hours. The shows are for people 19 years and older only.
True male reviews often charge for photos with the cast following a show. After the Whitehorse performances, Danylo said, the cast will be available for free photos.
“With our ‘comedy bodies,’ probably people aren’t really going to want to pay for it.”
Contact Ashley Joannou at