Behind the Door: Meg's Improv Journey

You probably don't know me. Maybe you've seen me at the London Music Club, walking around with a camera in my hand at an STFD show. Or maybe I took your ticket at the door. I'm not one of the amazingly talented performers on stage, and my picture isn't featured on the website or any of our social media platforms. But I am a member of Shut the Front Door Improv.

I'm usually behind the scenes, and I do whatever I can to help. I organize events and coordinate our troupes and volunteers. I create spreadsheets for shows, classes, workshops, and events. I'm part of the creative team and do a lot of photography for STFD. I help update our website with current and accurate information. I order merchandise, track orders, and keep inventory. I help run the Street Team, organizing volunteers and recognition events. Throw a few dozen other tasks on top, and my days are busy, but productive. While it can be overwhelming at times, I truly enjoy the work.

I've been given amazing opportunities to spend days with improvisers like Naomi Snieckus, Matt Baram, Patrick McKenna, and Rick and Laura Hall (to name a few!) I told Brandon when I started working with STFD that I wanted to meet Colin Mochrie. And then, there I was, glued to his side for an entire day, taking photos for our second Improv All-Stars show!

Deb McGrath, Megan Lunter, and Colin Mochrie backstage at STFD's second Improv All-Stars

Deb McGrath, Megan Lunter, and Colin Mochrie backstage at STFD's second Improv All-Stars

As incredible as those experiences were, however proud I am of the charity work we do, and as much as I enjoy working behind the scenes, none of these reasons are why I dedicate my time, skills, and effort to this wonderful organization.

I do this because I believe in Shut the Front Door and the power of improv, and I have seen firsthand how lives have been changed for the better.

STFD has created an involved, loving, and unbelievably supportive community, and I am so proud to be a member. I have never been part of a more accepting, tolerant, and welcoming community of people.

I have been associated with STFD for over four years now, but not until this past year did I fully understand the power that this group possesses. I took on a larger role in 2016 which put me right in the middle of the improv family that I had heard so much about. I helped organize our Street Team at Sunfest and Ribfest, and part of that role meant I would be working at the booth with our volunteers, promoting and supporting STFD.

The experience was transformative. The people I worked with were truly amazing. Whether they had taken STFD's improv classes, or they were supporters who came out every month to see a show - their energy, passion, and attitudes were contagious. More importantly, the kindness, love, and support they showed to one another was admirable. I couldn't tell the difference between friendships that had begun months ago, and those that had just started that morning. We had so much fun, and I felt accepted, welcome, and safe with my new improv family.

Members of STFD's Street Team at Sunfest 2016.

Members of STFD's Street Team at Sunfest 2016.

As Lily Mae would say, "You meet the best people in improv."

She's right. You really do. I always look forward to spending time with people I've met through STFD, and I know I can count on them for anything.

I want to take an opportunity to thank all the wonderful, talented, special people that I have met through my improv journey. It is because of you that I strive to help grow this scene, create new and exciting opportunities, and build this brilliant community! I am so thankful there is somewhere everyone can go to be welcomed, loved, and supported.

Thank you to Shut the Front Door for bringing more love and acceptance into this wild world. 

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Written by Megan Lunter - STFD Director of Operations & Official Photographer

STFD Summer Scoop: The Brandon Edition

as long as you can make yourself laugh...

as long as you can make yourself laugh...

The summer is in full swing, and that means you probably haven't seen us in a while! With our new season just around the corner, we take a look at how the STFD improvisers have been spending the warm months. Third up is Brandon Rudd:

How have you been spending your summer?

I didn't have too many big plans. We took a few family road trips - to Ipperwash Beach, Toronto, and Collingwood. The STFD booths at Sunfest and Ribfest were also a ton of fun.

What comedy are you watching/listening to/reading right now?

I'm listening to The Backline Podcast (featuring RN and Cawls, who will be in town with us on September 16th!) I'm loving Maya and Marty - it's such a cool throwback to the days of funny, silly variety shows. My favourite right now is Baroness von Sketch Show - it's brilliant! I really look forward to new episodes and I'm so proud that these women are Canadian.

How would you spend your ideal summer weekend?

It would be quiet...very quiet. Darkness, shorts, Collingwood whisky, my deck, and most importantly, my wife and daughter.

How are you preparing for the upcoming STFD season?

Spending countless hours creating new shows, classes, and experiences for our fans. We had a blast at Sunfest and Ribfest, and hosted London's first ever Rooftop Improv show!

What are you most excited about this season?

The guests, the new shows, and the addition of another troupe to the STFD family! I really enjoy seeing new and old faces at classes and shows. I love teaching improv because it inspires me to continue working harder for our awesome community.

How do you prepare before you hit the stage for a performance?

I eat well and drink lots of water. I also try to stay away from anything comedy-related a day or two in advance to ensure I don't subconsciously "borrow" a joke or character.

Shut the Front Door return to the London Music Club on September 9th with The Country Mockery Awards, and RN and Cawls Live in London! on September 16th. CLICK HERE to purchase a Fall Flex Pass today and save!

STFD Summer Scoop: The Kevin Edition

Hip hop, ya don't stop

Hip hop, ya don't stop

The summer is in full swing, and that means you probably haven't seen us in a while! With our new season just around the corner, we take a look at how the STFD improvisers have been spending the warm months. Second in our series is Kevin Elliott:

How have you been spending your summer?

This summer has been packed! I have somehow managed to cram in work, three weddings, teaching, swimming, biking, golf, Finding Dory, Brit Floyd, and Rock the Park. The biggest event of the summer will be when my wife competes in her first Half Ironman Triathlon in August. I'm looking forward to supporting her from the comfort of the sidelines through 2 km of swimming, 90 km of biking, and 21 km of running.

What comedy are you watching/listening to/reading right now?

I've been watching the Baroness von Sketch Show, and listening to specials by Louis C.K, Daniel Tosh, Bo Burnham, and Dane Cook. I am very much looking forward to Mike Birbiglia's improv movie, Don't Think Twice. I also recently watched Trust Us, This Is All Made Up, a live recording of a show by improv geniuses, TJ and Dave.

How would you spend your ideal summer weekend?

If I could piece together one glorious weekend with what I've already experienced this summer, it would include the following:

Friday night - Rock the Park (featuring Nelly and Flo Rida, and Ludacris decides to show up this time)

Saturday - Golfing with the boys, nap time, BBQ'd anything paired with a delicious Beau's Lug Tread (product placement), spending time with my laday. (Editor's note: I'm assuming this means 'wife.')

Sunday - Sleep in, beach day at Sauble with my laday (Ed. note: see above), pizza fo' dinna (Ed. note: I'm just going to give up at this point), watch a movie, and record a podcast that a buddy of mine does called Conversations with Cheese and the Tugboat, which can be found at www.thetugboat.ca.

How are you preparing for the upcoming STFD season?

I've been reading TJ and Dave's book, Improvisation at the Speed of Life, as well as Pam Victor's blog, My Nephew is a Poodle, which focuses on mixing zen mindfulness with improv. I've also been reading People and Chairs.

These books and blogs have provided me with some helpful tips on how to practice improv on my own. Most frequently, I work on Ten Things, freestyle rapping, and object work.

In September, I'm going to Chicago for a week-long improv intensive at The iO Theater. Many comedians that you know and love have studied there, including the wonderfully talented Tara and Rance, who came to town to perform with us last season!

What are you most excited about this season?

I'm really looking forward to the shows involving special guests, RN and Cawls and Improv All-Stars. Other than that, I'm just hoping to continue honing my skills as an improviser, especially in longform.

How do you prepare before you hit the stage for a performance?

Aside from fighting other troupe members for the bathroom, I do a solid warm up of 'Do Run Run' or 'Do Do Do Do' (improv is about DOing, not thinking). I'll eat a few pepperoni sticks and some cheese, and secretly do a few meditation exercises to get present and focused, and to calm some of dem nerves. (Ed. note: This proves that Kevin is as much of a gangster offstage as he is onstage.)

Shut the Front Door return to the London Music Club on September 9th with The Country Mockery Awards, and RN and Cawls Live in London! on September 16th. CLICK HERE to purchase a Fall Flex Pass today and save!

STFD Summer Scoop: The Ryan Edition

Try not to make direct eye contact.

Try not to make direct eye contact.

The summer is in full swing, and that means you probably haven't seen us in a while! With our new season just around the corner, we take a look at how the STFD improvisers have been spending the warm months. First up, Ryan Holden:

How have you been spending your summer?

Learning how to parent! Improv has definitely helped me with my parenting skills, as I've learned to roll with the punches. I'm also looking forward to seeing The Tragically Hip in London.

What comedy are you watching/listening to/reading right now?

I always enjoy HBO comedies. The incredible writing mixed with improv has made for some hilarious shows. Silicon Valley and Vice Principals are two of the best shows out there. I always enjoy kicking back and listening to TJ and Dave, as well as Improv For Humans. You can't go wrong with Matt Besser and company.

How would you spend your ideal summer weekend?

Quality time with my family is number one. I also enjoy a nice, relaxing camping trip when I can squeeze one in.

How are you preparing for the upcoming STFD season?

I'm using my improv skills at home and at work. I've also started using a new conditioner on my beard to ensure it maintains a nice, glossy finish. I know our audiences and students will really appreciate the extra effort.

What are you most excited about this season?

The troupe members don't tend to see each other as much during the summer months, as we take a bit of a break. It'll be nice to see everyone on a regular basis and get back to performing!

How do you prepare before you hit the stage for a performance?

I enjoy a quick bite to eat before the show - pita chips and hummus usually do the trick. I also make sure I'm warmed up. A little 'Do Run Run' or a warm-up circle with the troupe always gets my head in the game.

Shut the Front Door return to the London Music Club on September 9th with The Country Mockery Awards, and RN and Cawls Live in London! on September 16th. CLICK HERE to purchase a Fall Flex Pass today and save!

Thank You, Claire!

What a show last night!

So many laughs, tears, and cheers for an amazing friend, improviser, and performer - Claire Simone.

Over four years ago, Claire entered our lives with an energy and passion for music. She wanted to take a "leap of faith" and try something new, so she took a chance on improv comedy. Claire immediately said "yes, and," found herself on stage, and quickly stole the spotlight with her passion for combining music and comedy.

Behind the scenes, Claire was always willing to help, and was someone who could be counted on whenever needed. Claire never hid her passion for teaching and helping grow the improv scene in London. She was so caring and always took the time to chat and get to know our students on a human level. Claire sacrificed numerous hours with her family for road shows, and was willing to rearrange her hectic schedule because she loved to perform. Many late Friday nights at the London Music Club led to sleep-deprived Saturday mornings at work, but Claire always did it with a smile.

Claire will forever be part of Shut the Front Door's DNA, and we are so grateful for the moments we shared with her, both on- and offstage.

As one journey comes to an end, another one starts. We are so happy for Claire and her new all-female troupe, "Y Not?" We know their improv journey will lead them toward great things.

We wish Claire all the best, and look forward to having an opportunity to work with her again in the future. We will always be your funny family!

Brandon Rudd is the Artistic Director of Shut The Front Door Improv, located in London, Ontario, Canada. He loves comedy and his idol is Chris Farley.

 

The Power of Improv

I recently had a wonderful experience as one of the coaches for Masterclass 8. I received first hand insight into this great group of individuals, who six months ago didn't know each other.

After classes, the students would jump onto Facebook and share their experiences. As well as trying to keep spirits up for those who may have had a tough night.

However it was this past weekend, a few short days before their first ever show, that student Lisse shared her story of how Improv has changed her life.

"Putting myself out there with this but..it is fb..and we are always posting other people’s quotes and thoughts so why not some of my own thoughts...
I have never had an easy time connecting with people..making friends is not my forte although, I do have a few tried and true that are true friends..I have always been a fairly private person..if I don’t call or txt or email it’s not because I don’t consider you worth my time..I just am not the kind of person to socialize, no matter how much or how little..if there is something wrong and you need my help, I will be there in an instant..if there is something to celebrate and you invite me, I will be there..but I don’t go out of my way, at all, to connect with others..I suck at small talk, I don’t ask those key questions to keep a conversation rolling..I just don’t think like that..I have a bad habit of saying what’s on my mind..no filter..it can make me sound like quite the bitch at times..even after I say things I don’t always realize that I have offended someone..I do not even clue in to it in the slightest..I have a ridiculous sense of humour that others don’t always get..and to those people I look nothing less than weird..so I guess, in writing this, I am not really putting myself out there..I am just stating who I am..like it or not..


I have waded through a lot of shit in my life and it has been my God given sense of humour that has kept me afloat..my kids have commented on how fun our house is because we can be silly and make each other laugh..I guess we are just a weird family and laughter is our connection..
When I speak with no filter, it is me literally saying whatever it is that I am thinking..my sense of humour though works in quite the opposite way..I don’t say what I’m thinking..I just open my mouth and out it comes, no thinking involved..last August, I found a group that is very accepting of that..in fact, they all share that same sense of humour..they didn’t walk away from me and roll their eyes thinking I am weird..well, who’s to say what they were thinking but..they didn’t walk away..our group started with twelve..over the weeks and months it whittled down to five..five different people from different walks of life..we have likened ourselves to the Breakfast Club (although we don’t really have a criminal)..and with a behind the scenes joke, that name evolved into the English Breakfast Club..our five has been joined by three that have been through this before us..they have grown through improv with their group before us and have come back to join our group of five..with all of these people I am able to be myself..and I am not the odd one out because of my sense of humour (okay, yes, I am the basket case of our EBC) but it is a good weird..I actually fit..and connect with people that laugh about the same things as me..we have bonded over our insecurities about being on stage in front of others..and we high five..or air five as the case may be..at a job well done..we are there to cover each other’s backs and step up when one of us just can’t find the words..we are all about epic fails and yet not letting each other fail..with my improv group I can truly say I am comfortable to be me..as I meet new people that are slowly becoming regulars in my life through monthly improv get togethers I am learning to connect..I am still different from the average person but different is good..without differences the world would be a really boring place..laughter is where it’s at..thank you Shut The Front Door Improv team for the fun and laughter but most of all for the friendships..thank you for opening the door (well that’s ironic) to a world where I can still be me.."

This post not only moved their group, but ours as well.
Lisse's story is the fibre which STFD was built on and is the highest compliment we can receive.

Four little words.... You changed my life.

Tonight, this group conquers their first public performance. Myself and the instructors could not be more proud and excited for these students who have come together to make magic both on and off stage with improv.

 

Brandon Rudd is the Artistic Director of Shut The Front Door Improv, located in London, Ontario, Canada. He loves comedy and his idol is Chris Farley.

 

Brandon's Blog: Happy New Year!

Welcome to the first blog of 2016!

First, I want to take the time to thank our fans, sponsors, guests, and everyone who helped make 2015 our best year yet.

As we enter a new year, we also enter another new chapter. Over the past five years, I have been honoured to be able to perform for such incredibly generous and fun-loving crowds throughout London and Southwestern Ontario.

In that time, we have proudly performed over 120 shows, helping numerous causes in the process. We have come quite a long way since our first rehearsals in the back room of Music Central (Thanks, Rob Aitken!).

Performing is a real passion of mine, but so too is seeing the improv scene in London grow, flourish, and thrive.

Each year, I have seen more growth within our improv community, and it has been incredible to watch. “If you build it, they will come.” They certainly have come – to see locals cut their teeth with a new art form that is relatively unfamiliar to London. We have a troupe of regulars trying new formats every month, and we have seasoned improvisers from all across the globe coming to the Forest City to play for smart, appreciative audiences.

As my performing will be taking a bit of a back seat in 2016, I want to make a commitment to you. We are dedicated to making London’s improv scene bigger and better. We will be focusing on long-term goals, and bringing our audiences the freshest, funniest shows. We will offer engaging, fun, and interesting classes and workshops for students of all ages and abilities. We will provide opportunities for new improvisers to hone their craft.

Another journey has just begun, and I could not be happier with where we’ve been and where we’re headed.

We have so many exciting things planned for 2016 and cannot wait to share them with you.  We would like to sincerely thank you for believing in us, thank you for promoting something positive in our community, and thank you for making dreams come true.

 

Brandon Rudd is the Artistic Director of Shut The Front Door Improv, located in London, Ontario, Canada. He loves comedy and his idol is Chris Farley.