From bridesmaids to pimps, improv fest reels in laughs
TORONTO INTERNATIONAL IMPROV FESTIVAL through Sunday (August 22), Cabaret Stage at the Bad Dog Theatre (138 Danforth, Mainstage at Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley). $10-$20. 416-238-7337, www.torontoimprovfest.com.
Pimprov followed by a rap battle hosted by DSI's the beatbox Friday (August 20) at midnight. $10. Bad Dog Theatre (138 Danforth). 416-238-7337.
To someone with a little street cred, improv and all its rules about teamwork, sharing and acceptance can seem nauseatingly warm and cuddly. Not so for Pimprov.
"Pimps don't follow the rules," says Marz Timms, founder of the bad-ass Chicago improv troupe.
"They're greedy. They get into fights."
If the best comedy comes from what you know, then performing in character as pimps trying to do improv isn't that much of a stretch for the quintet.
They met at Chicago's Second City and gelled making fun of one member's father, a genuine former pimp. (They prefer to stay mute on who, for fear "his dad will whop his ass.")
Another member, policeman Mark Bratton (aka Ho'Lease), is familiar with the profession from his day job.
"We thought it would be funny to see these gritty people try to do a scene where they had to act like a tree or a little girl," explains Timms, whose alter-ego is Grande Finale ("because after me there are no others") and Rhett Butler ("because frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn").
Like true mack daddies, the players dress in the finest pimp couture and give game to potential hos in the audience to add to their stables.
But Pimprov insist they're about more than just the bling.
"It's not just shucking and jiving and holding our crotches," says Keith Smitherman, aka Mr. Roarke ("because like on Fantasy Island, he makes all your fantasies come true").
Of course, pimpin' ain't always pretty. The shows can get raw, and Pimprov have sometimes heard complaints about their liberal use of the word "nigga," even though they're all African American.
"But that's what pimps say," maintains Timms. "They don't care about being politically correct. We're not here to get people to vote - we're here to make them laugh."
"It's a good family show," jokes Smitherman, by day a primary school teacher. "If you want your kids to learn about pimpin' early, bring your daughters."