Performers at Triple Threat Thursday.
Performers at Triple Threat Thursday.

Culture | Racism is not a joke

Montreal Improv show proves necessity of racial diversity

Triple Threat Thursday, hosted by Montreal Improv, an organization dedicated to promoting the art of improvised theatre, provides a dose of comedic relief from chaotic city life. On the last Thursday of every month, comedy fans are treated to performances by both up-and-coming actors and established improv masters. Though the comics may have great improvisational skill, their lack of representation shows that there’s other skills the event still has to master. Members of the Montreal comedy community need to educate themselves and each other and work on creating a safe environment before inviting artists of colour into the community.

Last week’s routine followed the Harold format, a performance structure made famous by the comedy sketch Upright Citizens Brigade in New York. After asking the audience for a starting word, the comics divide into three groups and presented three distinct scenes based on their interpretation of the chosen word. Despite the initial thematic link, the scenes were largely unrelated, making the format difficult to follow, but still an impressive feat to perform. Despite its rigidity, the Harold structure paradoxically allowed for more artistic expression. Given that the comics had to create three different characters, and reconstruct them throughout the night, their characters turned out fully developed. This opportunity for enriched character development is oftentimes missed when comics are given a simple, isolated prompt. At Montreal Improv, during the show, comics did not follow the Harold structure strictly, but more as a guideline, allowing room for error and flexibility. Clearly, creativity was their main focus.

Though the comics may have great improvisational skill, their lack of representation shows that there’s other skills the event still has to master.

The first team, “Small Fry,” featuring McGill graduate D.J. Mausner, kicked off the night by asking the audience for a word. The audience settled on “button” and the show began from there. The ensemble’s jokes about breakups, the downsides of living with your partner, and awkward relationships with grandparents set the tone for the night. Another team, “Bayside,” enacted a satirical take on both agoraphobia and the stereotypes attached to boy bands.

Jaymie Metivier, Triple Threat Thursday’s producer, entered Montreal’s comedy community simply by taking comedy classes, and became a producer by advancing through various roles. When asked what makes Montreal’s comedy community distinct, he told The Daily that in the U.S., the “SNL-style improv” pervades the comedy scene, but Canada embraces the British style of improv, which is “more story driven than material driven. It is about more than simply making people laugh, and a happy halfway point between American and British style.”

“The main conversation [in the standup scene right now] is inclusivity.”

—Jaymie Metivier

Though many of the performances were enjoyable, the show was lacking in various aspects. 18 comics performed on Thursday night, and all of them were white. According to Metivier, this is a problem faced by Montreal’s larger comic scene.

“The main conversation going on [right now in the standup comedy community] is inclusivity regarding race, gender, and sexuality. The discussion is pushing [us] in the right direction, and Montreal’s artistic community deeply encourages change, which bleeds into comedy,” Metivier said. He hopes that people of colour, especially women and femmes of colour, will feel welcomed into the community. This is already starting to happen, exemplified by the Montreal Ladyfest, a newly organized festival celebrating comedy produced by women and femmes, but the lack of racial representation continues to be an ongoing issue.

In Team Bayside’s scene, some of the performers pretended to be in a boy band. One member labelled herself “the heartthrob” and designated others as “the cool one, and the ethnic one,” continuing, “I guess it’s 2016 and we need to be politically correct,” implying that representation is not only unimportant but also a nuisance. Luckily, one of her fellow comics was quick to call her out by responding, “you’re gonna need a lot of work.”

It was an apt response in the moment, but the community itself needs to consciously work on racial inclusivity and representation. Instead of expecting people of colour to voluntarily enter a potentially hostile environment, the work can start with community members not only to educate themselves about anti-racism, but also use their privilege to educate each other.


Montreal Improv hosts free comedy workshops with flexible hours. All workshops can be found at montrealimprov.com.


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