What happens when you combine Wheel of Fortune with improv comedy? Find out at The Second City
By Brianne Hogan
The Second City Training Centre has been the breeding ground for aspiring local comedians for a while, but it’s only in the last few years that it has started hosting public performances, thanks to the launch of its John Candy Box Theatre. Tonight, The Wheel of Improv series, created by comedian and Second City instructor Natasha Boomer, celebrates its third year with the mainstage treatment.
We caught up with Boomer to talk improv games and why it’s so fun watching someone spin the wheel for the first time.
When did Wheel of Improv start and why?
Wheel technically started 11 years ago as a way for my conservatory class at Second City to work together. Then when we started the Candy Box [Theatre], there was a slot open on Monday nights that no one wanted. So I decided to do Wheel of Improv.
For those who’ve never been to Wheel, how would you describe it?
To be honest, I don’t. This show can’t be described; it must be experienced. I say: trust me. You will have fun.
(Writer’s aside: as someone who’s attended Wheel before, the show can be described as a sort of Wheel of Fortune for improvisers. Brave souls volunteer to spin the Wheel, which determines the improv game that they will play in front of the audience, and yes, it is very fun.)
Name some of your favourite games to watch.
I love watching any game played well. But it’s not the game per se, it is the limitation of that game which I love. Word games. I love verbal games.
Any personal favourites you like to play yourself?
At Wheel, we call these Boner games. My Boner games are: Sounds Like a Song, Actor’s Nightmare, ABC and Scene in Rhyme.
What's the most memorable experience from Wheel over the past three years?
Any time we have someone from the Second City Tour Company who comes to play, it is usually pretty amazing. But I remember this one night in Sept. 2009. The audience was packed and the show was just starting to get some momentum. We were finding our way and we had been struggling with some games and, so, some of the shows in the first year really kinda blew. But this night everything fell in place, the shows rocked, and every game was played so well. People were listening and learning, and everyone was so happy. I was so happy. It was one of those moments that you know this show was about to be something bigger then you thought.
What’s your absolute favourite part of hosting Wheel? Why do you keep doing it?
The students. Watching them grow, watching them learn. The laughter. It is a fun and funny show. I love watching someone nail a game that they have struggled with. I love watching someone conquer a fear. I love watching a student finally hit that stage for the first time. You can see it in their eyes, excitement, fear and sheer panic all rolled into one spin of the wheel. I keep doing it because it is necessary for our training centre and community. I keep doing it because it is my destiny and I follow my dreams. This is one of my dreams.
Why should people come to the third year anniversary of Wheel? What's going to happen there? Anything special?
Community, man! And to celebrate improv in this city. We don’t do enough of that. Just to celebrate everything improv gives to us: freedom, connection and creativity. Monday night will run just like every other Monday night would, except bigger because we are on the Mainstage. I will be making chocolates and cupcakes and we have ordered some swag. Plus, there’s the reveal of our new logo and slogan.
Wheel of Improv, The Second City, 416-343-011. Mondays at 10 p.m.