Improv and relationships are best when both people have the same interests.
Art has always been a great outlet for those suffering through the effects of romantic strife. Six years after their break up as a romantic couple, the improv duo of Dog Martin (Paddy MacDonald & Steph Haller) have come back together in the artistic sense to bring us: “Too Much Information Improvised”. It’s a spontaneous fringe show that merges their romantic foibles with the magic of improvisational comedy. I got to chat with Paddy & Steph about improv, the joys of outdoor comedy, their use of live instrumentation, and the return to the live experience.
A lot of good improv is based on knowing your scene partner’s habits and reactions. How did being in a relationship before you were an improv duo help improve your scenes?
PM: The short answer is that it didn’t. I think at the beginning it was a bit restrictive. I was a little nervous because of our history and the things that had been left unsaid when we stopped seeing each other. Now I’m extremely comfortable with Steph on stage. I’m completely comfortable with making jokes. We had to work on talking about our relationship, I mean, that’s the whole show. Once we got over that, the show became markedly better.
SH: The scenes that we did before the show, when we were taking classes together, had a bit of fire to them because there was this tension between us. I always thought that it was pretty interesting to watch. We’re at a point now that we can be in each other’s spaces and not feel weird about it.
PM: We definitely had a lot of chemistry. Well, we always had a lot of chemistry.
SH: We’ve worked really hard to get out of our heads, and into our bodies.
You performed outside a lot during the pandemic. At least with Stand Up you have the microphone to demarcate the line between the reality and the entertainment you’re providing. It’s a little hard for somebody to come across an improv show outside and know it’s an improv show. All kidding aside for those reading this in the future, how did you go about promoting a show during the time of COVID?
PM: These are really good questions. Steph did a lot of work and I helped out whenever I could.
SH: It was a lot of directly reaching out to people. Working with the Assembly really helped. We were just so excited to be out in the world that it kind of stopped being about getting people to come to the show. It was more that we really wanted to perform the show, and if there was an audience, that was great.
PM: Yup, we once performed to an audience of one on a rooftop patio. We performed for two people in a parking spot.
SH: We also performed a bunch and got the word out online. Shoutout to Duo Derby, Improv and Chili, and Assembly Tuesdays.
Having recently produced an outdoor comedy show myself, I had the opportunity of seeing just what madcap madness people can get up to during one of these things. Do you have any stories that you can share from your time playing shows in the great outdoors of The GTAs many great parks?
PM: We had a few backyard shows in Hamilton where people just had dogs running around. Every character we played had a dog. It was super fun to incorporate.
SH: There’s a casual quality about the backyard and park shows. Our show has a conversational quality about it, and people seem to be really into creating a dialogue with us during those performances, more so than inside.
PM: We had a scene that took place in a confessional booth and we had an audience member chime in and give us corrections on accuracy. It heightened the scene in a way we weren’t expecting.
Unlike many Improv groups, you’ve chosen to use live instrumentation to accentuate the musical portion of your performances. How does live instrumentation add to an improv performance? Have you found any funny moments that you’ve encountered since adding the acoustic guitar to the improv?
PM: Originally we had a recording and we would sing along to it, but there were lots of tech glitches. We eventually switched over to the guitar, because we both play music. It was just the most bare bones option.
SH: I think about our songs at touchstones throughout the show. We also played a lot of music over the course of our relationship, so it just kind of fits.
In terms of a funny story, we actually close the show with a One Direction song, and when we performed the show for Paddy’s brother, who is a professional musician, he was super impressed with the last song. He thought we wrote it.
PM: I’ll be the first to say that my brother can be a little snobby about music, so it was pretty funny.
Getting back to the topic at hand, you’ll be performing in the Fringe Binge. For London theater this is a return to indoor audiences. Have you gotten a chance to perform inside yet? What are you feeling as you start getting chances to perform inside? What have you missed most about the indoor performance experience?
PM: I’m most excited for the sound of a stage when people are walking on it. The texture and the sensation of being inside of a theatre. The seats going down. Hearing an audience come in.
SH: We performed at Comedy Bar recently, and it was so strange and exhilarating. Having energy contained in a room like that is wild. I think there were eight people in the audience, but it felt like a full house. Hearing all of those laughs reverberate off of the walls. There’s nothing like it. We are so pumped to get this show up on stage.
Too Much Information Improvised runs from September 29th to October 2nd at The London Fringe Presents Fringe Binge 2021 at the Palace Theatre.