Vincent Holiday brings improv to Dayton
By J.T. Ryder
A nightmare for any comedian would be to stand in front of a waiting audience, completely awash in the piercing glare of the unflinching spotlights, without a single shred of material prepared as the audience shouts at you in a cacophony of catcalls. A nightmare for any stand-up comedian, I should say, except for a local improv troupe like Angry Bacon.
Improv thrives on the adrenalized rush that comes from the unknown recesses of humor. To have the plots twist and the scenarios change at a moment’s notice keeps the people who embrace improv as an art form on their toes and their wit and references honed razor sharp.
In a recent conversation with founder and participant of Angry Bacon, Vincent Holiday, I was curious as to what the differences between sketch comedy, regular stand-up comedy and improv actually were.
“The audience participation, I believe, would be the largest difference,” Holiday said before illustrating the differences between improv and other types of comedy. “With stand-up, the comedian has spent a lot of time rehearsing and crafting every word and the message that they want to convey to the audience. But in improv, the audience dictates what they want the comedian to do, so we really have no idea what is going to happen.”
Holiday went on to describe other differences, “The thing with improv: It’s literally a different show every time, whereas with stand-up, comedians will consistently be working on their same jokes, so you could see a comedian four times in a year and it’s the exact same thing. But, you can see an improv show and you can literally watch the same person do the same game four times in a night and have it be completely different every time.”
Although Angry Bacon is fairly new to the local comedy scene, the cumulative stage experience of its members numbers in the decades. Aside from having an active sense of humor, stage experience and timing, do the members of Angry Bacon have some form of exercises to sharpen their ad-libbing skills?
“We do practice. We do the games on our own and, for suggestions, we’ll often take a dictionary and open it up to a random page, point to a word and that’s our subject,” he said. Holiday also said that the practice is never ending, even within their times of relaxation. “A lot of us watch documentaries and do a lot of learning and studying. We immerse ourselves in as much knowledge as possible so we can handle anything that gets thrown at us,” he said.
Holiday and other members of Angry Bacon have played within the Cincinnati-based sketch comedy troupe Underbelly as well as some of them having some form of theatrical training. The familiarity with sketch comedy and theater has helped affiliates of Angry Bacon to utilize plot twists and development as well as the lateral thinking skills needed to spontaneously create comedic conclusions. In all actuality, Underbelly was more or less the area that Angry Bacon was sliced, salted then cured from…wow…that was a bad analogy.
“Angry Bacon was actually started, unofficially, at the Newport Funnybone,” said Holiday. “An audience member who saw Underbelly contracted Travis Clyburn and me, plus a lot of other people that we hadn’t met, and got us to do an improv show. From there, Travis and I stayed connected with Parker (Searfross), Jackie (Hart) and other local people and we decided to keep everything going ourselves.”
Their “official” start began at Dirty Little Secrets, a local variety show at Wiley’s in downtown Dayton, where they were exceptionally well received by the audience and the other acts.
They have since played Dirty Little Secrets as well as booking into the Xenia Area Community Theater for a series of shows with a changing roster of members such as Josh Smith, Karen Jaffe (who has trained at Second City for several years) and Travis Clyburn (who has run improv classes at the Rosewood Art Center in Kettering), among others. With this burgeoning talent and exceptional interest in improv, I asked Vincent Holiday what he hoped Angry Bacon would eventually become…
“I would like it to be a regularly seen event in Dayton and have it as part of the whole art scene,” Holiday said. “Maybe we could eventually have branches in, like, Cincinnati and Chicago, much on the same level as the Upright Citizens Brigade, Second City or the Groundlings.”
Who knows what the future holds and, in improv, what the next minute holds, but I fear that if things go according to Holiday’s plans and the troupe expands thusly, there may not be anything to be angry about anymore.
Angry Bacon’s next show is slated for August 19 at 8 p.m. at the Xenia Area Community Theater, 45 E. Second St. in Xenia. For more information about the troupe, look them up on Facebook (www.facebook.com/The-Angry-Bacon) or check out their podcasts at theangrybacon.podbean.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer J.T. Ryder at JTRyder@DaytonCityPaper.com.