Vancouver Theatre Sports League transforms a classic film series into a night of smiles and laughter
Justin Scott // Managing Editor
While everyone has a bucket list, there are certain things we dare not even dream of achieving as we know that they’re impossible. For me, one such goal was to see the Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes perform their signature piece “Cantina Band”. However, on Oct. 12 I did just that. I was not in Mos Eisley on Tatooine, but rather the Improv Centre on Granville Island for the premiere of the Vancouver Theatre Sports League’s (VTSL) latest production, Improv Wars: The Laugh Jedi.
Running until Nov. 18 on Thursdays through Saturdays from 7:30 p.m. until around 9 p.m., the show is a must see for any Star Wars fans, or humans in general who enjoy laughing until it hurts. Following a loose storyline, The Laugh Jedi takes place in a Star Wars universe devoid of all laughter, obviously due to the Empire. An Obi Wan Kenobi-styled character starts the show by welcoming the audience, then introducing them to that night’s contestants for becoming the Laugh Jedi – the galaxy’s last chance at rediscovering laughter.
I was lucky enough to have a front-row seat, and saw each contestant up close as they made their way on stage. First, a lackadaisical Luke Skywalker, then Han Solo, Grand Moff Tarkin, C-3PO, Aunt May and finally Jabba the Hutt. While this cast couldn’t have been better, when I talked to one of the shows performers, Brian Anderson, he explained that it will be different night-to-night. “We rotate the characters that are in it,” he said, “it’s very much player dependent.”
Anderson explained each performer has a roster of around three characters they will be bringing to the stage depending on the night, and seeing as the VTSL has around 40 players on their roster, no single night will be the same. Anderson also explained that while the show’s opening performance included notable characters, not all the performances have such a recognizable cast.
“There will be some standards,” he explained, “I’m sure you’ll be seeing a lot of Lukes and Hans coming through, but we’re going to have the occasional Ewok or Wookie, or even really obscure ones like technician number two, or guy who didn’t blow up the escape pod.”
The beauty of combining Star Wars and high-quality improv comedy is that it allows the players to make the characters their own, all while highlighting the comedic characteristics of each one. The actress’ portrayal of Grand Moff Tarkin for example, was nothing short of brilliant. While Tarkin only has a few stern lines in the original films, created a character so riddled with dry humor I may never be able to watch the films again without laughing. Jabba the Hutt on the other hand, had the crowd in stitches, without saying a single word in English. The actor used nothing more than body language – all the more impressive as he was in a full-body inflatable costume – and a strong Jabba the Hutt impression to insight a roaring response.
For Anderson however, there’s nothing like the saga’s staple characters. “I’m a big lover of C-3PO, I just think he’s a fabulous comic character,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of love too for the, not the later mature Luke, but the young, kind of whiny farm boy Luke,” he added.
While each night will be different, the performance consists of two acts. The first is a series of challenges that determine who will be the Laugh Jedi. Then, after a brief intermission, the second act sees the Laugh Jedi attempt to return laughter to the galaxy.
Improv comedy relies on a heavy amount of vagueness in the performance’s storyline, allowing the performers to truly thrive. Taking this one step further, The Laugh Jedi frequently relies on audience interaction and suggestions, making each performance as much the player’s as it is the audience’s.
Additionally, this setup allows for some truly hilarious situations. The performance I attended for example, had Grand Moff Tarkin stranded on a planet of gerbils trying to find transportation to the Death Star, eventually hitching a ride on a gerbil-powered space ship.
Anderson sees this aspect of the show as one of it’s best. “One of the fun things that we’ve really been discovering is that these characters in more modern, or our world, settings can be really fun,” he said, “Imagine Emperor Palpatine’s Starbucks order gets messed up,” he added with a laugh.
Whether you’re a Star Wars fan or not, The Laugh Jedi transcends the iconic films and promises to be an exciting night full of laughter. Also keep an eye out for the company’s next production the Christmas Queen, which will open on Nov. 30. So, make your way down to Granville Island and see the performance before it’s too late, as it’s end date is not too far far away.