I was on hand for the start of the 2005 Toronto Improv Festival, shooting photos of the mainstage show. It was top-notch improv. Tonight’s show featured Toronto improv group Monkey Toast and three writers from Saturday Night Live. The Monkey Toast set was very funny. It was a series of improv scenes inspired by an interview being conducted on the side of the stage. The interview was with Jaymze Bee, a writer and radio personality. The improv was entertaining, with strong characters and witty play. There were some bold scenes too. My favorite was a “Celebrate AIDS Day” scene that somehow proposed that AIDS and art could not co-exist. Weird and funny stuff.

The three writers from Saturday Night Live simply stole the show though. From beginning to end, they played slowly and deliberately, stockpiling ideas from a single suggestion, and spinning a longform show that was jawdropping. Every choice they made was huge, and they heightened those ideas to preposterous levels without ever leaving the realm of reality. It was a fine balance and they played it masterfully. The “group mind” was incredible. It was as if they could read each others’ minds, and they took advantage of that in every aspect of their set. All of their edits were transformations. No sloppy sweep edits, and no delays; just one scene dissolving smoothly into the next, with every player on board at the next scene instantly. There were a lot of hilarious themes that were brought back to create perfect little improv moments: Old Testament God sounding like Droopy Dog, pigeon fantasies, gourmet food on the beach, a doctor encouraging an abortion, having sex while wearing earphones, the Devil inventing devilled eggs.

There were no gimmicks in this set. It was just one ask-for, and then continuous scenes for 45 minutes. They stood purely on their team chemistry and the strength of their improv. It was an inspiring set. I hope I can take some of that energy into my two shows on Thursday night.