Stranger than fiction

The Fictionals are clear proof of Vancouver's emerging comedy scene

Vancouver's The Fictionals have marched to the beat of their own drum since the comedy improv troupe was formed over two years ago, and they're hoping to show Whistlerites a style of improv they might not be used to at their first performance in the resort on Friday (Feb. 22).

The group, consisting of 13 seasoned vets from the Vancouver improv scene, provide "fast and furious comedy," according to the group's artistic director and performer, Daniel Chai.

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"We're fast paced, high energy and risqué with our comedy," he said.

The Fictionals were founded in 2010 by Chai and seven other local performers wanting a place to showcase their work and hone a unique product they could offer to audiences. They host weekly themed nights at the Café Deux Soleils on Commercial Drive that showcases the group members' wide range of skills and move beyond the traditional improv games made famous on TV shows like Whose Line is it Anyway?.

"We play some classic short form improv scenes, stuff the audience will be familiar with, but we also bring some scenes and some formats that they perhaps have not seen," said Chai.

Fictionals' members typically combine a plethora of different art forms into their performances. Case in point: an event earlier this month that saw two rival professional wrestlers settle their score onstage while half a dozen improvisers cracked up the crowd, or their monthly Show Us Your Wits! event that brings local burlesque dancers (including Chai) and comics together for a unique night of adult entertainment.

"Show Us Your Wits! is where we bring the sexy," said Chai. "We invite two different burlesque dancers each month to come on our stage and show what they can do."

A themed night that the troupe recently added to their repertoire has since become their most popular. Improv Against Humanity is based on the popular party game Cards Against Humanity that The Fictionals transform "into an interactive comedy game," said Chai. "We randomly draw audience members who are interested to come and play ... and we take (their) selection of cards and bring it to life."

Another popular night the troupe hosts every month is the Vancouver Improv Fight Club. The Fictionals invite up-and-coming improv and comedy troupes to duke it out onstage in a battle for comedic supremacy, with the audience choosing the victor. Sharing the stage with other performers is important for Chai and The Fictionals, who want to give back to the community that has afforded them so many opportunities.

"What we want to do is what hopefully every other troupe wants to do: help grow the comedy scene and give back," said Chai. "We want to both grow ourselves and our brand and our show but we also want to help grow and expose the comedy scene in Vancouver."

The Fictionals are testament to the city's burgeoning comedy scene, with each troupe member also belonging to the globally renowned Vancouver TheatreSports League, a local institution for over 30 years that has consistently churned out television stars like The Drew Carey Show's Ryan Stiles and Nancy Robertson from Corner Gas.

"Our scene is definitely still growing," said Chai, "but the talent that we have in Vancouver could rival anywhere else in the world."

The Fictionals perform at Dusty's Bar Friday as part of the bi-weekly Creative 5 Eclectic art showcase. Admission is by donation. Doors are at 8 p.m. with the show beginning at 9 p.m.

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