Michael Roik is quick to correct anyone that calls him a comedian.
“I’m an improvisor. Some people don’t see a big difference but for me it’s a big difference,” Roik said. “Whereas a comedian has a standup set…what I’ve learned to do is improvise and tell stories that are completely made up and fabricated, sometimes based on audience suggestions and sometimes based on things that inspire us.”
Roik, who worked full-time as a business consultant when he joined the Loose Moose Theatre Company in Calgary 10 years ago, figured that improv would help him improve his presentation skills.
Within a few months he was performing onstage with some of Canada’s finest improv artists. One of his early triumphs came in a scene where he was paired up with veteran artist Rebecca Northan.
“It was wonderful. We did a scene where we were in a co-ed steam room and it just went really well,” Roik recalled.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Like any performer, Roik says his performances have had their share of “peaks and valleys.” One of his low points came during a solo performance where he sang a song about one of the audience member’s pets.
“It was awful. It turns out her dog had died and it wasn’t funny. Nobody liked it,” he laughed.
“Usually those mistakes and errors, like props falling apart or somebody misunderstanding something…those types of moments can be wonderful because you don’t get those in regular theatre.”
On Saturday, Roik and his colleague Stephanie Herrera will be performing at the Kicking Horse Country Chamber of Commerce Community Excellence Awards. It will be just their third performance as a duo, but Roik says that it takes little time for performers to develop a sense of chemistry.
“Improvisors are kind of a unique breed in that we’re able to look at who we’re working with and be very aware. One of the rudimentary philosophies of improvising is to make your partner look good. As long as you’re both on that same plane, then you can look at each other, listen to each other…it’s really easy to make stories and scenes go well as long as you’re making each other look good,” Roik said.
What the audience will see on stage, in true improv tradition, will be completely organic, with little to no forethought from either performer before the show.
“We’ll probably come up with a set of techniques or stories or games that we want to roughly do…but we’ll even change that up. As far as story lines and all that, it’s completely improvised,” Roik said.
Tickets for the Community Excellence Awards are still available and can be purchased at the Chamber’s office.