If you should see David Milchard, Roman Danylon, Ken Lawson and Chris Casillan without their shirts on, don’t worry, it’s OK to laugh.
The four are part of the Comic Strippers, a Vancouver-based improv comedy troupe that is coming to perform in Vernon and Salmon Arm in September.
As Milchard describes it, the Comic Strippers is a parody of an all-male stripper show, performed by seasoned improvisational sketch comedians. With music and dancing. And without shirts.
“We work with what we have, and we embrace and love what we have,” says Milchard of being a Comic Stripper. “That’s sort of like the cause for good about the show – it’s to get up there and celebrate who and what you are and have a good time.”
Watching the Comic Strippers, it’s clear they are having a good time, fearlessly flexing their “comedy bodies” while shamelessly strutting their improvisational prowess before audiences.
Milchard says the Comic Strippers have been doing their thing for about five years now. The show began with a fascination for the success of Chippendales male striptease shows and a question of how that might be emulated comedically.
“Roman Danylow just started off with two people where they did improv with their shirts off and danced when music played, and… the audience was very pleased and they were surprised at how funny it ended up being and from that moment on, it was like, what if we did something on a bigger scale,” said Milchard. “So we did a monthly show and the next thing you know we were like, let’s see if we can go to Kamloops, let’s see if we can go to Kelowna… It was really kind of an organic evolution.”
Asked if there was any awkwardness to those early shows, Milchard indicated that wasn’t really an issue, as everyone involved was used to being on stage, doing improvisation. What there was, however, was a sense of surprise at the show’s success.
“I think at first, we were like, ‘Are we really doing this? Are people really wanting to watch this?’” said Milchard. “But that quickly dissipated, mostly because the audience was so supportive right into the show. Also, I think the ensemble that we have, we’re fearless, we’re willing to look silly and we welcome mistakes because mistakes will birth a great comedic moment. So that fearlessness, along with support from the audience.
“Now, we just go on and get up there. Do we giggle in the green room before we’re about to go on stage? Every time. There’s always, “I can’t believe we’re in Santa Cruz California and there’s 400 people out there waiting to watch us dance around and improvise.”
All of the Comic Strippers come with their own personas, though they all share the same name – an ode to their non-comedic peers.
“We all have the same name (Chip), but we are all different,” explained Milchard. “One of us has got the most experience improvising/stripping, I think 47 years is the number, and there’s a new Chip who has only been doing it for three days who is eager and excited and like a little deer, a little doe, learning how to walk. And then there’s our fearless leader, Chip, who kind of runs the show, who is there to keep us on track, and then there’s our other Chip who is laid back and super chill and super cool, but obviously comes in and drops fantastic jokes and plays a mean guitar.”
While you may have seen a Comic Strippers performance in the past, because it is improvisational every show is different – for the audience and performers alike.
“Improv, it’s a little bit like magic and wizardry,” laughs Milchard. “When an audience comes and watch a show and they shout out a suggestion for you and we use it and we tell a story off that whole thing, they’re surprised. Maybe nervous for us… We don’t know what’s going to happen next and the fact that you’re able to turn that into a story and make it funny at the same time for the audience, I say it’s frightening. I’m not actually frightened on stage, but I would assume people think it’s frightening.”
With all the confidence of someone who removes his shirt to make people laugh for a living, Milchard guarantees everyone who comes to see the Comic Strippers show in Vernon or Salmon Arm will laugh from beginning to end.
“I don’t say that lightly because I’ve done a lot of shows, and this is the only one I can say, confidently, ‘Wow, this is it,’” said Milchard. “And I can also say that without the audience, without fans, they make the show, they’re part of the show and their support is why we’re able to go for five years.”
The Comic Strippers perform in Vernon at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 15, at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre. Tickets, $39 per adult or $34 for groups of six or more (for both Vernon and Salmon Arm performances), are available at ticketseller.ca. The Salmon Arm show takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28, at the Salmar Classic. Tickets for this show can be purchased through the Salmar website at salmartheatre.com/events/