Interview with Kevin Gillese of Dad’s Garage

As you all know, we’re bringing two fantastic improvisers down from Dad’s Garage in Atlanta this weekend. In addition to teaching some workshops (spots are still left, by the way), Kevin and Amber will also be captaining the teams in The Battle of the Sexes Improv Showdown at The Long Center Saturday, July 17th. The Hideout recently interviewed Kevin (via email) to find out more about the Dad’s Garage style, the joy of TheatreSports, and the great improv longform/shortform debate. He was delightfully–and brutally– honest.

Hideout Theatre: You started out in Edmonton before you moved to Atlanta. Is there a noticeable difference in style between Canadian and American improvisation?

Kevin Gillese: RFT [Rapid Fire Theatre, in Edmonton] and Dad’s are so connected aesthetically, and have been for many years. I think that’s the reason that I feel like the improv is so similar. The truth is that every city in Canada has a different style, and I’m sure it’s the same with cities across the US.  So while I don’t know that there are essential differences between the Canadian and American styles, I would say that any place you go to is going to have it’s own distinct vibe (even if Rapid Fire and Dad’s Garage are an exception).

HT: After doing it for so long, what makes playing Theatresports still fun for you?

KG: Improv in general is the best because you get to do whatever you want every time you hit the stage. There’s unparalleled levels of freedom in this art form which is why I think it’s still exciting for me after doing it for so many years. There’s always a new game, a new style, a new person to riff with, all those things make it feel like it’s ever evolving instead of the stagnation you might expect when someone does one thing for so many years. I first started performing Theatresports with RFT in 1996 and I’m still doing it pretty much weekly after all these years… so I guess there’s something attractive going on there. Maybe TS is like a hot ex-girlfriend that you just can’t stop having sex with even though she’s a terrible match for you.

HT: When did you start getting into narrative longform?

KG: It was around 2000 when (the AD of RFT at the time) Jacob Banigan first started training us in long form, and started programming it at the theatre. It wasn’t until Scratch in 2005 that I really immersed myself into a long form project. And it ended up being by far the most important collaboration of my artistic life. And I’m super proud of the fact that now, after six solid years of work and right when we’re starting to wind down the project on account of my relocation, we’ve been nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award.

HT: A lot of fuss seems to be made about shortform vs. longform. Is the difference significant to you, and if so, why?

KG: I can’t stand folks who take sides in the shortform vs. longform debate. It’s like saying films suck but photography is amazing, or vice versa. The forms are so connected that I can’t understand how someone can see the artistry in one and not the other.

With a few exceptions, I’d say for the most part people who say short form sucks – aren’t funny. And people who say long form sucks – can’t improvise. My favorite improvisers, the ones I look up to the most, they can do both and do both well.

I honestly think it’s the same thing, just done differently, and the haters on either side are just coming from a place of wanting to disguise the fact that they’re having trouble keeping up. If a visual artist told me that he thought oil paintings were the best thing ever and that graffiti stencils were bullshit… I’d think he was a pretentious asshole. Same policy applies to improv.

HT: How would you characterize the house style at Dad’s garage?

KG: I’d say we’ve got a 75/25 balance between short form and long form. We’ve got a narrative based focus, with a tendency towards big characters. We’ve got a very “attacky” energy, if that makes any sense, and a dirty streak to our comedy. It really is bizarre how similarly Dad’s Garage and Rapid Fire have evolved artistically. I guess that’s what makes me a good fit down here.

HT: How has Dad’s Garage changed over the time you’ve been there?

KG: Oh man, there’s so much. Where to start? Well we’re doing auditions for the first time in August. We’re expanding our programming for next season. We’re hugely ramping up our touring presence with tours planned into Canada and across Europe this summer and fall respectively. And there’s a bunch more on the horizon, so a lot really has changed or is in the process of changing. I just figured as a new guy why not switch it up? I’m only six months in, I’m hoping to make these guys sorry they hired such a nut-job before my first year is up.