(Speaker’s Corner today — closed for renovation, or possibly forever?)
Well, I’m an idiot… Last year around this time Al Howell sent me a congratulatory text on the 10-year anniversary of our first Speaker’s Corner broadcast as The Devil’s Advocates. I quickly corrected him, thinking that we started our Satanic shtick in 1997, but I was wrong. So, um… Happy 11th Anniversary, Al!
Ten years ago today the Devils had already achieved some notoriety and were busy criss-crossing Southwestern Ontario playing mostly lunchtime shows in the cafeterias of Community Colleges and Universities, then at night storming the stages of downtown comedy clubs to critique the other acts on the bill, à-la Speaker’s Corner. The club act was a stroke of genius; because we had to go on at the end to deconstruct the acts that came before us we automatically headlined every gig we played. The college show format — straight-up improv and pretty much games — was born out of necessity, because we couldn’t possibly roll into another town and be expected to know all the local goings-on. This also proved to be valuable training for the 80 episodes of Improv Heaven & Hell we would start taping the following year.
IH&H was a fantastic experience and one of those rare, proud moments where Al and I were able to work with some of our closest friends and colleagues. The Devils, however, had gone from a TV audience of some 300,000 Speaker’s Corner viewers in Southern Ontario alone to a national Comedy Network audience only 60,000 strong. And so after two seasons we were done.
In the time since Mr. Howell has parlayed his talents into a successful writing career for Comedy Inc. and This Hour Has 22 Minutes, while I’ve bounced back and forth between sporadic bursts of international touring, directing, filmmaking, even drumming?! Looks like someone has commitment issues…
Rather than a long walk down memory lane consider this a quick glance back, and before eyes once again face front I’ll leave you with a bit of Devils trivia:
- Best gig ever – being paid an obscene amount of money by Microsoft Canada to unveil Internet Explorer 4 (!) at a downtown nightclub.
- Worst gig ever – Al will probably say Sault Ste. Marie (the second time) but I’ll give the nod to Centennial College Bell Campus (now the Centre for Creative Communications), only because there was a point during the lunchtime show where someone came up to us from the audience who we thought was a volunteer for an improv game, but in fact she only wanted to microwave her soup.
- Last TV appearance – on U8TV’s the Lofters (ugh). I remember looking at a laptop in front of me while we were on air showing some yutz in a chatroom repeatedly typing “Say my name out loud… Say it!”