The art and administration of improv

George Brown alum PHATT al set to perform in Second City’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Sweater 

PHATT al is an actor, rapper and George Brown College (GBC) alumni who is appearing in Second City’s Christmas show, The Good the Bad and the Ugly Sweater, which opens Nov. 20. But you’ll never guess what his diploma is in.

Business administration.

But as PHATT al (who uses only that name professionally) explains it, his choice of degree is actually not random and he chose to study business at GBC to help his career as an artist. He called his business background “a lifesaver.”

“It really helped me as a Canadian rapper. You don’t necessarily make a lot of money that way,” he said with a laugh.

PHATT al walked through the process of how he related his studies in business at George Brown to his arts career, explaining how he started to understand branding and how to make a profit as an artist. His teachers at GBC helped him apply the five P’s (product, price, place, promotion and people) of marketing to his artistic career, helping him learn to read contracts, and look at how he was marketing himself.

The Good the Bad and the Ugly Sweater is written through an improvised process, where all the scenes are refined through improv and then written down just before opening night. With audience participation involved, PHATT al said there’s still an improv element as “audience members are like kids, they say the darnedest things”

“Improv” is short for improvisation, and it’s a theatre form where actors go from very a loose structure and make things up as they go. The British and American version of the TV show Whose line is it anyway? made improv cool, or at least a known comedic form, but it wasn’t always that way.

“Second City’s been around since the 1950s doing improv when improv was like, what? It was like miming basically,” said PHATT al.

PHATT al says his education at George Brown “allowed me to kind of stick to my life dreams. ” (Melissa O’Neil photo provided)

Being from Scarborough, PHATT al was very aware of fellow Scarberian Mike Myers (star of Wayne’s World and Austin Powers). With beloved comedian and SCTV standout John Candy also hailing for Scarborough, people kept suggesting PHATT al check out Second City. After driving by it a few times he eventually registered for an improv workshop, and never stopped.

He saw improv theatre as a natural extension of the kind of flow he had developed as a rapper in the Toronto indie scene, coming up with Cardinal, Julie Black, and Socrates. PHATT al’s work with God Made Me Funky, an eight-piece soul, funk and R&B band, was nominated for a Juno award.

When he discovered improv at that Second City workshop years ago, he said he thought to himself, “This is it. Literally like the theatrical version of what I do all the time anyway. So for me it was a really natural fit.”

Second City’s The Good the Bad and the Ugly Sweater opens Nov. 20, with student discount tickets available for the late shows ranging from $15-22.

 

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The art and administration of improv