Hello there! Tell us all about who you all are and three unknown facts about Lusty Mannequins?
Ashley Comeau: The Lusty Mannequins are a sketch comedy and improv troupe with over 60 years combined experience. We are all alumni of the prestigious Second City mainstage theatre and have a slew of Canadian Comedy Awards. We travel the world with our revue and doing and teaching comedy.
Three unknown facts: Connor used to be in a Christian ska band, Alastair used to work in a brain injury clinic and Karen once owned her own hotdog cart…she’s a vegetarian now.
Alastair Forbes: 1) We once cleared out a Castle gift shop by farting. 2) Two of the members surprised the others with their wedding. 3) We fuck a lot
Connor Thompson: 1) The name comes from a Nicholas Ray film called The Lusty Men. 2) Ashley and Connor founded the troupe eleven years ago and Karen and Alastair joined later. 3) We also teach and perform improv around the world.
Karen Parker: 1) We all have atrocious gas when we travel. 2) One of us stole a dog once. (To rescue it). 3) Karen can burp on command.
How did your group form?
Ashley: Connor and I formed The Lusty Mannequins after our Second City Conservatory graduation. We performed sketch and improv all over Europe and North America, then in 2016 we added Alastair Forbes and Karen Parker. We are all best friends and we do comedy together. It’s the BEST!
How did you come up with the name of your troupe? Was it difficult?
Connor: There was no process to it. I was thinking of The Lusty Men, I thought ‘lusty’ is a funny word, and then changed the word “men” to “mannequins.”
Ashley : Then we got press and were stuck with it.
How did the show Uncommonwealth come about?
Lusty Mannequins: Uncommonwealth came about because we got into the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019. We had been performing our material in Canada for a few years (winning Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival’s ‘Best of the Fest’) and receiving a grant from the Pat and Tony Adams Freedom Fund For The Arts. This grant and the accolades helped propel us towards creating a full new theatrical revue for the Edinburgh Fringe, a goal that we had had for quite some time.
You are all Alumni of the Second City – how did you all come across this iconic comedy haven?
Ashley: I was studying comedy in college and had a Second City alumna as my improv teacher. She asked me to audition for the Second City Training Centre conservatory, I got in and gave up my wants of becoming a funeral director. True story.
Alastair: I just used google maps.
Connor: A friend of mine was taking classes and asked if I wanted to take them too. I said yes.
Karen: It’s part of Canadian culture. You grow up knowing it. I auditioned after theatre school and took classes there.
You are also teachers at Second City as well. What lessons do you all teach?
Ashley: I teach in the improv program and in the Conservatory program and my own specialty workshops; Secrets and Lies, Womxnprov, and the Art of Subtext.
Alastair: Comedy and a side class in alchemy.
Connor: Improv and writing mostly. I direct and teach in the Conservatory program. I also direct the National Touring Company.
Karen: Levels A- E, Conservatory program, Improv for Actors as well as direct.
What is the best piece of advice you would give any improviser, experienced or new?
Ashley: Trust the silence and the unfunny moments, they are integral parts of comedy math. Listen to your scene partners. And take acting classes, for god’s sake take acting classes.
Alastair: Try to be the person having the most fun onstage, failing that take everyone out at the knees.
Connor: When in doubt want something.
Karen: Listen and look after your partner. Also, a little bit of mischief never hurt.
How did you all get into improv?
Ashley: I have been improvising for over 20 years. I was on a competitive improv team in high school. We were regional champions. #GoMayfield.
Alastair: Wanted to have the most fun onstage.
Connor: By watching the original British Who’s Line Is It Anyway after school.
Karen: I took classes as it was recommended to be on your resume as an actor.
Which improvisers inspire you?
Ashley: The Lustys. As well as Pags Bantwana (from South Africa) Lisa Merchant (from Canada), Colin Mochrie (from Canada by way of Scotland), Aimee McKay (from the USA) and Fena Ortelli (from Spain).
Alastair: My fellow Lusty Mannequins and Kenny G. That guy can jazz.
Connor: Other than my troupe-mates, NO ONE. (Just kidding, lots of people, too many to list. Improvisers who can consistently step outside their comfort zone and carry the audience somewhere strange and wonderful and moving are the most inspiring).
Karen: My fellow Lustys! Jamie Moyer. Jay Sukow.
Your show Uncommonwealth is scripted – how did improv help with the writing or creative process of this shows concept?
Lusty Mannequins: Improv helped us create Uncommonwealth. We used improv to take a scenic premise and test it in front of the audience. It wasn’t like a script reading where we would go out and read what we had written. Instead, we took the seed of an idea and some bare bones thoughts as to where the scene could end up. We added a point of view to it, and some characters, and then improvised this recipe in front of crowds. It’s a quick way to see if the premise of a scene will work and if the characters are likeable. All four of us are writers and improvisers and actors so we approach our work from unconventional avenues. We also improvise in our LM writer’s room. We can’t help it, we love to do dumb bits and put things up on their feet to see the best way the scene could go.
You have been awarded the Phoenix Remix Comedy Characters of the year award – I saw your show Uncommonwealth at the Edinburgh Fringe and was astounded by the fantastic characters that you brought alive on stage!
Lusty Mannequins: Thank you so much! We are truly honoured! It means a lot to us because we put so much time and thought into the characters, the subtext and the morphing through our different characters. It’s really nice to be recognized! Thank you!
How do you go about creating such interesting characters? How much of them are created through improv, how many are created through the inspiration of people you know and how many are created through other processes?
Ashley: I base each one off of all of the men trapped in my basement. Uh…and…I watch people…yes…I watch people.
Alastair: We f**k a lot.
Connor: I play mostly people close to myself, so yes I am great, thank you.
Karen: You just observe the people around you. Everyone is a character. You take characteristics that stand out for you and exaggerate them. People watching is the best resource!
Lusty Mannequins: We create some characters through improv and some from straight up writing. Some are based off of true stories we’ve encountered. At the root of all of the characters we play, good or bad people, is the truth. Humans (and dogs!) are complex individuals, and accessing that truth will always be funny and relatable.
The thing I enjoyed most about your characters is that a lot of their stories in the sketches turn in a completely different direction to what you expect, was this something that came naturally or was planned?
Lusty Mannequins: The Lustys LOVE to dance in the grey areas of the human condition. People believe that they know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, etc. We like to turn all of it on its head and have difficult conversations through comedy. We specialize in the surprise, the grey area, the balance of neither being good nor bad and we like to show that to our audiences and make them see bits of themselves in our work. We don’t plan it, but we tend to gravitate towards that type of scenario a lot because that’s how our comedy brains work.
It is not just yourselves that you create characters out of – one of the most creative parts of your show is when you go into the audience and use a photo frame to make audience members works of art – what have been some of the funniest reactions or expressions you have got with this?
Ashley: We went to a blind man in ‘Art Gallery’ and his wife was describing everything to him. At first I thought “How rude, why is she talking in our show” then got a cold chill of shame when I realized that she was being kind and telling him what was happening. He was laughing a lot. He was an amazing art!
Alastair: Was pretty sure that one guy we were talking about wanted to kill us, so we called it out… less to be funny, more so the police would have a lead when we went missing.
Connor: The strangest thing that happened in that scene was Alastair got a laugh.
Karen: We made one painting a romantic couple and they turned out to be siblings!
How do you warm up before every show?
Lusty Mannequins: We set our props, review the running order and make dumb jokes to connect. If we are singing in a show we will warm up vocally and tune any instruments, but we usually connect by making each other laugh.
When can people in the UK come and see your show? Will you be returning soon?
Lusty Mannequins: We hope that we will be returning to the UK soon! We have some meetings to discuss touring so that is exciting. We love the UK so much and would be honoured to return! Keep your eyes peeled we are coming back for CRISPS AND PG TIPS!
What are your plans for Lusty Mannequins in 2020?
Lusty Mannequins:Touring, touring, touring! And writing a brand new show!
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
Lusty Mannequins: Twitter: @lustymannequins, Instagram: @lustymannequins, Facebook: @lustymannequins and on our website: www.lustymannequins.com
And Finally in three words – Why are Lusty Mannequins so unique?
Ashley: Absolute, joyous fuckery.
Alistair: What. Does. Unique mean?
Connor: Very. Good. At. Counting.
Karen: Smart, professional, playful.
QUICK FIRE ROUND
What makes you smile?
Ashley: Rescue dogs finding their forever homes. Banoffee pie and the sea.
Alastair: The muscles in my cheeks.
Connor: The public humiliation of assholes.
Karen: Cats and animal videos!
What is your biggest strength as an improviser?
Ashley: Playing the straight person for the foil to the crazy character. Also accents. I LOVE ACCENTS!
Alastair: My cheek muscles for sure.
Connor: Taking very stupid things very seriously.
Karen: A sense of play.
Dream venue to perform at and why?
Ashley: All of the UK venues.
Alastair: My Yacht’s theatre (the yacht is the dream part).
Connor: The space station.
Karen: Anywhere in London UK! It’s my homeland!
Are you a dog or cat person?
Alastair: I’m actually a human.
Connor: Dog. Always dog.
What is the most delightful suggestion for a scene you can think of?
Ashley: 50th wedding anniversary.
Connor: I love a good old-timey job.
Karen: I can’t answer this, there are way too many to remember!
If you had to have a tattoo to represent improv what would you have and why?
Ashley: A fist. Punch the stage!
Alastair: Not sure, I’d make it up on the spot.
Connor: Colin Mochrie’s hair.
Who is your improv hero and why?
Ashley:Kevin Vidal – he is a delightful human who can sing, dance, act, hug and love wholeheartedly. He makes everyone smile. (He is currently starring in Come From Away).
Alastair: Colin Mochrie. Because he told me to say so. He needs this.
Connor: My dog Toby, who yes ands his way through life by sleeping most of the day.
Karen: Jamie Moyer because she is fearless and smart and looks after her scene partners.
What is the last thing you liked on social media?
Ashley:A TallboyzIIMen promo tweet – it’s a new CBC comedy series ft. 4 amazing comedians – I worked on this show, it was an amazing experience – they are so great!
Alastair: When I finally see something I like, you’ll be the first to know.
Connor: A photo of a tree.
Karen: A woman wore a dinosaur costume to her sister’s wedding because her sister said she could wear anything!
Something on your bucket list?
Ashley: To tour the UK with the Lustys and to live there one day.
Alastair: Needs to be round and cannot leak.
Connor: Attend the Chelsea Flower Show and win ‘Best Flower’.
Karen: Write another full length show with the Lusty Mannequins and perform it all over the UK!