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U of O alum performs in biggest improv show in Canada

Photo: Courtesy of Fifty Shades of 50

A political science degree may not seem like the Most Likely path to a career in comedy.

But for Brie Watson, her political knowledge is one of the biggest assets she brings to her improv troupe.

Watson, a University of Ottawa alumna, and her troupe, Fifty Shades of 50, performed at the biggest improv showcase in Canada—the Big City Improv Festival from Oct. 16 to 24 in Toronto.

Watson attended the U of O for political science, graduating with a Social Sciences degree in 2008. After school, she decided to get back into improv, an activity she hadn’t done since grade school. She practiced in Ottawa for a while before moving to Toronto to attend the Humber College School of Comedy, and later the Second City Conservatory program.

“I started doing a bit of improv in Ottawa, and then realized that if I really wanted to pursue comedy, then I wouldn’t be able to do it in Ottawa,” said Watson. “The comedy scene in Ottawa is getting bigger now, it’s building now, but it didn’t have the necessary schools or systems in place to teach it to a greater extent.”

Throughout her time doing improv, Watson has been involved with multiple troupes. When applying for the festival, she entered with different troupes that she’s a part of, and Fifty Shades of 50 was the one chosen to perform.

The troupe, which is made up of Watson and three of her friends, sets all of their sketches in the 1950s. All of the women bring different education backgrounds to the table, putting interesting spins on their sketches.

“I bring a lot of information about the political climate of the fifties, whereas Heather Sanderson, who’s in the troupe, studied fashion, so she has this completely different understanding of what the ‘50s were like, completely based on what people were wearing, and what the styles and fashions were at the time.”

Many of the troupe’s sketches make feminist commentary on the gender divide that existed in the 1950s. Watson believes that comedy is an important tool that can be used for spreading awareness of important issues and encouraging people to work towards change.

“Comedy has largely been a man’s game, for a long time, and I think by setting scenes in the fifties, we’re able to take on certain issues that existed then and just pointing out the ridiculousness of the gender divide and showing how far we’ve come since then,” she said. “And it always garners huge laughs because it’s so powerful.”

Watson is starting her career in comedy at a perfect time, where female comedians are dominating the scene. Amy Schumer, Melissa McCarthy, and Tina Fey are just three of the biggest names in comedy at the moment.

Two of Fey’s former co-stars from 30 Rock, Scott Adsit and John Lutz, headlined the Big City Improv Festival. Colin Mochrie, of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, also performed.

Adsit also led a workshop for attendees. One of Watson’s favourite parts of the festival is the ability to connect with different actors from across the country and learn from each other during the workshops.

Although Watson is enjoying her time doing improv right now, she hopes to eventually break into the film and television business.

“My main problem with improv is that it exists in the moment, and then after that it’s sort of gone, so it’s hard to capitalize on that,” she said.

Although improv may exist only in the moment, it looks like Watson’s time in the spotlight will last much longer. After being accepted to perform in the biggest improv showcase in Canada, Watson’s future in acting looks bright.


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